There was a time not long ago when the most likely person you’d run into on Belfast area trails was Skip Pendleton. A lifelong Belfast resident, he and his wife of 65 years, Jo Pendleton, were beacons of the community with a love for the outdoors that they expressed through countless hours of volunteer work to establish and maintain area trails.
The couple passed away last fall just a few weeks apart. In honor of their memory, the Coastal Mountains Land Trust is creating the Pendleton Stewardship Fund. The campaign’s goal is to raise $75,000 to support and sustain an annual intern in Waldo County, continuing stewardship for the land and trails that were so important to the beloved Belfast couple.
“I hope it will plant a seed for more stewardship so that there’s always a bank, if you will, or a fertile ground for people who can help work on the trails and keep the trails up,” Belinda “Bindy” Pendleton, one of the couple’s five children, said. “I feel like as a family we need to give back to the community. That’s how our parents raised us.”
To kick off the fundraising campaign for the fund, a launch party and film screening is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast. Admission is by donation, which is suggested at $10 per person.
The party will start at 5:30 p.m. with stories of Skip and Jo Pendleton and a description of the new internship program.
“The intern will oversee trail work and stewardship and ideally get other people in the community involved in those things, which was something Skip always did,” Ian Stewart, executive director of Coastal Mountains Land Trust, said. “He was always trying to bring people together through trails.”
The screening of “The Long Start to the Journey,” a 70-minute Appalachian Trail documentary released in 2015, will begin at 6:15 p.m., and was selected because of Skip Pendleton’s time working as a trail maintainer and overseer for a section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
Skip, legally named James Francis Pendleton, was a hands-on trail planner and builder, scaling trees and climbing into culverts well into his 80s to build footbridges and investigate drainage problems throughout midcoast Maine. He was one of the founding members and the first president of the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition. His efforts in the past few decades created hundreds of miles of trails in Greater Belfast, including the Little River Community Trail in Belfast, the recently completed 47-mile Hills to Sea trail from Belfast to Unity, and trails on Coastal Mountains Land Trust preserves in Belfast, Northport and Searsport.
“[Skip] wanted people to get outdoors and enjoy what he called the ‘real world,’” Tom King, president of the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, said. “He loved to see people hiking the trails he worked on.”
“I’d guess most of the preserves we have in Waldo County have his imprint on them somehow,” Kathy Young, development director for Coastal Mountains Land Trust, said.
Often operating in the background, Josephine “Jo” Pendleton, worked with her husband as a volunteer preserve steward for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and she was ever present in the planning of area trails.
“There would be meetings and stuff over to the house,” Bindy Pendleton said, “and she’d always be the one to offer the house as a meeting place and offer coffee and tea. She was more of the socializer.”
Skip and Jo Pendleton grew up as neighbors on the corner of Court and Grove streets in Belfast. They were married for 65 years, raised five children and doted on six grandchildren.
Skip Pendleton died on Sept. 24 at the age of 84, and Jo Pendleton followed on Nov. 15 at the age of 85. More than 300 people gathered at the celebration of their lives on Nov. 24 at Blue Goose Center in Northport to share stories about their strong characters and many contributions to the community, followed by song and dance.
At the ceremony, a portion of which has been posted on YouTube, it was evident that while the Pendletons were known for their work on area trails, they impacted the community in many other ways. They were patrons of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and Skip Pendleton was one of the founding members of the Belfast Maskers theater company. Jo was an enthusiastic gardener, and Skip was constantly engaged in some new recreational pursuit.
“He was always into something,” said Bindy Pendleton, who helped her father maintain a section of the Appalachian Trail when she was a teenager. “He went through stages.”
Working for as a lineman and supervisor for Central Maine Power for 45 years, Skip Pendleton would ride his bicycle to and from work. He also — at certain times — enjoyed hunting, fishing, ice skating, cross-country skiing and sailing. In fact, in 1983, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailing from Maine to Ireland in a 38-foot sloop with his then-17-year-old daughter Brianna “Sally” Pendleton, joined by his friend and his friend’s daughter.
In retirement, he bicycled across the United States — twice. He also took up whitewater kayaking and became an active member of the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society and Downeast Outing Club, and served as river sweep for the Belfast YMCA’s annual spring races on the St. George and Passagassawakeag rivers.
“He defied his age,” King said. “He really did, in every shape and form, physically and mentally. And you know, the thing is, we all wanted Skip to live forever. He was just a great person. But the fact of the matter is, he is [going to live forever]. Every time you go into the woods around Belfast, you feel Skip. His presence is very much still here in many ways.”
While the Pendletons avoided the limelight, the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce named Skip Pendleton Citizen of the Year in 2016, and the Coastal Mountains Land Trust presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2015, and placed a bench in his honor at the Head of Tide Preserve in Belfast.
The Pendleton Stewardship Fund is one final way of ensuring the couple’s legacy of community engagement, volunteerism, outdoor education and land stewardship is passed on to future generations.
For those planning to attend the launch party and film screening on March 5, reservations are encouraged and can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to the fund can be made at coastalmountains.org.
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