Saturday, May 25, 2013
Anne Palmer is one of those people who, when she gets an idea in her head, doesn't let go.
Anne Palmer sits at Blueberry Hill Scenic Area in Rome on Tuesday.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman
Her mission this summer is to see Blueberry Hill in Rome cleaned up and looking liked it did when she frequented it 40 years ago.
For anyone unfamiliar with the site, Blueberry Hill is a scenic overlook off Castle Island Road, with panoramic views of Great and Long ponds, as well as Belgrade Lakes village.
Palmer, 78, has sentimental reasons for wanting the spot, now overgrown with bushes and trees, trimmed and mowed.
"When my kids were little, we'd come up and I could sit and watch them. They'd run through the paths and eat the blueberries. Every now and then we'd come up to see the view and bring our out-of-state company here. It was something to be proud of."
Palmer lives in Waterville and has a camp on Great Pond in Belgrade. While Waterville is 20-plus miles away from Blueberry Hill, she sees it as a great asset to the whole region, and a place where people can come and appreciate the state's extraordinary beauty.
As we visited the site recently, she pointed to the walking paths, all overgrown with brush, ferns and saplings that have sprung from a large oak tree. The rocks lining the walking paths are obscured by a mass of weeds and bushes, and the lovely view of the ponds is partially obscured.
"Can you imagine how this looked in the 1970s?" Palmer asked. "I remember coming up with our very first dog, Asta. I'd sit and read a book and watch the kids. We loved it."
Palmer, a former Waterville Planning Board member and supporter of charitable causes in the city, said people lately have been asking about the poor condition of Blueberry Hill.
"They say, 'What's happened to it?'"
She was motivated to do whatever it takes to get the site spruced up, including finding out who owns it, scouting for volunteers and raising money if necessary.
When she contacted me, I decided to do a little inquiring myself. A call to the state Department of Conservation produced results.
Spokeswoman Jeanne Curran connected me with Ron Hunt, who is southern regional manager for the state's Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Hunt explained that Blueberry Hill is one of the state's undeveloped parcels in the southern region.
The bureau, he said, typically sends crews there two or three times over the spring and summer to grade the dirt road and parking area. Every other year or so, they go in with a tractor and bush hog to keep the smaller growth down.
But this year has been a particularly tough one, with a lot of turnover in bureau employees. An unusual number of people have retired, creating openings, and other employees have moved or been promoted, he said. The Blueberry Hill project has been delayed as a result, he said.
"Our priorities have been on developed and staffed parks," he said.
But Hunt said he plans to get up to Blueberry Hill soon to see what is needed there. He anticipates the work will be done before the end of the year.
"By week's end, I'll have the opportunity go and take a peek at it," he said.
I told him about Palmer's efforts to rustle up volunteers and try to find money for new picnic tables.
"I appreciate her offer to try to get volunteers together," he said. "I wouldn't feel it necessary to raise money to do anything because it's a question of when we finally get settled."
The larger, bush hogging and tractor work is something the bureau would do, but if volunteers want to pick up litter and trim or clip smaller weeds, they may do so, according to Hunt.
"That would be a great help," he said.
Hunt's input has boosted Palmer's confidence that Blueberry Hill will soon return to the gem it once was.
Sometimes tackling a big job like that takes a little teamwork.
And, judging by the commitment both Hunt and Palmer have to the project, I think we've got it covered.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at email@example.com