Halfway through cleanup of artist’s junk, Houlton already over budget

Posted May 10, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.
Last modified May 11, 2011, at 2:20 p.m.
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Jen Lynds | BDN
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Jerry Cardone (left) is pictured with one of his dinosaur sculptures in a photo taken by Portland photographer Tonee Harbert.
Jen Lynds | BDN
Jerry Cardone (left) is pictured with one of his dinosaur sculptures in a photo taken by Portland photographer Tonee Harbert.
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Jen Lynds | BDN
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Jen Lynds | BDN
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.
Jen Lynds | BDN
Municipal employees in Houlton will be stepping in to clean up the property at 314 Military Street owned by Jerry Cardone. An Aroostook County Superior Court order has deemed the property an illegal junkyard. Cardone, an artist, will be allowed to keep some of his existing art on a secure spot in the property, but the remaining items, including old cars, rotted wood, rusted scrap metal and other material will be disposed of by the town. Some of Cardone's work, pictured here in Dec. 2010, stands at the front of the property.

HOULTON, Maine — Town employees soon will resume cleanup of a 10-acre property that an Aroostook County Superior Court justice last year declared an automobile graveyard and junkyard, Town Manager Doug Hazlett said Tuesday.

The cleanup, which should begin within the next 30 days,  likely will bring to an end an effort that began in December to clear cars, old wood, scrap metal, plastic buckets and more off the property at 314 Military St. owned by Jerry Cardone, a Houlton artist. Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter ruled on Nov. 15, 2010, that the property constituted an automobile graveyard and a junkyard under state statute and was a “public nuisance” under Houlton code. The site had become so cluttered that Cardone could no longer drive his truck onto the property, and Hunter could not walk unimpeded through the yard when he visited it last summer before making his ruling.

According to court records, Cardone admitted to the judge that 95 percent of the raw material on the site that he used for sculptures had become unusable because of decay.

Hunter ordered that the property be cleaned up.

“We are just waiting for the ground to get a bit harder and less muddy so that we can clean up the area in front of the fence [which partially encloses the property,]” Hazlett said Tuesday. “We will eliminate any trash and burn what we can. Some of the items have sunk heavily into the mud over the years, so it will be difficult to get that out.”

During the two week effort in December, crews cleaned up more than half of the property.

Town councilors authorized the use of up to $25,000 from the town’s loan repayment reserve fund to cover costs of cleaning up the property. Hazlett said Tuesday that the town has now spent in excess of $30,000 on the cleanup effort. The town will seek to recoup the excess cost from any future sale of the property.

Over the past 18 years, Cardone — who is known to some locals as “The Dinosaur Man” — has displayed wood carvings and scrap metal constructions of dinosaurs, aliens, palm trees, totem poles and other pop-culture pieces in his yard. The towering sculptures include Santa, Bigfoot and a rooftop gazebo in the shape of a flying saucer.

Some of the pieces were lined up in front of an aging 5-foot-tall wooden fence that has collapsed in some spots and that partially encloses the property that stretches about 200 yards along Route 2 in a residential part of town.

Cardone’s work has attracted local, state and nationwide attention.

Photos of his work have been taken by Portland photographer Tonee Harbert and were included in a 2007 exhibit at the University of Southern Maine titled “Off the Grid: Maine Vernacular Environments.” Later that year, the Blue Moon Gallery in Houlton exhibited Harbert’s photos of Cardone’s work.

TruTV also named Cardone’s property one of its “51 Weirdest Tourist Traps in America” on its website last year.

The town took Cardone to court about six years ago to address code violations and officials went through several hearings and mediation with him. During the mediation hearings, Hazlett said, Cardone told the court that he would clean up the property on his own.

He never did.

While a number of people have complained about Cardone’s property for years, others have spoken out against the court-ordered cleanup. Hazlett has maintained that the town has not harmed any of his artwork, and that Cardone has been cooperative during the process.

According to court records, Hunter issued a sweeping order, mandating that everything on the property be cleaned up with the exception of one unregistered automobile.The town has decided to allow Cardone to keep the artwork he already has created on a secure place on the property.

Cardone has said in past interviews that he makes his art “for God” and calls his property the “7 Wonders of God Creatures.” He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Town councilors authorized the use of up to $25,000 from the town’s loan repayment reserve fund to cover costs of cleaning up the property. Hazlett said Tuesday that the town has now spent in excess of $30,000 on the cleanup effort. The town will seek to recoup the excess cost from any future sale of the property.

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