LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — To own land on top of Garey Mountain with views of Penobscot Bay was a modern pioneer’s dream. Now, that pioneer’s land will be added to Camden Hills State Park and shared with the public.
The family of the late Edward Stephens recently donated his 22 mountaintop acres to the Maine Department of Conservation. The gift, paired with another recently acquired piece of land, will add 91 acres to Camden Hills State Park.
The land first was offered to the town of Lincolnville, but the town was concerned about a few buildings — including Stephens’ cottages — that could pose liability risks. It declined the offer.
The state now plans to tear down the buildings.
Last summer, Lincolnville selectmen hiked the forested terrain, which abuts Camden Hills State Park, to get a look at what they considered acquiring. Author and historian Diane O’Brien, who was a friend of Stephens’, told the story of the land as she accompanied the town officials.
In the 1930s, Stephens as a boy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“The doctor said let the boy do what he wants. [His parents] said, ‘Eddie, what do you want?’ and he said, ‘I want to buy some land in Lincolnville,’” O’Brien said as she hiked the mountain toward Stephens’ property last summer.
Stephens had $100 in his bank account, so he took it out and purchased 22 acres on Garey Mountain. Deed in hand, Stephens recruited friends and began building his first cabin on top of the mountain in 1935.
“He had a romantic idea that he was a pioneer,” O’Brien said.
Stephens didn’t die from his cancer and lived into his 80s. He married and lived on the mountaintop off and on throughout his life. Even in his 80s, Stephens bolted up the mountain in his four-wheeler, O’Brien said.
Now, the land will be tacked on to Camden Hills State Park’s 6,138 acres.
Alan Stearns, deputy director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, said the Lincolnville land abuts a ridge trail with ocean views.
“The hiking trail on the ridgeline just above this property currently gives a remote experience as you look out to the ocean,” Stearns said Tuesday. “So the Stephens parcel protects the experience of that hike.”
The state park also recently acquired 69 acres in Camden at the base of Mount Megunticook. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust purchased the property for $175,000 on Jan. 31.
Both pieces of land were high on a wish list the park had compiled. The Camden land touches the park on three sides. Its fourth side serves as a warning of what the land — complete with a cave and streams — could have become, according to Ciona Ulbrich, the project manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
“There is a subdivision of houses next to it, so people could see what could happen to it,” she said Tuesday. “It’s a slope people look at from the road. It’s a view people know.”
The park has no immediate plans to add trails to either section of land.