A canoe on Bald Mountain Pond. Bald Mountain Township, Maine.
©Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography

True-blue conservation in Maine

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Around this time of year, a strange condition starts to spread among the inhabitants of central Maine. During long summer days outside, their mouths turn blue. Along with slower-than-average hiking speed and a repetitive stooping motion, the tinted teeth can only mean one thing: wild blueberries are ripe and ready for harvest.

Close-up of wild blueberries True blue. Photo credit: Flickr user OakleyOriginals

If you’ve ever spent an afternoon ambling in blueberry territory, you know the wild kind bears only a passing resemblance to its domesticated cousins. Maine’s wild blueberries are tinier, plumper, and packed with a flavor so bold and sweet it’s almost electrifying. And according to locals, there are few places wild blueberries grow better than on the sunny slopes of Moxie Bald Mountain, a 2,630-foot peak in Somerset County.

But it’s not just foragers who benefit from the area’s bounty. The cold, clear waters of nearby Bald Mountain Pond welcome paddlers and anglers from around the state. The pond is home to a rare population of freshwater arctic char—one of just a dozen such populations anywhere in the world. And hikers on the Appalachian Trail skirt the shore, taking in views of the summit reflected on the pond’s placid surface, and bedding down for a night in the sturdy hikers’ shelter just a few steps from the pond’s banks.

me_baldmtn_07222015_30.jpgThe only thing sweeter than the blueberry harvesting along the trail is the view from the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain.Photo credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

“Bald Mountain Pond is off the beaten path in the classic sense,” says Craig Dickstein, a volunteer with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, which helps care for over 250 miles of the trail through the state. Many ponds and lakes in the region are ringed with summer camps and private homes, but the shores of Bald Mountain Pond remain relatively untouched. “I’ve talked to a lot of thru-hikers over the years, and I often hear that crossing through this area is a highlight of their entire journey.”

The timber companies that once owned the 1,200-acre pond and much of the surrounding forest historically allowed recreational access to the area—but that arrangement was more of a tradition than a guarantee. And with the region’s timber economy in flux and land ownership shifting from small local companies to big corporations, Mainers have started to hit more locked gates and “No Trespassing” signs where they’re accustomed to free reign for hiking, hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling.

me_baldmtn_07222015_10.jpgBald Mountain Pond is home to one of just a dozen populations of freshwater arctic char, making it a prime spot for ambitious anglers. Photo credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

So The Trust for Public Land is working with local conservationists, the State of Maine, and the National Park Service to purchase 2,620 acres surrounding Bald Mountain Pond. Once the project is complete, the pond, its nine miles of rugged shoreline, a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, and countless wild blueberry bushes will remain protected from development and open to the public, forever. Sweet!


judy allen
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