SABATTUS — Fishermen cried foul this week after a number of vehicles owned by Fish For a Cure derby participants on Sabattus Pond were towed during the event Saturday.
Although Marr's Point Road is clearly marked with "no parking" signs, John Chabot of Auburn and other fishermen parked there to have close access to some of the best fishing spots on the lake. A resident on the private road, which is maintained by paying members of the Marr's Point Road Association, called Anytime Towing in Lewiston to have the vehicles removed, association secretary Donna Childs said.
The towing company, which holds a contract with the association to remove illegally parked cars, pulled seven vehicles owned by Fish For a Cure participants from the road, said Anytime Towing Manager Dan, who declined to give his last name. More than 15 cars were parked on the road, he said, but some drivers returned and moved their vehicles before the tow trucks got to them.
Anytime charged the drivers a minimum of $200 to release the impounded vehicles: a $120 towing fee, a $40 gate fee and a $40 storage fee, Dan said. Trucks with snowmobile trailers were charged for two vehicles, a total of $400, he said.
The fees were higher than the company's normal $50 fee because the contract requires the company to be on call around the clock, Dan said when contacted Tuesday.
Derby participants were shocked by the towing fees.
“I'm very, very disappointed," Chabot said. "It's not right, that's all. It's a one-day-a-year thing, and none of the cars were parked in the middle of the road so you couldn't get by. I thought this was a fundraiser for breast cancer, not for the towing people."
The Fish For a Cure derby raises money to fight breast cancer. Now in its second year, the event had issues with local residents and road associations around Sabattus Pond last year, as well, derby organizer Jay Davis of Bowdoinham said.
Road associations around Sabattus Pond “feel like they own the lake and they don't want to allow anyone access to it,” Davis said. The fishermen “are out there supporting a derby raising money for breast cancer. Why would you have them towed and make people pay hundreds of dollars?”
Even the towing company agreed that the situation was an unfavorable one. They didn't find out that the drivers had been part of a charity event until the fourth person got to the register, Dan said.
"If we had known it was a benefit, we never would have done that," he said, adding that the fishermen were so irate it was difficult to talk to them.
Marr's Point Road residents pointed out that there are good reasons for not allowing nonresidents to park on the road. Truck and snowmobile traffic between the road and the pond aggravate erosion, Childs said. The narrow street is private property and clearly marked, and the cars parked on the road presented a safety hazard.
Even without banks of snow lining the street, it is difficult for two vehicles to pass along most of the road. With all of the fishermen's vehicles stopped there, "a fire truck could never have gotten in there," Dan said, contradicting the statement by Chabot that the vehicles didn't block the road.
"I've lost a niece to breast cancer, but I wouldn't want to lose someone else because of lack of access," said Joan Hamann, who lives in Greene and has owned a camp on Marr's Point Road for decades. "It's all about safety."