POLAND – A meeting Wednesday night about public boat access on Thompson Lake was marred by frequent interruptions from lakeshore homeowners opposing additional access and others saying the public shouldn’t be locked out from using the lake.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife proposes to build a public boat ramp on a 25-acre state-owned site at Abrams Point and Potash Cove. It is off Johnson Hill Road in West Poland. The site is in an area where some of Poland’s most expensive residential properties are located.

Some of the more than 80 people at the meeting raised concerns about gas or oil spills polluting the lake or groundwater, consumption of alcohol and drugs at the site, soil erosion, introduction of invasive plants, the use of jet skis and snowmobile use during winter months.

Several residents of the Potash Cove area who opposed the boat access plan identified themselves as members of Citizens For the Preservation of Thompson Lake. That organization plans to fight the project through its legal counsel, Verrill and Dana, of Portland, according to the group’s treasurer, Robert Creegan. He said the ownership of Abrams Lane, a road that would be used for access, is disputed.

Opponents accused the state department of avoiding permitting by the town and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

‘The decision of whether or not to go with town permits is with the commissioner (of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife),” said John Boland, fisheries division director.

Planning Board member Susan Ellis drew applause when she verbally objected to the state agency attempting to bypass Poland’s Planning Board and the town’s permitting process.

“We’re looking for guarantees for public access for the general public for generations to come,” Boland said.

Several people spoke in favor of the project. “This is a case of the haves and have nots. You people who have access to the lake don’t want anyone else to have access. This lake belongs to the state of Maine,” one man said.

“I’m not lucky enough or rich enough to own a piece of land on the lake, but I like to use the lake. People who have property on the lake want to lock it up. That’s not fair,” said another man.

Some people raised concerns that gas could be spilled by people fueling their boats and that nearby wells could be affected.

“It’s the yahoos from out-of-state who get gas and pour their gas into their boats right by the lake. It’s not the residents, it’s the yahoos from God knows where who don’t give a damn,” Creegan said.

Bob Williams, the state department’s chief planner for federal aid, maintained that an environmental impact study conducted five years ago remains valid over objections from several people who demanded a new study.

Engineer Mark Gray of JAMM Civil & Structural Engineering of Poland has been working on the project for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Gray is a resident of Thompson Lake and a former member of the Poland Planning Board.

Gray used the term “sensational reception” in reference to how some residents of the Potash Cove area may receive visitors. “A sensational reception is someone who hates people with boats and trailers driving past their houses,” he said.

Williams said the department first identified the site for possible public access in 1998. At that time the state bought the 25-acre site. Thompson Lake has been identified as a site for possible development of public access since 1985. He said other access sites are either unsafe or the access is restricted.

Williams said he didn’t know when the project would be built. The permitting process this year would be followed by a wait for funding. “At the outside I would say 2004. I would say more than likely past that year,” he said.

Thompson Lake has frontage in Androscoggin, Cumberland and Oxford counties and in the towns of Casco, Otisfield and Oxford in addition to Poland.


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