SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A warming shack at Chris’s Pond is set to be moved off the road that is a right-of-way leading to the five-acre property for sale behind the pond.
A parcel located at 20 Chris’s Lane, higher on the hill than Chris’s Pond, has been for sale for $239,000 for the last two years. This week that price will increase due to the cost of permitting fees to clear the strip that represents the only right-of-way onto the property, according to real estate broker Holly Masterson, who works for L.S. Robinson Co.
Currently, a small warming shack, used by visitors to Chris’s Pond during the winter months, sits on that right-of-way. The town owns the two-acre pond, but not any of the surrounding property. At this time, it is unclear where the shack will be moved to accommodate the right-of-way and whether it will stay near the pond.
“We were all aware the property around Chris’s Pond is for sale,” said Kathy VanGorder.
She is one of the many local residents who ice skate on the pond in colder months. She also maintains a Facebook page about the pond that includes photos and updates for activities there.
“In the winter time, that little pond has become a place where lots of kids have learned to skate,” she said. “I love that it gets them away from their screens and out having fun at all ages.”
In 1994, voters in Southwest Harbor approved an easement to preserve the pond at the Annual Town Meeting. A group of students from Pemetic Elementary School formed a group called the Pemetic Problem Solvers and they advocated for the pond to remain a winter sport destination for local kids. The group worked with Maine Coast Heritage Trust to formulate the easement and the organization still holds the deed.
What prompted the student advocacy was an attempt by the town to make the pond a parking lot. In 1988 town officials had announced they were going to drain the pond for parking. That controversial option was brought to Town Meeting and voted down by residents.
Now, it isn’t the pond that is on the chopping block but the property adjacent to it by way of the road where the shack sits. The owner of the five-acre parcel, Rob Geardon, grew up in Southwest Harbor and currently lives in Tennessee near his family. He has had the property on the market for two years and said there has been a lot of interest from potential buyers.
“When they put the warming hut in, Geardon was totally fine,” said Masterson. “He offered to give the other side of the pond to the town for parking. He’s not trying to block the road.” She said the driveway has been a holdup for potential buyers.
Although there has been interest from developers for the land, which boasts a clear view of the harbor and neighboring islands, Geardon said is simply looking to sell the property. He would be happy to see it preserved for public use, according to Masterson.
“The seller is certainly willing to talk to locals to keep it the way it is, as some benefit of the town,” said Masterson, also a life-long resident of Southwest Harbor. “If they don’t, it’s on the open market. There is potential for someone to come in and sweep it up.
“I’ve skated on that pond since I was a kid and I bring my daughter there,” she continued. “We’re totally aware how much the town uses it.”
For Gina Silverman, Chris’s Pond has been an integral part of her son Olin’s life.
“We started going there when my son was really young, like two-years-old,” said Silverman. “We would be there for hours and hours and hours on the weekends… It taught my son to be a really good skater.”
Olin Silverman, 12, now plays on a AAA hockey team in mid-Maine.
“Some of the great hockey players are pond skaters,” said Gina Silverman. “The kids on there are really good. They could all be on teams but there is no hockey rink around here.”
Silverman says collecting on the pond in the winter is not only great for ice skating skills, but creating community during a time when it is tough for many to leave their homes.
“It’s like a mental health pill,” said Gina Silverman. “It’s like something from another time and another place. It really keeps people happy in the winter.”
Chris’s Lane is located just on the south end of downtown Southwest Harbor. Once on the lane, it is a short walk up a hill to the pond. Trees line most of the area around the water, other than the entrance where a cement wall creates a barrier from a grassy parking area. Where the warming shack sits is to the right of the pond at the top of the small hill and behind it trees have grown into the right of way.
“I was concerned that things were going to change over there that may not be fun,” said VanGorder. “It’s just a sweet little pond and hopefully the changes that are happening aren’t going to impinge upon that.”