Greg Shute figures he has canoed at Alna’s Head Tide Dam 100 times. It can get a little hazardous there, he said. But looking at it in the rain Thursday, Oct. 31, with all the changes weeks or months old, he said it just looks like it will be fun. And it looks safer for all, including swimmers, with the new steps made of stones, he said.
Then and moments later to a crowd at the site’s dedication, Alna’s third selectman spoke of some of the work as stone art, and this spot on the Sheepscot River as “a citizen of the town.” He and others always look when they go by, and it looks different every time, Shute said. He noted the indigenous people who used the river here long ago were a part of the place, too.
People involved with the project for years, from idea to committee work, permitting, funding and fruition, and others never involved but interested, came to see and to celebrate. Some had umbrellas and, in a group photo Midcoast Conservancy Executive Director Jodi Jones requested, most had thumbs up and smiles. Jones told attendees, they were all a part of this.
She told Wiscasset Newspaper, “I’m a believer. And I always believed” the project would happen. She said it took a while, but the result was a site better for the town, the fish and the species who depend on them, and everyone who uses the dam. And the collaboration of the town, the different groups and government bodies involved, can be a model for projects around the country, she said.
Atlantic Salmon Federation Vice President of U.S. Programs Andrew Goode cited challenges ASF and the town worked through together, from the varied local opinions to a deed covenant that called for the dam to never be destroyed.
Goode cited the involvement of resident and dam committee member Ralph Hilton. “Every town needs a Ralph Hilton.” Found toward the back of the crowd later, Hilton said the project took many people.
When work started this summer, Maranda Nemeth was with Midcoast Conservancy. Now with ASF, she said she was excited the project’s stakeholders got together for the ceremony and excited about the nearly done project that has improved the site for fish and people. “I think this is going to be an asset for many, many years to come, for people to go and enjoy the river, watch the birds, see the fish migrate. It’s going to be a sight to behold for years to come,” she said.
Retired fisherman David Nelson came from Friendship to attend. He has followed the project for quite some time and is interested in fisheries restoration, he said.
Alna’s longtime alewife harvester, David Sutter of Wiscasset, stood holding a sign reading “Shafted ...” In recent years, Sutter has come to selectmen with issues and selectmen have looked into them.
The new overlook’s railings are still to come. Reviewing the project, officials noted local contractors’ involvement, including Jeff Verney on excavation, West Alna Welding which made the viewing platform where an abutment had been, and Chris Cooper of Clear Pine Carpentry on landscaping.
The half million dollar project cost Alna nothing, officials have said. Goode handed Shute the $14,500 check planned for Alna to maintain the site. Shute called the project a gift to Alna.