History of the Dri-Ki Point Project
By Dale Wheaton
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 midsection, 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.
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 headed 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 footpath 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, had 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.