RED BEACH , Maine— The groundbreaking for a National Park Service ranger station at the Saint Croix International Historic Site where French explorers first set foot is expected to be held this fall.
The Park Service last week issued its Facilities Develop-ment Plan for the park.
“The Facility Development Plan [looks] at the overall pic-ture of the whole site and says what our plan is for this site and addresses all of the build-ings that are here and visitor facilities and maintenance op-erations, and addresses also administrative functions, visi-tor contact functions,” said Park Ranger Meg Scheid.
Area residents worked for years to turn the forgotten is-land, where explorer Pierre Dugua Sieur de Mons and car-tographer Samuel de Cham-plain first set foot in 1604, into a tourist attraction.
The island, located in the St. Croix River, is about 10 min-utes from downtown Calais. The park is located on the mainland.
More than 400 years ago, the French established one of the earliest colonies in the New World on St. Croix — three years before the British landed at Jamestown in what is now Virginia and 16 years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth.
During the winter of 1604, one of the harshest on record, nearly half of the 79-man expe-dition died of scurvy, malnutri-tion and exposure. The first snowstorm struck on Oct. 6, and the group was in snow un-til April 1605. The colony moved to Port Royal, Nova Sco-tia.
Although the island was part of the local history, it basically was ignored for years. Then in the early 1990s, several area residents decided that more needed to be done. They pres-sured the park service and Maine congressional delegation to take action. Soon money was allocated for a park.
Trails were built, bronze statues depicting the life of the settlers were installed, and in 2005, Scheid was hired. Her first office was in a rather small and unsightly trailer. She then was moved into the nearby McGlashan-Nickerson house after the park service acquired it. Soon she will be in a new ranger station.
“We are proposing to develop a very modest ranger station-visitor contact station,” she said. “It is not a visitor center. A visitor center implies an in-troductory film. It implies a place for people to sit and stay a while.”
There will be brochures and interpretive displays for visi-tors to enjoy.
“But more importantly, it puts us closer to the visitors,” she said. “A very important part of interpreting the site is being there to answer ques-tions, how to interpret the his-tory, the culture, the scenery and the story.”
In addition to the ranger sta-tion, the development plan also recommended that a new main-tenance facility be built and the McGlashan-Nickerson house be leased.