History of the Peaks Island Land Preserve
By T. L. Bohan
"You can accomplish practically anything as long as you don’t seek credit for it."
PREFACE TO 2010 Edition
I originally prepared the history below at the request of the Peaks Island Land Preserve’s 2005 Board of Directors in preparation for the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Land Preserve’s acquisition of the Battery Steele parcel. Apart from correcting typos, I have changed nothing in the earlier text. I am, however, happy to have this opportunity to express my pleasure in seeing the Land Preserve so healthy five years further on, more than 15 years since its founding. I also take this opportunity to thank in writing those responsible for my receiving at the tenth-anniversary celebration a pin denoting me as a ―Founder‖ of the organization. Being part of the group that established the Land Preserve is something I take great pride in. I also take advantage of this forum to suggest, as a superannuated observer of Island life, that whenever the Preserve has a choice between receiving a deed and receiving a conservation easement, take the deed. The deed allows you to call the police on anyone violating the land restrictions – or the Land Preserve’s wishes. All the easement does is support lengthy, costly litigation. On a more mundane level, I suggest, not for the first time, that the Land Preserve establish multi-year memberships, including some life memberships.
–TLB July 2010
The brevity of this account of the Peaks Island Land Preserve’s history belies the number of years that have elapsed since I began it. In response to a limited number of requests that I provide something for the 2005 Annual Meeting, I got out my notes and boxes of files a few weeks ago and was startled to see that my first draft was done in 1997. There had been a sense of urgency even in the first years of Land Preserve to record the key events, and, wherever possible, the nuances, accompanying its origins, urgency based on an appreciation of the fragility of the historic record so long as it is confined to the memories of a few people. The years that have passed since the early 1990s have illustrated the truth of this fragility, as various of the persons present at the beginning have moved away from the Island and other knowledgeable persons have died.
What follows is a reflection of my own memory of events, as refreshed by a reading through the Land Preserve’s early records, many of which I created. Doubtless, others present at the beginning will remember additional facts and some may dispute my version of events. Ideally, as many people as possible who were active in the project that grew into the Land Preserve will contribute their own writings, with the entire batch to be included in the Land Preserve’s documents which, one would hope, will soon be organized and localized sufficiently to be referred to as ―archives.‖
Because of the pressure created by the desire to bring this account to a close in time for the 10th anniversary celebration on July 29, 2005, of the Battery Steele acquisition, Claudia Whitman was the only one I corresponded with out of all those having knowledge about the subject. She was essential when it came to details about the prehistoric period (to be defined below). Also, the investigative journalism underlying Brenda Buchanan’s recent Island Times article provided me an indirect link to some other early participants. In addition to thanking Claudia and Brenda, I gratefully acknowledge the enthusiastic assistance I received, and have come to count on, from my wife, Rhonda Berg
One goal of this writing is to preserve, in a record accessible to the public, the names of those instrumental in launching our Peaks Island land-conservation movement, a movement that has, in the skillful hands of those who followed, become a vital part of Island life and of the Island’s future. Most, if not all, of those in the early days and those who came later were apparently believers in the aphorism quoted above. In this they were not unique since, during my quarter-century on Peaks Island, I have repeatedly observed Islanders devoting their resources, the main one being time, for the benefit of the community as a whole, expecting neither compensation or even recognition. With respect to the Land Preserve, the time has come to provide recognition to those who built it, and determined the shape it was to have through successive generations. Having said that, I have to apologize to those in that group who I fail to mention. Even without inadvertent omissions, there will definitely be a significant number left out and their specific efforts unrecognized. I refer to all of those who battled to clean Battery Steele the Autumn after the Land Preserve acquired it, removing the tons of scrap metal, broken glass, wrecked cars, and other debris, much of it disgusting, that had accumulated in the structure over the decades. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the completeness of this account, I was in Ireland throughout September 1995, when the cleanup took place. I will not even attempt to acknowledge those involved, and ask that people who were there will contribute their accounts of what took place, describing the heroics that were rumored to have been part of that work. I do know that the heavy, dirty work was accomplished with the assistance of some persons who otherwise have not been an active part of the Land Preserve and it is particularly important for them to be noted.
In addition to the persons named here as founders and crucial outside supporters, there are literally hundreds of early supporters of the Land Preserve identified in our contribution records, records that, incidentally, provide many now-forgotten details of that period of Island history. In addition to serving to memorialize the breadth of support received by the undertaking, this file contains dozens of emotion-evoking donor letters. There is, for example, the letter from the late Judge Carl Ingraham, remembered with fondness by many Islanders, inquiring whether his contribution could in some way honor his children, grandchildren, and great grandchild. Particularly poignant for me is the note from our beloved neighbor, retired Deering High School teacher Bea Gulliver who died last year. Ensconced several months every year from her first to her last in the Pleasant Ave home built by her grandparents, Bea was a 90-year summer resident.