DANFORTH, Maine — Grand Lake is renowned for its picturesque beauty and is a popular destination in the summer for those looking to spend quiet times camping by the majestic lake. But it is that very isolation that poses unique challenges for individuals needing urgent medical care.
To help meet that need, LifeFlight of Maine has partnered with the town of Danforth to develop a landing pad for its emergency helicopters near the public boat launch at Greenland Cove campgrounds.The site will also be near the ATV and snowmobile trail system.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the construction project was held Friday morning, with plans for the work to begin this spring. Local landowner David Snow Jr. donated the land for the pad to the town, and the construction of the pad will be paid for by donations and fund-raising projects.
“It is so beautiful here,” said Melissa Arndt, director of communications for LifeFlight. “We love this about Maine. We love that we can be out in the woods and enjoy nature, but those same things can make it difficult for people to get help when an emergency happens.”
The new landing pad will be located about 40 miles from the closest hospital, Houlton Regional Hospital. It is also roughly 84 miles to the Down East Community Hospital in Machias.
“Getting people, especially those who are critically ill or injured, to the care they need is of vital importance,” Ardnt said. “For many, how quickly we can get them to the care they need makes all the difference.”
“The reason we have started this project was due to a very bad ATV accident 10 years ago where a young girl could have used this service, but instead had to take a long ambulance ride to the hospital,” said Roger Rossingnol, project coordinator for the town. “The little girl was launched out of the ATV and broke many bones in her chest and went into a coma.”
The young girl did recover, and went on to nursing school, Rossignol said.
Construction on the pad will begin as soon as the groundwork can begin in the spring, Rossignol said. He is optimistic the pad will be completed this year.
“It [construction] might be slowed by the money, if we cannot do enough fundraising for the project,” he said. “We have some local contractors that are willing to volunteer time and equipment to get the lot cleared.”
One acre of woods will need to be cleared to construct the pad. The town owns an adjacent acre of land, in case additional trees need to be cleared for the helicopter’s approach.
Town Manager Ardis Brown said there are 230 cottages located around Grand Lake, which is about three miles off U.S. Route 1.
“In the summertime, we probably have close to 1,500 people in and around the lakes,” Brown said.
Calais Ambulance Chief Ken Clark, whose department covers northern Washington and southern Aroostook counties, said having the option of using a helicopter for those critically ill or seriously injured would be a tremendous benefit for the area.
“We usually transport to Houlton, so this [landing pad] would be a tremendous savings in time,” he said. “It will make quite a difference and can also be used for a larger helicopter should we need to facilitate any type of rescue.”