In 1996, Dale Wheaton and Mark Danforth witnessed a float plane land on Spednic Lake and someone stepped out to place a “For Sale” sign on the Birch Islands, always considered the Crown jewel of Spednic Lake. The very thought of the heart and soul of this watershed being “For Sale” sent a ripple through the guide corps. While concern had been growing amongst guides that this lake and for that matter, the Region, could be lost to pressures of an ever encroaching world, immediate action was taken as long time guide Andrew Brooks quoted, “if we have to, we must dig into our own pockets to buy Birch Island”. In 1998 a 25-acre purchase of Birch Island and Little Birch Island by WWLT was conveyed to the State of Maine with restrictive deed covenants.
(We are presently working on posting the full story along with a map and photos. Please check back soon)
In 1995, the Trust quietly promoted a 500-foot easement along more than 16 miles of Spednic Lake shoreline and fee interest which included Walker, Monument, Hairy, Pickle (Woodie Wheaton Island) and 4 other unnamed islands conveyed by Baskehegan Lumber Company to the State of Maine.
(We are in process of posting the fascinating story of how this project developed along with photos and a map. Please check back)
The Booming Out Ground is an old growth forest with Mud Lake Falls, two Indian portages, and a fascinating history of how it was saved from the chain saw. This is the area where the early log drivers established a collection point. The logs, tied together with chains acted as a corral of sorts so they could be towed down Spednic Lake. In 1994 a 488 acre parcel was brought to the attention of Land for Maine Futures Board and the State of Maine. Working together, it was conveyed to Inland Fisheries and Game as an ecological reserve to be saved forever.
(The full story with details and photos is presently being developed. Please check back shortly.)
Your Gifts Make A Lasting Impact On Dri-Ki Point
In early 2014, WWLT responded to a quickly developing (and probably one-time) opportunity to purchase Dri-Ki Point on Spednic Lake. It's a beautiful parcel with 1041 feet of frontage jutting northward into Spednic’s mid-section, smack in the middle of a vast conserved landscape. This small private parcel, unless conserved, would experience increased development pressure as its value became enhanced by the surrounding conservation land. It is all too common, elsewhere, to see camps built on undeveloped shores, changing the character of a cove or point forever. There is a campsite on the tip, used frequently by guides and canoeists, and it had long been coveted as an acquisition crucial to continued public enjoyment.
The total project cost, estimated at $127,000 seemed daunting, as the Trust did not have the cash reserve required to draw upon. So… we borrowed. This is, after all, the purpose of our organization—to act with agility to conserve important tracts of land when no one else would do so. Members rose to the challenge and the Trust will be forever grateful. We were able to make a serious dent in the debt with a very generous contribution from the Sam and Betty Shine Foundation. Many of you earmarked your donations for Dri-Ki, and we were gradually able to get the debt down to a manageable level. Many thanks, indeed!
By May 2015, one year from the beginning of the project, the outstanding balance remained about $12,000. Appeals were beginning to sound like old news, yet members continued to chip away on what remained. Then like Christmas in July, we received a generous check in the mail from one of our long-time friends and supporters, Sarina Gwirtzman! Sarina reckoned it was time to put Dri-Ki’s loan to bed, and in one fell swoop rearranged our agenda and focus. Dri-Ki Point assumes its permanent position among WWLT acquisitions for all to enjoy, forever. We couldn't have done it without each of you.
By conserving this Point, it enables the restoration to natural conditions, the area formerly occupied by Dri-ki Sporting Camps. The buildings are gone, and many pieces of metal have been brought back for recycle-- one boatful at a time by guides and members of the trust. This important conservation project also preserves a primitive day use picnic site for the enjoyment and safety of paddlers, guides and the fishing public.
History of the project:
Sometimes referred to by the guides as Little Muncie Point, now better known as Dri-Ki Point, with its central location in the very heart of the most spectacular vistas and unspoiled part of Spednic Lake, it has long been of interest to WWLT. The "Point", formerly the site of a commercial sporting operation owned by Ed and Florence Hitchens in the 1950's called Dri Ki Camps, was under lease in 1994 and thus excluded from the aforementioned Baskahegan (BCo) conservation easement.
The Trust had made overtures to acquire this Point in the past but to no avail, due at least in-part to BCo's fitting and much admired, long-term patient view of land ownership; rarely if ever offering land for sale. In December of 2011, President Cleaves approached the President of BCo about whether the concept of a like-kind exchange might serve as a basis to move forward.The concept as envisioned and approved would have WWLT acquiring timberland and trading it for Dri-Ki Point. If the timberland acquired by WWLT exceeded the value of the Point, BCo would make up the difference.
It wasn't until May of 2013 at a meeting in BCo's Brookton, Maine office that agreement was reached to jointly participate in a fair market appraisal of Dri-Ki aka Little Muncie Point; for the purpose of establishing an "exchange value/purchase price" suitable to all. A letter of engagement was executed knowing that "fair market value" in a down market may not be suitable to the seller. Steve Keith remembers, "Departing Baskahegan Company's Brookton office on a clear June day in two pickup trucks, we head overland to the site of an old abandoned sporting camp on Spednic Lake.
The group includes Patty Michaud (WWLT Administrative Director), Gerilyn Bosse (a Sewall Company Appraiser), Brian Higgs (Baskahegan Forester) and myself (representing the Board); and we are headed to Dri-Ki Camps at the end of a peninsula, once accessible only by water.
We leave the tarmac quickly in Forest Township, then drive across Baskahegan Company's well-maintained gravel road network for several miles to an old logging trail for a thirty minute hike. Walking along this boulder-strewn twitch trail we enjoy the well-managed forest. This healthy canopy of mature hemlock and spruce is an increasingly rare experience in the landscape of Eastern Maine. It reflects the good management practices of Baskahegan Company, a third generation family-owned operation with thirty-five employees, harvesting wood sustainably on over 100,000 contiguous acres.
As we approach Dri-Ki Camps, the forest canopy changes to mature hardwoods. A light breeze from the lake stirs the maple and birch leaves and creates waves along the shoreline. To our interested eyes, the abandoned frame buildings, sagging on the now rotted sills, appear beyond repair, their fate sealed from the heavy snows and harsh winters during the last half-century. But the view is breathtaking, one that you would long remember after stopping for lunch following a morning of fishing.
You could sense the sweat, toil and memories that went into maintaining this place. Recently, guides had built a rock fireplace with a rustic table right on the tip of the point.
That vaguely familiar shoreline reminded me of the time when Bob Upham and I fished Landlocks near here, with guide, John Gaskins. It was the place where I stepped from the bow of John's Grand Laker, wearing my newly purchased inflatable life jacket.The alders clung to it, while it inflated in the branches like a giant yellow beach ball. There was no help forthcoming from John and Bob as I was left hanging in the trees while they laughed for a good five minutes.
Stirred by our own memories, and our inspection complete, we head back out for the one hour journey home. I remember saying to myself, "The details of this conservation purchase may long be forgotten, but future generations will have a chance to experience the peace and tranquility that is Spednic Lake." It reminded me that these small private inholdings, unless conserved, will experience increased development pressure as their value becomes enhanced by the surrounding conservation land. It is all too common to see camps built on undeveloped shores, changing the character of a cove or point forever.
What is rare in this world is a place in nature that remains the same from one generation to the next. Spednic Lake is such a place, and it is our responsibility to leave it that way."
As anticipated the initial results of the appraisal was found lacking by BCo, and if not for a strong desire to keep the transaction alive, agreement on an exchange value of $92,000 would never have been reached. Its mid-November and Elbridge is enroute to a winter respite in the Sunshine State.
Elbridge remembers, "My cell phone rang in Lake City Florida and I quickly pulled into a roadside stop. It was the President of BCo saying "we've found a timberland parcel that could be the first installment toward Little Muncie aka Dri-Ki Point. The sales price is $30,000 and the deal is set to close in early December."
Now the question, how could such a deal be papered and approved in this short period of time. The issue: "when and if the value of accumulated timberland acquisitions was equal to or greater than the "exchange value/purchase price," the closing would take place. BCo agreed to make up any difference between the combined timberland purchases if it exceeded the value of the Point. One big caveat: if the entire exchange fell apart, WWLT would continue to own the timberland and have no further obligations to BCo.
Early the very next week the Board rejected the aforementioned outlined transaction. In responding, the Board cited multiple complications while expressing an unwavering desire to acquire Dri-Ki as a direct acquisition. The Board further acknowledged securing funding for the purchase would likely push a closing out to at least June 1, 2014.
On December 16th WWLT received confirmation of BCo's general agreement with the WWLT proposal and immediately the drafting of a sales contract began. A key component to keeping the deal alive was BCo's willingness to incur additional expense by using a complicated IRS procedure that would preserve the principle of a like-kind exchange. The one lingering issue was that the sales contract had to be executed prior to the closing of the "found" timberland which was set for December 13th.
Upon receipt of the draft contract, WWLT requested the execution date be extended to Dec 16, 2013 and an option added for the Trust to substitute timberland toward the cash purchase price. Title language was revised to friendlier terms and an access easement was obtained over BCo logging roads and a foot path to the said Point; key provisions that support the appraised "camp lot value". Understanding that WWLT has virtually no interest in development but it was imperative to preserve value in case of needing a mortgage for the acquisition. WWLT further agreed to extinguish the access easement at such time as it would not be needed to support appraised value.
At a special meeting on Friday December 13th at 9:00AM the Board approved the execution of the Contract, granting President Cleaves authority to conduct final review and to execute. BCo was notified immediately thereafter of this affirmative action.
Patty, in the final hours hand delivered the earnest money to the Eaton Peabody Law Offices in Bangor as BCo could not directly accept proceeds until after the actual closing of Dri-Ki Point. At 4:00 PM on December 13th an email was received from the President of BCo affirming "all went as planned"; thus the contract phase for the acquisition of Dri-Ki Point was complete.
For fisherman launching at the Lower Landing, most only notice the north end of the island on the right when motoring out of the basin, and few will remember the private camps on the south end.
The deed to Hathaway Island dated 1931 notes sporting camps belonging to Harry Brooks operating in the 1920’s, supposedly for 14 years. The Packerts found remnants of those rustic old buildings and for the last 82 years they have owned Hathaway Island.
The Wheaton boys began guiding alongside their Dad, Woodie, in the 1950’s and were known as the Green Grand Lakers often came in contact with the Packerts. Dale developed a mutual friendship with Dick Packert that manifested in a personal dialog with Dick beginning in March of 2013 concerning the future of the island. By August, Dale and Elbridge were discussing an outline of a conservation plan that would extinguish development on the north end while maintaining unencumbered fee interest in the building site on the south end. In October David Cook, an Enfield based surveyor, utilizing updated GPS readings estimated the Island at 13.5 acres, plus or minus, gave estimated fees for a survey and more redrafting ensued a Conservation Plan to incorporate new information, landowner input and deed info.
Estimates for appraisal, strict adherence to IRS standards and expectations, donation rules as well as conformation to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice were core issues. By November an inspection of Hathaway occurred by Elbridge and Dan McConville, for appraisal purposes, and suggested land division had been completed striving to meet the needs of the owners and their Federal charitable deduction.
On the 10th Dale contacted Cook, noting that “Dick Packert had officially decided to convey the easement to the northerly 12 acres, keeping 1.5 acres on the south end unencumbered, retaining ownership in fee to the entire island and that all parties would like to execute the instrument before year end due to some expected changes to IRS rules in 2014.” At this juncture a sense of urgency existed to meet the year-end deadline that necessitated Cook to physically travel to the island to set pins, complete a legal description and delineate on the sketch plan the homestead reserves of 1.5 acres. It is now November 22, a title opinion, a Letter of Intent from Richard and Lucy Packert conveying Draft 111 of the Conservation Plan to WWLT and a special WWLT board meeting must be held to approve a budget to close before December 31, 2013.
On Dec 9th Dale writes to Dave Cook,”Word from Forest City is that Spednic has frozen over near the landing/ boat access to Hathaway is pretty much out of the question unless we have a thaw. It is still possible to get down Castle Road and if we get a few real cold night we might be able to walk over to set the pins.”
The drafted Conservation Easement requires more work to align it more correctly as to what had been ironed out. This takes many hours of edit work between Dale and Dave Fletcher, Atty. It is now December 16, after more back and forth with Cook on details of our expectations, Board member Steve Mine will meet Dale and Cook, Friday the 20th, at the Lower Landing with snow sled to chauffeur them to Hathaway.
Steve Mine gave an account (paraphrased) of that day, “It was dark, dreary and cold, when I arrived at the Castle Road landing with snow sled jammed on a small trailer. The snowmobile quickly bogged down in the slush that covered the ice, so it took about a half an hour to wrestle it out. We decided that Dale and I would drag the jet sled loaded with the surveyor’s equipment the half mile down the semi frozen lake, Dave Cook would use my snowshoes. Finally after slogging through a wind driven foot of deep snow and slush, stopping a couple of times to unload the equipment, turn the sled over and remove the frozen slush which added a lot of weight from the bottom, we appeared to have reached the correct spot. We broke out the GPS, took readings from the mother ship as I cautioned Dale not to stand too close as he might get beamed up. Dale’s response was, “It’s probably a lot warmer and drier there.” It turns out we are about 2.5 feet from the first property corner so we jammed a rebar into the frozen tundra and pounded away, Dale and I switching off, Dale pounding madly so we had it in place in no time. Dave then took a compass reading establishing a direct heading to another point on the opposite side of the island, we grabbed the gear like a pack of mules, fought our way through the gnarliest fallen and standing timber, arriving on the opposite side within 20 feet of the correct spot with pangs of hunger as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Dave did his GPS thing, taking longer due to the large pine tree obstructing the signal. This pin was a bit more ornery but with it in place, our stomachs ready to implode, Dale decided to head back to the leeward side, out of the wind, to start a fire for some tube steaks. By the time I got there the fire was going and when Dave arrived to make the line between the two pins, we stood around the heat, had tea and cooked our wieners and tube steaks, tasting better than a filet from a fine restaurant. Lunch completed we hastily packed up, killed the fire and made the trek back. All in all it went well and even though snowy cold and windy with terrible slush conditions we made the best of it.”
Tuesday, December 24th, an ice storm has Eastern Maine in darkness with no near expectation of electricity. Dale is in communication with Elbridge only by telephone, execution of documents is encumbered without fax, and Fletcher is sending PDF versions to Elbridge in Florida. December 26th, Elbridge prints acceptance page, executes and overnights it.
On December 30, Dale says, “I Drove to Calais and Machais and back to Holden to gather the Final CE, get it executed and recorded, got Packerts to sign the final plan, all with Dave Fletcher’s mother-in-law landing in Presque Isle hospital posing additional problems as the emergency caused his wife to leave for PI, and he is home with family of five kids. A foot of snow arrived last night. I’ll do a brief report for the board”.
A tremendous tribute to the stewardship and generosity of the Packerts.
Woodie Wheaton Land Trust