RANGELEY — Don Palmer, who has been president of the Rangeley Region Guides' and Sportsmen's Association for 16 years, is stepping down.
Taking his place is Rusty Harvey, the founder of Rivers Edge Sport Shop in Oquossoc, Kevin Sinnett, association co-vice president, stated Thursday in a report.
While he will remain a director of the association, Palmer is stepping down to spend more time with the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, which opened last month, Sinnett said.
“Don Palmer was primarily responsible for bringing the RRG&SA from relative obscurity to its present prominent place in Maine,” Sinnett said.
When Palmer retired from the Gillette Co. in 1988, he bought a second home in Rangeley, the area he loved.
Sinnett said Palmer purchased Blueberry Hill Farm and operated the related Blueberry Hill Antiques for more than 12 years.
Within this shop he specialized in historical hunting, fishing and trapping items of the Rangeley area in his Wildlife Antique Studio.
“His love for Rangeley history resulted in his election as president of the Rangeley Lakes Historical Society in 1995, and he continues as president today,” Sinnett said.
Shortly after Palmer bought the Blueberry Hill Farm, he joined a committee seeking ways to improve Rangeley's economy.
“Don suggested improving the fishing opportunities in the area,” Sinnett said. “He moved ahead and assembled a group of like-minded sportsmen into an alliance.”
At the time, the RRG&SA was at a low point with only 20 members, most of whom were inactive, he said. They did, however, have an old clubhouse with land. These members suggested Don merge his group with the association.
“Don liked the idea and a new 16-year period of growth began,” Sinnett said. “As a result, the RRG&SA is today one of the largest and most influential sportsmen’s associations in Maine.”
Palmer then became president and shortly thereafter Harvey became vice president.
Under Don’s 16-year tenure, Sinnett said the club has concentrated on building membership, improving the clubhouse and meeting the objectives of its mission statement instituted by Palmer: To conserve, protect, and restore the wildlife populations of the Rangeley region for the enjoyment of sportsmen, sportswomen and future generations.
During his presidency, the RRG&SA has grown its membership from about 40 to today’s total of 655 members; increased its board of directors to 20; remodeled the clubhouse by building an addition, a covered deck and a pavilion; created a children’s fish pond; developed an archery 3D course; established a shooting range; and developed a website.
Many new programs were added, such as Outdoor Sporting Heritage Day, an event showcasing Rangeley's traditional outdoor sports of hunting, fishing, and trapping for residents, visitors and youngsters.
“The membership is confident that our new president, Rusty Harvey, who has been vice president for the past 10 years, will continue to lead the club to excellence,” Sinnett said.