We live on Crash Road in Livermore.

After moving here some 22 years ago, I was curious to learn how the road earned its name and found it was not for the obvious reason. In the early 1960’s, International Paper needed a larger, more modern manufacturing facility than the one that evolved from Hugh Chisholm’s vision on the east side of the mighty Androscoggin River. Two locations were on the table — one that was a little farther north and on the west side of the river, and the other was somewhere out of state. The downside of the local option was lack of a decent road over which the new, very heavy equipment could be moved to build, by early 1960’s standards, the massive, state-of-the-art facility that was the new vision for papermaking in this area.

A massive explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, Maine about noon on Wednesday April 15, 2020 ripped apart the plant owned by Pixelle Specialty Paper Solutions. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

To preserve the mill jobs and related economic activity that was so critical to this area and to the state, an appropriation bill was advanced to improve the cow path that was then known as the North Livermore-Jay Road. That bill sailed through both houses of Maine’s Legislature and was signed by the governor on the day it was introduced, or so I was told.

It was considered a “crash” effort. Hence, Crash Road.

Fast forward to 2020. On Wednesday, a massive pressure vessel (called a digester) exploded, causing significant damage to the side of the mill that starts the process — where logs are chewed up and reduced to fibers that become the pulp from which paper is produced. Miraculously there were no injuries or loss of life.

That morning, however, Crash Road is eerily quiet. There are no logging trucks that have been an uninterrupted fixture for nearly 60 years. Outside, things are quiet — the kind of quiet you’d expect from living in the deep woods, and not four miles from an economic powerhouse that produces a barely perceptible amount of ambient noise 24/7/365 — at least at our home.

There are many times I appreciate peace and quiet, but this wasn’t one of them. This quiet means that people — many, many people — are not working, and not just at the mill.

Trucks aren’t running.

The trees the trucks haul aren’t being cut.

The workers who do the cutting are not.

The mechanics who fix the trucks don’t have trucks to fix because those things don’t break unless they’re being used.

End of shift beer isn’t being purchased at the local convenience store, and so on.

The effect is precisely like the outcome of a stone tossed into a glassy pond.

There is still some activity at the mill, and we pray its owners can muster the resources to get things back together again. But we hope this quiet doesn’t stick around — at least not for long.

Those of you who know me know this is not a normal thing for me to admit, but we need some noise. Too many people depend on it.

Kurt Schaub is the town manager in Turner.


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