March 23, 2019
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Heritage trust preserves island off Lubec

Bridget Besaw | BDN
Bridget Besaw | BDN
Davis Pike, Allan descendant Harold Bailey, historian, Lubec resident Cenotaph of Allan, view to lubec Day out on Treat island with Davis and MCHT staff. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAINE COAST HERITAGE TRUST

LUBEC, Maine — Rich with scenic beauty and an important history going back to the American Revolution, Treat Island off Lubec recently was purchased by Maine Coast Heritage Trust for conservation, one of 10 coastal islands in Maine protected this year.

The 73-acre island, owned by two separate families, now will be protected and opened to the public for recreation. The island, sometimes locally called Treat’s Island, sits halfway between Lubec and Eastport.

Treat Island is one of the most significant coastal islands in easternmost Maine, said Richard Knox, MCHT director of policy, because it sits at the gateway of Cobscook and Passamaquoddy bays. The 73-acre island is along the international border, an attractive focal point highly visible from Eastport, Lubec and Roosevelt Campobello International Park in New Brunswick.

“This island really has it all,” Knox said Tuesday. “It’s got scenic beauty. It’s got history, and it is a fine recreation area. It is a wonderful day trip.”

Knox said the island’s cultural history dates back to when early tribal travelers stopped by the island to harvest the area’s rich resources.

The island contains the burial site of former island owner and Revolutionary War hero Col. John Allan, who served as military commander of the Eastern Area, or District of Maine, under Gen. George Washington.

According to Knox, Allan defended eastern Maine against the British by mobilizing settlers and gaining the support and trust of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. Allan continued his close relationship with the tribe after the war, establishing a trading post on the island.

An obelisk on the island recognizes Allan’s service, Knox said.

Knox said that although the island is largely undeveloped now, it supported farm families for generations. There are remains of an artillery gun battery constructed in the 1860s to repel Confederate raiders, and a tidal dike built in the 1930s stretches to Dudley Island, part of a failed tidal power project.

A dock built in 1936 as a natural weathering exposure station for testing marine concrete still stands on a 3-acre parcel owned and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Not only is Treat Island readily accessible from Lubec and Eastport, but it also is visible to many. Harold Bailey, natural resource and planning manager with Roosevelt Campobello International Park, said the park has an observation deck at Friar Head that looks directly out to Treat Island.

“The Park Commission is pleased to know that this natural vista will remain through time,” Bailey said.

Knox said the island contains varied upland habitats, with coniferous and hardwood woods, marshes, grassland, shrub land and open ledges. This diversity also makes Treat a rich resource for the area’s abundant wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated Treat a nationally significant coastal nesting island, and one pair of bald eagles has nested consistently on the island for 21 years, using three different sites.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has documented up to 30 eagles on the island at once when local food is abundant, Knox said.

“Treat Island is a place on the edge,” project manager Marty Anderson said. “It lies at the entrance to one of the richest wildlife areas along the entire Eastern Seaboard, at the far end of the country, and on the leading edge of American history. Yet the island is readily accessible to surrounding communities, and now it will re-main a public asset far into the future.”

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