MILLINOCKET, Maine — The stars of “American Loggers” are giving back to the Katahdin region in a major way.
The Pelletier family, whose danger-ridden logging exploits are the subject of the Discovery Channel television series that airs at 10 p.m. Fridays, will use their tree-felling expertise to clear several acres by late April as part of Katahdin Area Rotary Club efforts to revitalize Jerry Pond.
The Pelletiers’ donation is the largest portion of the roughly $500,000 of in-kind contributions the $800,000 to $1 million revitalization has received, said Bruce McLean, a Rotary Club volunteer and former town councilor who is a member of the committee that formed 1½ years ago to revitalize the pond.
“They have also agreed to put drainage ditches down the whole length of the road [to Jerry Pond] and to help cut the path around the pond,” McLean said Tuesday. “All of those things would total a significant amount of money if we were to pay somebody to do it. We are eternally grateful for everyone who is stepping up to of-fer volunteer services.”
Rudy Pelletier, co-owner of Gerald Pelletier Inc., referred comment on the volunteer work to his brother Eldon, saying that the project was more Eldon’s initiative than his own. Eldon Pelletier did not return a telephone message left on his cellular telephone Wednesday.
Basketball and badminton courts, an amphitheater for summer stock productions and music, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard runs, a playground and fishing wharf that children with disabilities could use comfortably are among the amenities that volunteers hope to install at Jerry Pond.
Regarded as the town’s most underused natural asset, the pond area, long known in the Katahdin region as a recreational space but lately fallen into disrepair, is perfect for weddings and other private celebrations that residents could enjoy, revitalization committee members have said.
The committee hopes to turn it into a jewel that would increase the town’s standing as a regional draw.
“We think it’s a very positive community project to participate in,” said Tina Jamo, incoming rotary club president. “Most of us have very fond memories of the Jerry Pond area, and we thought this would be a good tricommunity project that our kids and their kids and everybody could enjoy for years to come.”
The club has about 20 members from East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said the Pelletiers’ large-scale construction efforts could, with the other in-kind donations, easily total $500,000. Manpower and construction company work is very expensive and time-consuming, particularly with a large-scale revitalization such as Jerry Pond.
“It doesn’t take very long to chew up $100,000 in any kind of construction project,” Conlogue said. He called the project one of the greatest examples of volunteerism the town has seen. “You really cannot say enough about the good that these people are trying to do,” he said.
The club is holding silent and audible auctions of more than 130 donated items at a prime rib dinner at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church on March 26, Jamo said. The Katahdin Federal Credit Union, Pangburn Family IGA, Two Rivers Canoe and Tackle, and Maryanne’s Market are among the venues selling tickets.
Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The annual auction typically draws as many as 300 participants, Jamo said.
The committee has raised about $50,000 in cash for the revitalization and is seeking tree-felling permits for the Pelletiers, McLean said. Besides Rotary, the local Elks, Fin and Feather Club and American Legion organizations are assisting in the revitalization. Fin and Feather has volunteered to help revitalize and stock the pond, which probably will be drained and refilled, and build the wharf.
Anyone interested in joining the all-volunteer effort can contact Avern Danforth at 723-9536 or visit town hall for details.