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by Jonathan Thomas
The schedule for establishing a public access road to Walker Pond suffered a setback following a site inspection of the property on September 29 by officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
The Town of Sedgwick, in partnership with the Town of Brooksville, had applied for a permit by rule that would have allowed work to proceed without going through the full Stormwater Management application process. The simplified permit by rule application was rejected based on what the DEP officials saw during the inspection.
A project is granted a permit by rule, effective 14 days after such an application is submitted, unless the DEP notifies the applicant that there are problems with the application.
Friends of Walker Pond president Kathy Flood had expressed concern that this simplified permit by rule process might not result in a project design that would adequately protect the water quality of the pond from nutrient runoff.
During the inspection, DEP officials Jim Beyer, Jon Cullen and Jeff Dennis determined that the project did not meet the threshold of having less than one acre of new impervious area. They said a section of old road which will have a new road built over it did not qualify as a pre-existing impervious area. Instead, that area needed to be added to the total of newly created impervious areas, putting that amount over the one-acre threshold.
Accompanying the three DEP officials on the September 29 inspection were regional fisheries biologist Greg Burr from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Sedgwick Selectman Colby Pert, Brooksville Selectman Darrell Fowler, the towns’ engineer Andrew McCullough, and biologist Scott Williams, representing Friends of Walker Pond.
Sedgwick and Brooksville, under a joint exercise of powers agreement, are sharing the costs of building a road and developing a site for boat launching, swimming, and picnicking on a lakefront parcel purchased several years ago by the town of Sedgwick.
There were several earlier problems that had to be solved in order for this project to get as far as it has. Because the town of Sedgwick originally did not have right-of-way access to this parcel from Route 15, it had to go through an eminent domain process to cross land owned by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust running from the Cooper Farm Road to the town-owned lot.
Because of slope and wetlands issues on the town’s lot, officials negotiated a right of way over abutting property owned by the Condon Trust and Basil Ladd, running parallel to and on the other side of the town lot. The proposed road will mostly follow the route of a now unusable camp road, bypassing a gully washout, to a point approximately 800 feet from the shore. From there a new section of road will be built that turns back onto the town lot and proceeds to the shore.
At a joint meeting of the two boards of selectmen on August 11, Sedgwick First Selectman Nelson Grindal (representing the two towns), and Basil Ladd (representing himself and the trust) signed a right-of-way and option agreement for use of the property by the towns.
The severely eroded areas on the Condon Trust land “will be re-graded and permanently stabilized,” according to the project description filed with the permit by rule application.
Initially, the towns have proposed to build a 10-foot-wide single-lane road to the pond on the mile-long route from the Cooper Farm Road to the shore. There will be turnouts along the route so vehicles going in opposite directions can pass each other. According to the text of the right-of-way agreement, the towns intend to eventually build a road with a 24-foot travel surface within the 60-foot right-of-way that would be designated a town way.
McCullough and Dennis each had copies of the plans in hand as the group followed the route down to the shore on September 29. Several times along the way, Dennis stopped to question McCullough about the drainage and stormwater treatment measures on McCullough’s plan. Occasionally Dennis would recommend changes or improvements to what was shown on the plan. These include adding additional culverts and level spreaders, which are designed to create a sheet of water that will flow into the designated vegetated buffers located downhill from the road.
In a later discussion, Dennis emphasized that these are all long-term measures designed to remain in place after the construction phase, and were different from the temporary erosion control measures mandated during construction.
When the group reached the site of the proposed boat landing, fisheries biologist Burr said the location was suitable, and had adequate water depth, adding that it was good the proposed swimming area would be separated from the boat launch area.
Burr noted that there were 51 dwellings around Walker Pond in the two towns, and 29 percent of them had their own private launching areas. He said he was pleased that a site for public use was going to be built.
McCullough said detailed plans for the ramp facility had not yet been drawn. Used concrete deck planking salvaged from the recently rehabilitated Deer Isle-Sedgwick bridge project are to be used.
In a letter to the DEP dated September 21, Cartter Patten, who identified himself as the founding president of the Friends of Walker Pond, wrote about the importance of following DEP’s best management practices as the work is being done. He noted that years of neglect had “created a large delta at the mouth of the stream” near the proposed swimming area. He continued, “Sadly, the swimming beach once covered by fine grain sand is now buried by silt and mud and covered with lush vegetation.”