FREEPORT — After a dozen years as the Winslow Park manager, Bart Carhart said he and and his wife, Mary Lou, are ready to retire and travel the country.
Carhart has managed the 100-acre park since 2000. He also owned the South Freeport Village Store and worked in the recycling facility.
The Carharts, originally from New Jersey, used to vacation in Maine. During one trip to Acadia National Park, their camping trailer broke down. They found a Freeport mechanic to fix it, and stayed in town while waiting for the part to arrive.
They heard about Winslow Park, stayed in the campground a few days, and on a bike ride to L.L. Bean through South Freeport, saw the South Freeport Village store.
“I saw this deli, and thought, wouldn’t that be nice to retire and operate that,” Carhart said. “I took the address, went home and wrote a letter to the owner. I told him if you are ever interested in selling, let me know.”
A few years later, in 1997, the Carharts heard from the owner. They moved to Freeport, bought the store and ran it as a deli.
Carhart’s previous career was working for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies, so he also applied for a job at the Freeport Recycling Center when they moved to town. They lived at the Harb Cottage in Winslow Park during their first winter, and when a position became available at the park, Town Manager Dale Olmstead offered Carhart an opportunity to live and work at the park.
Carhart said he worked half time at the park, half time at the recycling center. But eventually he decided to dedicate all his time to the park, and sold the store a few years ago, too.
The park has about 100 campsites, seasonal rental spaces and the four-bedroom cottage. There is a playground, boat launch, bathhouse, trails and a beach.
The property was donated to the town in a Harb family trust, to be used as a park and for recreational purposes.
“The park is entirely self-sufficient,” Carhart said. “Our budget is approved by the Town Council, but no tax dollars go into the running this place. Everything is generated from user fees.”
Nelson Larkins has been a member of the Winslow Park Commission since about 1997 and was on the board when Carhart started as the manager.
“(Carhart) is an absolute pleasure to work with,” Larkins said. “He is a gentleman and a totally caring individual. He is the type of person you would want running a town park and campground.”
Larkins said Carhart helped build two accessible, family friendly bath houses and has made significant shoreline and beach erosion improvements at the park.
Events held at the park include the Lobsterman Triathlon, Close to the Coast Run, Family Fun Day and a summer concert series, he said.
“(Carhart) has been incredibly beneficial to this park, he is like a breath of fresh air,” Larkins said. “He has been extremely forward thinking and has fiscally managed the park very well.”
Carhart will work through February. A search committee is in the process of finding a replacement, and Carhart said he would help train the new manager. Then he and his wife will travel south and west, and eventually return to New Jersey.
“Sometimes we pinch ourselves thinking that we’ve lived like this,” Carhart said. “It has been enjoyable. The people of Freeport have been great.”
Bart Carhart, Winslow Park manager, will retire in February from the Freeport job.