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BRUNSWICK — The Planning Department is looking to the past to name trails at one of Brunswick’s newest open space preserves.
Bridger Tomlin, a rising junior at Bowdoin College and summer fellow at the Planning Department, has been conducting oral histories with residents who lived on the Furbish Preserve off Harpswell Road before the property was annexed by the U.S. Navy in 1953.
The almost 600-acre site was home to a “whole community that doesn’t exist anymore” Tomlin said Wednesday. “Right now you just see trees and forest, but instead there’s this uncovered past.”
“Some people like to call it Brunswick’s ‘little Pompeii,'” he added.
Tomlin, along with four Brunswick high school student interns, have been conducting oral histories with past residents this summer.
He said by coordinating the histories with current high school students, the Planning Department hoped to strengthen “inter-generational ties between youth and Brunswick’s past.”
Tomlin told the Town Council on Monday that all of the proposed trail names on the site would be named in honor of past residents.
One proposed trail name for the east side of the property, for example, comes from the Snow family, which owned a large farm near what is now 66 Harpswell Road from the early 1800s until it was taken by the Navy in 1953.
Beatrice DuBois, who is descended from the Snow family, and is now 96, told Tomlin that she grew up in a house off of Harpswell Road, and remembers walking to the one-room Merriconeag Schoolhouse every day.
Her house had no electricity and an outdoor bathroom; she recalled using a horse and buggy to get around during the winter.
Another proposed trail, the Lachapelle Loop, is named for a family whose house was split in two by an airplane crash in 1944. The pilot survived; the family was in Florida.
“Doing these oral histories and really digging into the research and the community here has opened my eyes that Brunswick is a lot more complex, interesting, and historical than what I first saw when I moved here,” Tomlin said.
Councilors were excited to hear about Tomlin’s progress Monday night, and will hear the final naming proposals at their Aug. 3 meeting.
The name of the preserve had previously sparked debate after the land was conveyed from the Navy in 2013.
Several councilors had wanted to name the preserve after the previous residents, and not after Brunswick resident and famous botanist Kate Furbish.
On Wednesday, Tomlin said that after his job ends on Aug. 7, the maps with finalized trail names should be finished, but it will be up to the town to pay for signs and interactive materials.
Tomlin, originally from Colorado, said his experience this summer has made him want to work in local government, either in parks and recreation, or planning.
The Hummer household was on old Middle Bay and Harpswell roads, where the Middle Bay Golf Club is now. Planning fellow Bridger Tomlin has proposed a trail at the Furbish Preserve be named after the Hummer family.