FORT KENT, Maine — Around town, she’s known as the “Recycling Queen.”
As director of Fort Kent’s parks and recreation department, Anne Beaulieu has a reputation for taking castoffs and incorporating them into her recreation programming.
So it only made sense, when the opportunity arose to reuse two municipal structures, that she was first in line.
“We’ve dubbed them ‘the spaceships,’” Beaulieu said of the twin, dome-shaped buildings formally used by the town’s wastewater treatment facility. “They had already been out of use for 14 years [and] the town did not have the means to dismantle them, so my department took them.”
The two aluminum structures, each 42 feet in diameter, originally were used to cover the treatment plant’s two clarifying pools adjacent to the Fish River.
When Fort Kent received state and federal funds to relocate the treatment plant to its current location on the other side of town, there was no need for the domes at the new, updated facility.
For more than a decade the domes sat unused until an idea was born with Beaulieu.
“I said, ‘Don’t throw those away,’” Beaulieu said. “I wanted those, I needed those buildings.”
The past several summers have been rainy in northern Maine and the recreation department’s programming was not immune to the weather.
“The summer before, we got some big Army tents from the National Guard [and] we operated all summer in those musty tents,” Beaulieu said. “We needed indoor facilities because we did not want to spend another summer in musty tents.”
Fiscal times being what they are, Beaulieu knew there was no money in the municipal budget for a new field house and that’s when she got the idea to make a pitch for the domes.
Once the town approved her idea early last summer, Beaulieu said, the next challenge was moving the structures.
As the crow flies, they were going less than a quarter-mile to Jalbert Park across the Fish River.
It was a trip several times longer than that on town roads.
“Everyone had ideas on how to move them,” Beaulieu said. “Someone even floated the idea of having the National Guard come with helicopters and pick them up.”
In the end, she worked with Fort Kent Police Chief Kenneth Michaud who arranged for a flatbed trailer and rigging to carry the domes over the Fish River Bridge and to their new homes on fresh concrete slabs.
“It was quite the production,” Beaulieu said. “We had a police escort [and] Maine Public Service and the phone company were in on it to move the [overhead] wires.”
The move complete, Beaulieu was left with two multipurpose buildings that are 100 percent waterproof.
“This has been absolutely fantastic for us and our summer programming,” she said. “When all of our programming was outside we suffered when a storm came through.”
During those times parks staff herded youngsters into the baseball field’s dugouts, the hallway of the local school or a nearby storage building to wait out the rains.
“We were always able to keep the kids entertained,” Beaulieu said. “That’s probably why they kept coming back.”
During the off-season the buildings are used for storage, a new luxury for Beaulieu’s department.
“They are already filled up,” she said.
“People always call me when they have things to throw out,” Beaulieu said. “Paper towel rolls, milk jugs — we use it all [and] the kids have a blast making stuff. I’m known as the woman who can take a dollar, spend it three times, and still get change.”