Allagash employees all knew: Russ’ll fix it

Posted Nov. 30, 2011, at 4:26 p.m.
Russell Scott
Courtesy photo
Russell Scott

Russell Scott, who is retiring at the end of December, comes from a long line of dedicated Allagash Wilderness Waterway employees. His grandfather, Helon Taylor, was hand-picked by Gov. Percival Baxter as the first supervisor of Baxter State Park. His father was Myrle Scott, who managed several parks and is a past supervisor of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

Russell grew up in state parks, wonderful places such as Baxter, Lily Bay, and Mt. Blue. It was only natural for him to start work as a part-time employee at Mt. Blue State Park in 1969. After graduating from high school, he signed on for a four-year hitch with Uncle Sam in the U.S. Air Force. He spent a few years working at Bass Shoe before returning to the park system for a career that will end with 31 years of state service.

Russell has held many different positions within the park system but will be remembered by most as maintenance coordinator for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the Penobscot River Corridor and Lily Bay and Peaks-Kenny state parks. As maintenance coordinator, he is in charge of most major repair projects at these parks.

Russell and his counterparts in the northern region would oftentimes get together and come to the Allagash to install a new roof on a ranger station, jack up a camp or install a solar system at one of the facilities.

When something breaks up on the waterway and it needs more than a minor repair, someone will shout out, “Russ’ll fix-it!”

Fixing boats, outboard motors and snowmobiles became Russell’s specialty by necessity. Hauling a boat and motor out to town from the Allagash is expensive and time consuming.

Before a boat was hauled out out, Russell usually would take a look at it. Most of the time, he would fix the problem without needing to take it out for repair. This has saved the park system thousands of dollars over the last few years.

A few winters ago, Russell and I were given the task of going up to the top of Allagash Mountain to take down the solar panels and remove the batteries from the site. It sounds easy enough, but things can — and did — go wrong on this particular adventure.

We left Greenville early in the morning headed for Allagash Lake. We drove snowmobiles to the camp, built a fire, had lunch and started up the trail by snowmobile. We got within a couple hundred yards of the summit and snowshoed the rest of the way up. All went well during the dismantling process, and we soon had the tow sled loaded with four very large batteries, four solar panels and our tools.

Before we headed down the mountain, I tied a rope to the bumper of my snowmobile to help hold back the heavily laden tow sled. Well, once we got started down the mountain, it became very obvious that we were out of control.

As we gained speed, I thought to myself, “Holy crap! I wish I hadn’t tied that rope on my bumper.” I was getting hauled down that hill faster and faster, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Russell was driving the snowmobile hitched to the tow sled, and he was having the ride of his life down the side of Allagash Mountain. Just as it seemed that our ride was going to end in a terrible crash, I saw Russell lay his sled down on its side. He came to a stop just before the trail took another steep decline. My sled came to a stop a few feet from the back of the tow sled. That was close

After the adrenaline rush dissipated, we came to our senses and unloaded half the batteries. This made for two rather uneventful trips up and down the mountain with the batteries and other equipment.

We spent the night at Allagash Lake in a nice, toasty-warm ranger camp, playing cribbage. Project completed.

Russell says that he has been blessed with great supervisors, co-workers and mentors over his career. When he heads off on a trip to the Allagash or some other distant place to fix something, his wife, Cynthia, jokes, “Are you going off to spend the week with your other family?”

That’s how it is with the people who live and work at Maine State Parks.

In his retirement, Russell plans to help his wife with her home-based business called Fresh Air Dogs. Russell and Cynthia both love dogs, and Russell will continue teaching dog obedience classes part-time. He also will continue fixing things from his home in Dover-Foxcroft.

Russell promised me, however, that he would come up to the AWW and volunteer when he feels the need to get away for a few days.

Thank you, Russell, for a job well done.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway

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