The Land of Dud Dean: Going, Going, Gone...
(As appeared in the August 2005 issue of The Maine Sportsman)
By Bob Mallard
While sportsmen bemoan the recent Quimby land purchase for the restrictions it has brought, we are oddly silent regarding the pending Plum Creek proposal. In my opinion, the Plum Creek proposal is far more risky than anything that Quimby has proposed regarding to her land. While Quimby may not want hunting or snowmobiling on her land, she will preserve it in its natural state; i.e., no development, which in my opinion is something ALL sportsmen should support.
Meanwhile the Plum Creek plan uses terms like “Subdivisions”, “Quality House Lots”, “Shore Lots”, “Homeowner Associations”, “Restrictive Covenants”, “Private Boat Launches”, “Tourist Facility”, “Nature-Based Tourism”, “Spa and Fitness Center”, “Tennis Courts”, “Golf Course”, “Low-Impact Outdoor Sports and Activities”, “Horseback Riding”, “Lodge Facility”, “Remote Rental Cabins”, “Commercial Campgrounds”, “Commercial/Industrial Space”, etc.
What does the future hold in regard to access (gates?), traditional activities (“stashed boats”, etc.), and utilities (will there be power?). What effect will large-scale development have on this lightly developed area? The plan calls for 975 “House Lots” (including 575 “Shore Lots”). There will be 4 sporting camps, a luxury resort, campgrounds, and everything required to support the onslaught of new second home owners (these are not “camps”).
While we stare into what we think is a flashlight coming down the trail, I believe we are looking at a train light coming down the track! While it is quite clear what Quimby will and will not allow there are MANY unanswered questions regarding the Plum Creek proposal. The terms noted above came straight from the “Management Plan”. The mere fact that the land will be developed should knock more than a few sportsmen out of their stupor!
While we try to stop the “Camel’s Nose” from slipping under the tent, there may be a more dangerous camel coming through the front door! While we work to fend off the likes of RESTORE, National Parks, etc., we may be facing the biggest threat to our Outdoor Heritage yet. The song “Take this Park and Shove it” may soon sound more like a shot-in-the-foot than a victory cry against perceived threats to our outdoor heritage.
The proposal includes the fabled, and undeveloped, “10,000 Acre Tract”. This is the land of fictitious Maine Guide “Dud Dean” and former playground of Maine outdoor writing legend Gene Letourneau. It is also the location of what are arguably the finest wild brookie ponds south of Moosehead. Oddly enough, a group of local anglers recently formed a fisheries advocacy group called the “Dud Dean Angling Society”. Their chosen name now seems oddly prophetic.
Before I go any farther, let me state that I do not blame Plum Creek one bit. I am a capitalist at heart and I would not begrudge any company the right to make a profit. Who I blame is a government that has failed to see the writing on the wall; anyone paying attention should have seen this coming. While we pour millions of dollars into “Social Services”, we have greatly under funded areas such as land acquisition, environmental protection, fish and wildlife, etc.
I also blame sportsmen for digging in against sincere attempts to protect what is left of our undeveloped areas. This is the big wake-up call. It is time that we all stepped back and took an honest look at our options, and if in fact this was our best. While our leaders insist on playing hardball with conservation groups; we just took a fastball in the face. While minor to some, this hit me hard as I am losing my favorite place to fish and the source of my fondest memories.
Once again our leaders have failed to lead. Did anyone do a study to compare the economic and environmental impacts of large public land versus large private development? Did anyone look beyond the offer on the table to see what else we could have done? Just because we can snowmobile on the respective land does NOT in and of itself make this a good deal for sportsmen (what price will we pay?).
The reality is that Maine is in BIG trouble and ANY so-called “economic development” proposal looks good to our leaders. I see this with the recent Poland Springs project near Pierce Pond and the quarry being proposed on the middle Kennebec in Embden. In both cases we could be putting the entire resource at risk for a hand-full of jobs (and some are “seasonal”). Where will this end?
I will concede that as far as development goes, the Plum Creek plan is well thought out. The Restrictive Covenants and prices will ensure that their investment is protected. The “no mobile home clause” will ensure that what is built will increase the value of the remaining lots (“zoning”). There are also outdoor lighting restrictions, etc. All-in-all, the plan looks like the blueprint for well-known wealthy playgrounds such as Sedona, Arizona and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
There are plans to protect 50+ undeveloped ponds from future development (albeit only a 500 foot buffer). They do not have to do this. This is a sound strategy as it adds to the value of the sub-divisions as a whole by providing places for the new home owners to fish and recreate in peace. There are permanent travel easements for both hiking and snowmobile trails; likewise a win-win. The folks at Plum Creek clearly know the game and they play it damn well.
As a business owner, make no mistake about it; this will be good for me. While Greenville is the focus, many of the lots are well south of town and best accessed via Route 201 which goes right by my shop. I expect that many of the new home owners will be “from away”. These people will bring money to the area and a need for the services that we provide (fly fishing tackle, boats and guiding).
As a sportsman, I see this in a whole different light. I see the permanent loss of a very special place; the land of Dud Dean. Ellis Pond, a favorite of Gene Letourneau will see 8 new shorefront homes. This will forever change the “remote” feel of the area. A footnote in the plan states that the houses may not exceed 1,500 square feet (these are not traditional Maine sporting camps). Mr. Letourneau must be rolling in his grave.
While it is too late for my favorite place, it may not be too late for yours. This is step one in the “development” of the Maine Woods. While national parks, preserves, and forests may come with some level of restrictions, it is nothing compared to the permanent loss and degradation of our woods and waters at the hands of major land developers. Make no mistake about it; the Maine Woods as we know it is going away fast.
The next time someone says to me “we don’t need a National Park in Maine”; I will take them for a quick ride north of my shop. We cannot stop the wholesale loss of land we are now seeing without outside help. The time for chest-thumping is over. It is time for sportsmen to wake up and recognize that while not perfect, public land is ALWAYS better than private land. Please act before you lose your favorite spot as I am about to lose mine.
Bob Mallard has been a flyfisherman and fly tyer for over 25 years and is the owner of Kennebec River Outfitters on Route 201 in Madison, ME. He can be reached at (207) 474-2500 or www.kennebecriveroutfitters.com.