September 28, 2015

River Road reconstruction to possibly effect historic area - By Walter Lunt

The fate of property fronting several Windham historical sites remains uncertain following a meeting between Maine Department of Transportation officials and the Windham Historical Society (WHS) on Tuesday.
At issue is the possible impact of River Road reconstruction and widening in the oldest section of town between the intersection of Gray and River Roads and the Westbrook town line. About 18 members of the historical society, including Windham’s legislative delegation, quizzed the DOT’s project manager and historic planner about the possible effects of River Road expansion on the Parson Smith and Anderson-Lord Houses (both listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the cornerstone Lot 1 marker, The Hunnewell Cemetery and the Elder home at 57 River Road, recognized as the oldest house in Windham, ca. 1753. 

All are located close to busy River Road. Of particular concern is the possible impact on the decades old search for the precise location of Windham’s Old Province Fort, built in the mid-18th century to house and protect the early settlers who were at war with native tribes in the region. Local historians believe the site is located under the roadway at the top of a hill near the intersection with Anderson Road. Society records, two previous archaeological investigations and an educated historical hunch suggested that the middle of the road might be the spot, according to WHS president Linda Griffin. One dig, in 1982, produced animal bones (possibly a midden, or mounded food remains) and a foreign coin. Griffin said, “This (road construction) may be the only chance we’ll ever have to find the exact location of the fort” and learn how the settlers lived during those troubling times.

Megan Hopkin, the DOT historic planner, told the meeting a process may be in place to make that happen. DOT will conduct an archaeological review of the site during the field work stage of construction. If test pits reveal a possible historic settlement, a more extensive and intensive examination could follow. The procedure would require approval from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. She explained that even if preliminary findings failed to produce results, any artifacts uncovered during road construction would likely trigger a stop-work order that could lead to a full scale archaeological examination.

The Parson Smith and Anderson-Lord “mansions” were built by founding families of Windham and are known for their Georgian architecture. Gothic features were later added to the Anderson-Lord home. Today, descendants of the Lord family still maintain the property. 

Elaine Dickinson of the Parson Smith House and Barbara Lord attended the meeting and expressed concern over the likely loss of buffer and possible dislocation of fences, walls and trees to the front of the properties and neighboring cemetery.

DOT project manager Earnie Martin said that although strict construction guidelines must be met, “I have flexibility and struggle a lot” with the sensibilities of the public. “We don’t want to destroy the integrity of landowners” or their sense of history.

Plans call for shaving four feet off the top of the hill in front of the Parson Smith and Anderson-Lord estates between the entrances to the Anderson-Lord Cemetery on the north side to the Hunnewell Cemetery on the south side of the hill. Residents and historians worry that widening the road with 5-foot shoulders will destroy or force relocation of the healthy historic trees, granite walls, and the Lot 1 cornerstone marker, which identifies the first house lot in New Marblehead (later Windham) in 1735. Although the construction could force dislocations, changes, or compromises, Martin said, “I think we can maintain 5-foot shoulders and still squeeze it through this (historic) area.”

Martin said design plans and field work for the construction have not been completed, so assurances regarding preservation cannot be made. He said a final public hearing will be held in 2016, with construction slated for 2017 or 2018.

September 21, 2015

Town Council plans for the future in Windham - By Andrea Turner

The Windham Town Council met on Tuesday, September 15th to discuss plans regarding the future of the community and the citizens who live here. This meeting was documented as an “Interim Strategic Planning” session, and many different topics were discussed which will, mainly, provide planning for the next two fiscal years starting on October 1, 2015 and run through June 30th, 2018. During this time, the goal of the town council is to “have a new comprehensive master plan which will have much broader community goals, based on community input.” 

Town manager Tony Plante started the meeting by discussing larger-scale issues the town faces such as diversity, technology, energy and aging. When comparing Windham to other communities close by (and further away), he recognized the continuous growth this town has seen over the past several years. “Windham, as a community, has been growing for decades…and this is just in population”. 

When the topic of aging, and the older members of the community were brought up, it also sparked conversation as to new ideas to keep younger generations here to work and live once they are done with school…Mr. Plante referred to this as “building leadership capacity”. After going into more detail regarding what this means, he described it more as a way to train the younger generations to take over when the person “above” them retires, or leaves the position in any given field. 

Technology and energy were next on the agenda and, once again, it was acknowledged that these two topics are ever-changing, especially in today’s world. “There are more things we can do to reduce the town’s energy footprint and, as a result, reduce our exposure to fluctuations and energy markets,” Plante said of the town’s current use of energy and technology. From there, the council discussed more specific topics such as the parks and recreation department and their current need of maintenance at their facilities, the town library and the current hours and staffing issues that need to be addressed, and the future of the police and fire departments and the concerns regarding call logs, and what are considered “true emergencies”. 

Towards the end of the meeting, goals and timelines were brought up and how “integrating the strategic plan into the budget process” would work. The council addressed that they would like to prioritize what needs to be budgeted, and to make sure what gets scheduled to be done truly gets done, and does not get put on the backburner. Council member Donna Chapman stated that she wanted to look at what the citizens of this community wanted to see be done, and to take those suggestions into consideration while making plans for the future of the town. The members discussed having a special meeting on October 6th in the Council chambers to start prioritizing items for the next few years, starting with 2016.  

Despite poor weather, auto show recognizes unique cars during event - By Jim Beers

The 22nd annual Windham Auto Show went off without a hitch Sunday, despite mother nature's efforts to dampen the event. Approximately 80 cars, trucks, motorcycles and special interest vehicles made it to Windham from all over Maine as well as New England. Featuring vehicles from all eras in auto history, the car show had something for everyone who attended.

Frank Meserve of Naples, who has been to all 22 shows to date, loves the annual trip to Windham with his wife Betty. "I love coming back each year to see the same cars as the year before, as well as all the new ones. We almost didn't make the trip this time due to the weather, but it was well worth it once we got here. The cars, music and food are always great!" he said. 

In addition to the autos on hand, the event was alive with delicious smells from the food tent, and those great oldies tunes rocking in the background. The 50-50 raffle was a huge hit, handing out nine gift baskets ranging in all sorts of prizes. The weather did play a part in how many vehicles were on hand, as the numbers were down from recent years. That certainly didn't deter the crowd as they were as enthusiastic as ever in walking down memory lane, and having a glimpse at the future in autos as well. 
The end of the event meant it was awards time, and the remaining crowd gathered in front of the trophy table to clap for and congratulate the winners in 29 different classifications. Some of those winners were as follows; in the Motorcycle Class, a '70 Triumph took home first place. The Special Interest Class saw a beautiful red 1947 Farmhall Tractor claim the top prize. The Foreign Class featured a very clean '59 Opel Rekord winning the top honor. At the end of the day, only one could stand above them all as "Best in Show". That award went to Swede Sjulander of Bar Mills, Maine, with a 1954 Mercury Sun Valley. The show also featured some nice mainstays, like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, from many different years in production. 

The Windham Raymond Athletic Boosters, alongside some great local sponsors, put on another successful event that raised important funds to help support the sports teams of RSU14.

September 14, 2015

Cumberland County Soil and Water District begins a six-week program - By Michelle Libby

Cumberland County Soil & Water District, based in South Windham, is starting a 6-week program for home schooled students from ages 11 to 13 all about what’s in the mud and how it gets there.
CCSWD usually hosts one or two day programs in school classrooms. When they were approached by home schoolers to run a longer program, Deb Debiegun, the district educator for CCSWD, put together a program that will run six weeks and will have a field trip to the ocean. 

The classes are to “raise awareness of how our actions effect Casco Bay, even if we’re way up here in Windham,” Debiegun said. 

All programs are science based, hands on programs that will engage students in local environmental issues and empower them to be active stewards, she said. In addition to the Mudflat Mayhem!, CCSWD also has an ocean currents program. 

The Mudflat class will be on Mondays and most will be in the South Windham office conducting experiments. A lot of the work will be science based on work being done by Friends of Casco Bay. The program is supported by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Cumberland County Commissioners and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. 

“It couldn’t be a more timely project,” Debiegun said. With climate change the oceans are becoming more acidic. That makes the mudflats more susceptible to run off from things like soap from washing a car in the driveway, fertilizer, not picking up dog poop, pesticides and salt from the winter, she said. “They all end up in our water system and dumped into Casco Bay. Making the mudflats more ascetic and is suspected to be a cause of many clam flats not being productive,” Debiegun said. The students will learn about the environmental impact, economic impact and the potential loss of a habitat for clams.   

A program like this one will give the student ownership for taking care of the water system and ultimately Casco Bay, Debiegun said. 

The Mudflat Mayhem! program will be capped at 16 participants. For more information or to sign up, call  892-4700, email or visit

DeMolay helps the community get ready for back to school - By Michelle Libby

As part of a community service project and a recruiting drive, the members of the local DeMolay chapter gathered last week to give away backpacks filled with school supplies to anyone who wanted one. 
The kid-run organization has its origins back during World War I. “We are a service group. A fraternal organization that does charitable things to help out the community however we can,” said member Sean McGloin. 

This past week, they decided to create 50 supply-filled backpacks to give away. They organized, purchased the items and set up the event all in seven days.
From trips to SeaDogs’ games, to the Red Claws or to Boston, DeMolay is more than just a group of boys hanging out. 

“It’s an organization where if a guy wants to do something and it’s legal and morally right, they just have to figure out where, the cost and when?” McGloin said. 

One of the members wanted to do a fundraiser to raise money in honor of his mother who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The boys made ribbons and gave them away for donations. It’s up to the members to decide what is important to them. 

They are part of an international organization that they feel comfortable with at home or abroad.
“It’s something you can talk about. I instantly feel a connection. It feels like a family,” said McGloin. They even call themselves brothers. Anytime there is a local DeMolay event, the membership makes sure to invite the Yarmouth chapter or the Rainbow Girls (the counterpart to DeMolay) and vice versa.

The adults are called advisors and often have the nickname “Dad” going back to war time when many of the fathers were off fighting. The DeMolay advisors were stand-in male role models. 

“We make our own committees and teach leadership skills,” said member Sam Knowlton. 

The Windham DeMolay chapter has approximately 10 members, but can have up to 101. Many of the boys are also part of the state chapter of DeMolay. 

DeMolay provides many opportunities to travel and attend events. The meetings and events are not mandatory.  “You get out of it what you put into it,” said McGloin. 

Who can be in DeMolay? Any boy between the ages of 12 and 21 can be a member. 

“Anyone who wants to better their life and be a good citizen,” described Knowlton. Members are asked to believe in a “higher power” whatever that means to them. 

“I’m a member for the friendships I’ve made. I can be who I am. No one’s going to judge me for that,” said McGloin. The boys come together from all over the area. Some attend Bonny Eagle, others Windham and Knowlton is home schooled. 

Cathy Dodge’s son Aaron is in DeMolay, first in Windham, then the state and now in California. “I can not imagine what he would have been like without DeMolay. He felt like he really fit. It’s where he became the best him,” she said. 

 The group meets in the Masons Hall on River Road. There are still bags left over. If someone would like one or would like more information about DeMolay, they should contact Richard “Dad” McGloin at 653-4640 to set up a time to meet. DeMolay meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7 p.m.

For Rainbow Girls, contact or call Cathy at 618-3043.