BY HEATHER STEEVES
MIDCOAST BEACON STAFF
HURRICANE ISLAND – People around Penobscot Bay have heard of Hurricane Island. Islanders might have seen it on ferry rides to Vinalhaven, but few people have been on the 140-acre island since the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School moved its headquarters to the mainland in 2005.
But things are changing for the granite-quarried island, as a new foundation reached a 40-year lease agreement with the owner of the island.
Hurricane Island Foundation plans to work with area organizations to get kids on the island for educational purposes, such as leadership camps.
When Outward Bound, a non-profit educational organization, used the island it built buildings for bunks, dining and classrooms. The buildings are still on the rocky shores and they come with the lease agreement.
The island provides an ideal environment for exploring the ocean, kayaking and rock climbing, according to Ben Willauer, the board chairman of the Hurricane Island Foundation. One of the new goals is to get local kids from the Penobscot Bay area exploring the island, Willauer said. In the past it was mostly children from away who had financial advantages who got to play, but Willauer wants local organizations to participate in island activities.
Until 1914, the island was the site of a major granite quarry run by the Hurricane Island Granite Company. The quarry is ideal for kids to rock climb, Willauer said.
“It’s one of the highest islands in the bay, from the island the vista is tremendous. You can see Matinicus and over Vinalhaven -– it’s a dramatic view,” Willauer said. “It’s a densely wooded, spruce filled island. The majority of the island is in a natural state – spruce on granite.”
Paul MacInnis of Andover, Mass. has boatloads of memories from his time at the island back in 1972. At age 16 he was part of an Outward Bound program where he and about 12 others sailed for 19 out of 26 total days. He said he could not be happier that the island will re-open for children’s use.
“For some people it is this huge thing in their life,” MacInnis said in a phone interview.
The island’s facilities can support about 150 children at a time. One of the problems the foundation will face in the near future is getting the kids to the island – currently, there is no ferry service to Hurricane Island.
Willauer is taking it one step at a time.
“Currently we don’t have a boat,” Willauer said. “We are a very, very young organization which just did the impossible.”
Right now the Hurricane Island Foundation, which is made up entirely of volunteers, needs to generate funding, repair the buildings, docks and moorings – none of which have been maintained – and set up water, power and sewer systems, among other things.
MacInnis plans to make the 4.5-hour trip to the island to help fix up the facilities, which have not been maintained.
“I’m not a plumber or electrician, but I can certainly help out and do some donkey work. If I can help out ill be glad to,” he said.
According to the foundation’s Web site, the island hopes to start hosting children on educational adventures next year.
For more information visit www.hurricaneisland.net.