PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — It has been a tough year for the Presque Isle Snowmobile Club.
First, a fire destroyed the club-house. Then the club found out the insurance it had would not cover the losses. A few months later, much of the material it had acquired to re-build the clubhouse was stolen.
But just in time for winter, the dark clouds have cleared away.
With help from the Presque Isle Rotary Club, officials with the snowmobile club said Thursday they expect the new clubhouse to open in time for Christmas.
On Jan. 25, an early afternoon fire of undetermined origin de-stroyed the quarter-century-old clubhouse, which was located off State Park Road. Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.
The fire destroyed a building that housed an active nonprofit organi-zation that serves the region in many ways, from long volunteer hours grooming trails vital to The County’s lucrative snowmobile industry to sponsoring an annual sled ride for mentally challenged youths and adults. The site of memories of weddings and recep-tions, holiday parties, family gath-erings, community suppers, fund-raisers, class reunions and more also went up in flames.
“We were in shock after the fire. We didn’t know what to do,” Ted Roberts, a longtime club member, said Thursday. “We were continu-ously being asked about rebuilding. People loved that building.”
Surrounded by the ruins, club members gathered to review their insurance policy. It was then they realized insurance would cover only about 70 percent of what was lost.
Still, the club pressed on. Vol-unteers rallied to rebuild the club-house, and approximately $11,000 worth of material to do so was pur-chased and stored in a locked building near the old facility.
In early spring, someone broke into the building and walked away with windows, caulking supplies and other materials. The theft re-mains under investigation, and the perpetrator has not been caught.
That loss was covered by insur-ance, and volunteers are nearly done building a new $325,000 log club-house that will be more modern and spacious. Roberts said Thursday the project would have been hampered if not for the support of the Presque Isle Rotary Club.
To help offset a $100,000 short-fall, members of the snowmobile club told their story to the Rotary Club. They asked whether the or-ganization would consider joining forces with the club by taking on the rebuilding of the snowmobile club-house as its 2009 special project, to ensure a new building would go up in time for the coming snowmobile season.
“When they said they would help, I could not tell them how much that meant to me or the other club members and the community,” Roberts recalled. “That building is so vital to us, and there were a lot of memories there.”
Under the direction of Presque Isle Rotarian project co-chairmen Jason Parent and Dan Bagley, a committee composed of fellow Ro-tarians and members of the snow-mobile club got to work early this fall to raise $20,000 to $25,000 to go toward the clubhouse rebuilding project.
In recent weeks, committee members have spoken before civic organizations throughout central Aroostook County. They prepared and sent a mailing to more than 600 businesses, organizations and indi-viduals throughout the area, as well as downstate and out of state, solic-iting donations for the cause.
“This is a very special project for the Rotary,” Parent said Thursday. “The building really is a place known and visited not just by area snowmobilers, but many community members as well.”
He pointed out that the Rotary Club is among dozens of commu-nity groups that use the snowmobile clubhouse annually.
“The Presque Isle Snowmobile Clubhouse is more than just a place where people come together. It is truly a community icon,” said Nancy Fletcher, Rotary Club presi-dent. “We were so pleased to select this worthwhile cause as our special project for the year.”
The committee’s work will cul-minate in the coming weeks during the Rotary Club’s annual radio and television auction Dec. 1-3. As is tradition with the special project, airtime will be devoted to raising funds for the effort and acknowl-edging donors.
Roberts said the new snowmobile clubhouse will resemble the one destroyed by fire and is being con-structed on the footprint of the pre-vious facility. New amenities in-clude an entryway connected to the building, wheelchair-accessible restroom facilities and slightly larger capacity, as the former area set aside for a barbecue pit on the back side of the old facility will become part of the new building’s square footage. It also will have a larger kitchen.
The building itself is a kit from Houlton-based Ward Log Homes. Central Aroostook contractor PNM Construction was hired to do most of the building work, and snowmo-bile clubhouse volunteers are do-nating their time to complete the interior finish work.
“The rebuilding effort is very im-portant to us, and we are sure that the generosity of the community at the auction is going to be a huge benefit,” he said.
Donations to support the rebuilding effort can be sent to the Presque Isle Rotary Club, Attention “Special Proj-ect,” P.O. Box 641, Presque Isle 04769. Viewers and listeners of the auction that will air live on cable television Channel 9 and on 96.9 FM radio also can call in their pledges.