By Damariscotta River Association
DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — On a day when the sun broke through threatening clouds and three eagles soared overhead, a group gathered at the Damariscotta River Association’s Heritage Center headquarters to honor the memory of Lee Cohen. The stories of his accomplishments and unabashed forging of DRA trails flowed from many of his close friends, as well as from his wife, Rhoda.
It was clear from the comments made, that Lee was unafraid to venture into trail making with or without an official stamp of approval. Pete Noyes, DRA’s first executive director, noted: “Lee liked creating trails as close to the water as possible. He, as well as many others, assisted in creating the trail that circumnavigates Stratton Island… Lee was fearless about scrambling over rocks and climbing up steep inclines and never walked outside without a pair of rose clippers in one pocket and surveyor’s tape in the other – always ready to mark out a potential trail.”
Fellow volunteer, Bill Hill, prepared a commentary on what it was like to be part of the Cohen crew. “Many people worked with Lee and it is amazing that he could consistently pull together a team almost weekly to go out and do trail work…His philosophy of trails was that they had to lead to an enjoyable place. That could be an outlook or a special place in the woods. A trail which just followed a straight woods road was not really of interest…If the day was particularly hot, he would take us to Round Top for ice cream …”
Another friend and accomplice in trail-making, Bud Elway, reminisced about meeting Lee in Massachusetts through the mutual quilting interests of his wife and Rhoda Cohen. Once the Elways moved to Maine, Bud became a regular volunteer for Lee’s projects. Always one to look for donated materials, Cohen used Elway’s contacts with a Massachusetts company to provide all the metal arrows used to mark trails.
Another volunteer, the Cohen’s handyman Mike Johnson, remarked that Lee had a real knack for “doing things with what was on hand. I worked second shift at BIW, but two mornings a week I worked with Lee on all his various projects.”
The gathering concluded with the unveiling of a plaque that sits on a stone near the entrance to the trails surrounding DRA’s Heritage center. Executive Director, Steven Hufnagel remarked on his affinity with Lee Cohen’s love of trails, noting that Lee’s enthusiasm was infectious. He also made it clear that DRA is forever indebted to Lee for the numerous trails he developed for the benefit of all, including more than 33 miles of trail under DRA’s care.
The plaque reads: “Leon H. Cohen . . . 1927-2011. . . We hereby dedicate the trails of the Great Salt Bay Farm in memory of Lee Cohen with respect and gratitude for his leadership in founding and developing our system of trails throughout the Damariscotta region. Damariscotta River Association . . . September 2013.”
It was noted that Lee’s dedication to trail building and land conservation extended far beyond the Damariscotta River region and even New England to areas as far afield as New Zealand, where he spent much of his time in his later years.
The Damariscotta River Association is a non-profit membership supported organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta River, its watershed, and adjacent areas for the benefit of all. DRA has active programs in the areas of land conservation, stewardship, community education, water quality monitoring, marine conservation and cultural preservation. Visitors are welcome at the Great Salt Bay Heritage Center in Damariscotta as well as the many other DRA properties throughout the region. For more information call 207- 563-1393, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or view their web page at www.damariscottariver.org.