GREENE — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is in the process of developing a public boat launch on Allen Pond, increasing access to recreational opportunities just miles from Maine’s second largest urban area.
The state signed a contract with a private landowner in December to purchase a 4-acre parcel on the north side of the pond for $150,000, according to MDIFW Chief Planner Diano Circo. The planned launch would meet Americans Disabilities Act standards, providing a level of access that is difficult to find in the Lewiston-Auburn area, he said.
However, members of the Allen Pond Improvement Association say they are concerned by the environmental impacts of more boat traffic – particularly motor boats and jet skis – in the narrow, shallow pond. Several members said the state should have studied the impacts of a new boat launch on Allen Pond and talked with the association before purchasing the property.
More than a third of the 188-acre pond is designated as a no-wake zone under state law, members shared.
Allen Pond has a small carry-in launch on Thomas Road owned by the town, with room to park three vehicles without trailers.
Acquiring land to build a state boat launch on Allen Pond has been a high priority since Allen Pond Campground and its publicly accessible launch were sold to a developer in 2004, Circo said. The state is working to develop more launches easy for people with mobility difficulties near population centers across the state.
“Our goal is really to make sure that there’s a fair and equitable opportunity for the general public to enjoy those waters in a similar way to those who have shorefront property,” Circo said.
Under a colonial-era law, all Maine lakes and ponds that cover more than 10 acres are public property. However, as the state’s population grows and Maine’s shorefront becomes more developed, access – especially to small lakes and ponds not far from urban areas – has become more difficult.
Still, said the water quality of the pond has noticeably improved since the campground launch was closed, and two pairs of loons have since started nesting on its residents. Increased traffic also poses a greater risk of introducing invasive plants into the pond, they said.
“The state has to really do a study and make sure that boat launch is not going to kill this pond,” Suzanne Rousseau, president of the association, said. “This pond is fragile already.”
Circo said the state will consider the environmental impacts to the pond while designing the launch and has already conducted a survey on the existing use of the pond. He counted more than 90 homes and camps surrounding the pond, some of which have larger pontoon boats and 100-horsepower engines.
“Parts of the lake are shallow, that’s absolutely true,” Circo said. “But it doesn’t mean that the public shouldn’t be allowed to access that.”
Cheryl Paluso, who lives next to the property planned for a boat launch, said she and other members of the association were unaware of the proposed project until a surveyor visited the lot. She and other members of the association spoke with Circo, but said they were not satisfied with his responses or willingness to answer questions about the project.
The association has contacted the governor’s office with their concerns and has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all public records related to the property survey, the purchase of the property and other documents, hoping to learn more about the project.
“All that’s happening right now is the acquisition of a piece of property,” Circo said, adding that he is unable to answer most questions about the proposed launch because it has yet to be designed. Still, he said he’s happy to talk with anyone who has concerns about the project.
Stocking fish and increasing boating access to Allen Pond has been something of a controversial topic in Greene for many years.
Adding the new launch to Allen Pond would likely mean that the state would pay to stock the pond. In the fall of 2021, Greene paid $7,600 to stock the pond with 500 brook and rainbow trout, according to Town Manager Carol Buzzell.
Selectman Anthony Reny said the state and town discussed expanding the Allen Pond launch a couple years ago, but the project never moved forward. Abutting land would need to be acquired for the expansion, he explained.
Reny said he has spoken with Circo about the project on Allen Pond.
“His response made sense to me,” he said, adding that he understands residents’ concerns. He confirmed that there has been problematic activity at the Cherry Pond launch, but simply stated that the pond is public property.
Circo said once the state owns the property, an engineer will be hired to help the state determine what is possible to build on the site.
The state will later need to go before the town to seek permits and hold a public hearing, he added, noting that this is the stage residents and the pond association will be able to provide input on the plans.