Peaks pond purchase preserves island pleasures

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PORTLAND — A tradition of outdoor recreation will continue on Peaks Island as the Peaks Island Land Preserve this week completes its purchase of the Ice Pond for $60,000.

“It is wonderful, we literally have been looking at the pond for nearly 20 years,” PILP President John Whitman said Dec. 26. “We are not only preserving the ice pond, we are heading off the possibility of a house being built right next to it.”

Whitman said buying the 2.2-acre parcel that includes the pond was made possible when owners Bill and Melissa Bunton offered to sell.

“It was the good will of the Buntons that made this possible,” Whitman said. The couple, who own four other Peaks Island properties, bought the 2.7-acre property in March 2013.

Before that, plans were being developed to build a home near the pond, Whitman said. The Buntons will retain half an acre of land adjacent to their home.

About 200 islanders contributed nearly $160,000 to the purchase, and the city Land Bank Commission made a $30,000 grant.

City councilors approved the grant Dec. 15.

Funds beyond the $60,000 purchase price will go toward repair of the dam that creates the pond.

“We are going to have to address this pretty soon,” Whitman said. “It is a difficult problem. There is definitely going to be some permitting issues, but I don’t think it will be too difficult.”

In the interim, the traditional ice skating and birding spot remains open to the public on the northeast side of the island, off Seashore Avenue.

According to the PILP website, the man-made pond was created by Harvey  Trefethen more than 100 years ago as a source of ice for island summer hotels and cottages, before electric refrigeration was available. The dam is about 120 feet long and is 8 feet to 10 feet tall at its center. In some sections, the dam is only about 2 feet high, Whitman said.

“A perfect place to change your skates,” he added.

The scope and cost of repairs to the stone and masonry dam has not been estimated. Because it has the easement as a the water source, Whitman said he hoped the city might be able to help with repair costs.

“They have a healthy self-interest,” he said.

The grant from the Land Bank Commission was rare, in that the city took no ownership interest in the property. It does have an easement for water use if needed to fight fires. PILP will also grant a conservation easement to the Oceanside Conservation Trust, which ensures public access, Whitman said.

No changes are planned for the area.

“It is not just a skating pond,” Whitman said. “It is a beautiful gem of a pond, sapphire blue. When you are skating on the pond you actually have an ocean view.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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An autumn view of the Peaks Island Ice Pond, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.