RUMFORD — Neil Ward was pleasantly
surprised by the reception he got Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock
at the River Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Information Booth beside
Route 2.

Ward, program director for the
Androscoggin River Alliance in Lewiston, brought with him 100 copies
of the nonprofit organization’s new full-color map.

The 19- by 20-inch map highlights the
history and historical resources on the Androscoggin River. It also
shows a list of historical figures connected to the Androscoggin,
including everyone from Joshua Chamberlain and Harriet Beecher Stowe,
to U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

The map also marks all conserved lands
along the river, and labels all the boat ramps, canoe launches, canoe
trip routes, dams and picnic areas.

“We had 20 people standing in line
this morning inside the Information Center, waiting and drinking
coffee,” Chamber Director Cherri Crockett said Wednesday morning
while watching a steady stream of people chat with Ward about the

“This is why we’re here,” she
quickly added of the location opposite the Dead River convenience
store and fuel station, “to give Dead River a bit of business.”

“The map’s gorgeous,” Crockett
said. “I didn’t realize that it would be so professionally done
when I heard that it was a nonprofit trying to get something out
about the river.”

She said she thought they’d put out a fold-out
map, not a poster that could be framed and hung on people’s home
walls to be admired and treasured for generations.

But that’s just what Ward says is
happening everywhere he goes to offer the free maps at towns and
cities within the Androscoggin River Watershed, which stretches from
the Canadian border, into New Hampshire and down to the Atlantic
Ocean in Maine at Merrymeeting Bay.

“I came here for the map,” Joe
Elliott of Rumford said after Ward handed it to him. “It’s a very
worthy cause and, for all the good people that are on there, like
Sen. Muskie.”

“A lot of these people on it I don’t
know, but I love the river. It’s very nice,” Elliott added.

By 11:30 a.m., Ward had handed out 50
maps. Donations, which were sought to help pay for additional
printing and delivery charges, continued to pour in as fast as maps
went out.

Demand for the maps, which were printed
by Penmor of Lewiston, has grown so much that the alliance had to get
a second printing done, Ward said.

“We had 150 maps go in 40 minutes at
the Lewiston Library” recently, Ward said. The library was filled
to capacity and the overflow lined up down Lisbon Street.

“There sure has been a lot of talk
about it,” chamber volunteer Jon Holmes of Dixfield said. “I can
remember the days when people crossed the bridge between Dixfield and
Peru and everyone threw their garbage into the river and sewage from
homes ran into the river.”

“And, you know what, that river is
gorgeous today thanks to people like you,” he said to Ward.

“This map is about building pride,”
Ward added.

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Neil Ward, left, program director for the Androscoggin River Alliance, hands a copy of the alliance’s new map highlighting the history and historical resources of the river, to Joe Elliott of Rumford on Wednesday morning at the River Valley Chamber of Commerce Information Booth in Rumford.

River Valley Chamber of Commerce volunteer Jon Holmes, left, of Dixfield, reaches for a package of promotional materials about the River Valley area to hand to a tourist on Wednesday morning at the chamber’s Information Booth while Neil Ward of the Androscoggin River Alliance in the background explains features of the alliance’s new map of the river’s watershed.

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