MILLINOCKET, Maine — Eldon Pelletier remembers Jerry Pond as a place where children swam, fished and played and parents felt safe sending them.
“Young kids used to go down there and spend days at a time,” Pelletier recalled Tuesday.
That memory, and gratitude for all that the town has done for him, is why the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” family patriarch has his company donating equipment and labor, clearing land at the pond, as part of a Rotary Club revitalization project.
Work began Tuesday with Gerald Pelletier Inc. workers Greg Charette, a processor operator from Millinocket, and Reed Dionne, an excavator operator from East Millinocket, removing trees from land near the pond and digging a drainage ditch along the dirt road leading into the pond area.
A dump truck hauled wet soil and debris from the ditch area. About 4 acres will be cleared to make room for an amphitheater and playing fields, Charette said. The road also will be widened and leveled somewhat, Pelletier said.
“It’s going to be a good area for kids in town, so long as the riffraff doesn’t come in and vandalize it,” Charette said Tuesday.
The clearing work should take two or three weeks, Eldon Pelletier said. The work was not taped as part of the show, but might be, if the show’s camera crews appear. Under their agreement with the show’s production company, the camera crews have a lot of liberty in deciding what they want to shoot, he said.
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.
Basketball and badminton courts, the 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.
The committee hopes to turn it into a jewel that would increase the town’s standing as a regional draw.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue has said the Pelletiers’ large-scale construction efforts, with the other in-kind donations, easily could total $500,000. Manpower and construction company work are expensive and time-consuming, particularly with a large-scale revitalization such as Jerry Pond.
The committee has raised at least $50,000 in cash for the revitalization, members 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.