BAR HARBOR — The row of tall European black pine trees along Route 3 at the College of the Atlantic campus were cut down last week as part of the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) project to rebuild and widen a four-mile stretch of that road.
“This is going to be the biggest visual impact, along this stretch,” foreman Dan Grajewski of DOT subcontractor Comprehensive Land Technologies (CLT) said Friday.
For generations, branches of the pines have stretched well over the road.
“Our presentation on Route 3 is going to be dramatically changed as of today, for a long time,” COA campus planner Millard Dority said.
“As the campus planner, I love the idea of a staccato view of campus as people are going by.” The trees were well over 100 feet tall and were likely planted 125-130 years ago.
“I’m sad about it. Those trees have been a fixture of my life for 46 years,” said Dority, a Bar Harbor native who was one of the first employees after the college’s founding in the 1970s. “There are very few examples of European black pine around.
“But the truth is a number of them were dead and a number were reaching the point where they were going to be dead soon. It’s one thing to be that old, and it’s another to take all that salt and brine” from the road over the years.
“And I can only imagine,” he continued, “after working on this project for the last five years with DOT and the citizens’ advisory group, how awesome it’s going to be to see a 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path all the way from the Regency [hotel] into town.”
That Context Sensitive Solutions community advisory group was facilitated by resident Ron Beard through the Hancock County Planning Commission. Dority was impressed with that process, he said, and thought it worked better than other DOT projects he has seen.
“What DOT said is we care about what you, the community, want. We’re willing to relax standards if you can convince us that there’s a good reason.”
The group included landowners along the route and representatives of businesses and institutions.
“I heard property owners talking about what was important to them and the businesses talking about how important it was to have one-way traffic going the right direction. It just got everybody together,” he said.
COA’s board of trustees assigned Dority to represent the college throughout the project. “One of the reasons we’re not seeing more protest about the trees is that we talk about the project at every campus meeting, and I send out all-college emails to keep everyone posted, he said.
Dority also has been working with DOT landscape architect Larry Johannesman on plans to replant the area. “We got the plant list that he submitted for our property,” he said. “We made suggestions of plants that might work better, that would not attract deer. We talked about how we could involve students in the process. I can’t say enough about how receptive he has been.”
Dority said the first steps will be to “live with the clearing” and study the new landscape, including how much light from campus spills onto the road.
“Then we’ll base our planting on what we actually see. It’s gonna open up so many more possibilities.”