Montgomery Dam is On the Wrong Side of History

First of all, my name is Susan Reider, not Susan Dyer, as was recently reported in the Camden Herald (Board rejects citizen petitions on Montgomery Dam, updated Nov. 5) So I am no relation to our town historian, but I have been paying close attention to the public statements made recently about the Montgomery Dam and its place in our history. This dam, like others along the Megunticook River, are relics of Camden’s industrial heritage. But we can’t forget that this was also a time when pollutants were dumped into every open waterway.

According to the Camden Mill Walk brochure, printed by the Historical Resources Committee, at one time there were 11 mill sites and two foundries in town. When the Knox Woolen Mill was running at full speed, says the brochure, the suds from the washed wool would come down over Minot Falls, now Montgomery Falls, turning the entire harbor white.

Nancy Milford, the author of the acclaimed Edna St. Vincent Millay autobiography “Savage Beauty,” says that in 1904, Millay’s mother brought her daughters to 100 Washington St., near Tannery Park. “Their brown frame house was set in a large field, and just beyond it flowed the Megunticook River, into which the mills sometimes spilled their dyes.”

By 1988 the Knox Mill finally closed and the industrial era in Camden was over. We took advantage of our ravishingly beautiful scenery and went all in for tourism. We’ve become a destination town for both visitors and retirees like my husband and me. Montgomery Falls and the now increasingly sanctified dam are a feature, sure. But that feature is not who we are as a town.

Even though the Select Board has been talking about this subject for more than two years, it seems that only recently are people beginning to pay attention. This is a serious discussion about river ecology and the role the relic dams play in it. But the Save the Dam Falls people are sucking the oxygen out of the debate. We need more public information sessions with environmental experts, hydrologists, engineers, biologists and maybe historians. We don’t need shouting and vituperation.

Because here are the opposing questions: Should Camden keep a dam above a naturally occurring geologic ledge because it supposedly makes the waterfall prettier for tourists? Or are we concerned about 21st century problems like flooding due to climate change, the residual contamination of the river, and the cost to the town of maintaining and operating this relic?

I believe the people of Camden will come to the right conclusion. I hope we can get there by honoring our history and owning our future.

Susan Reider

Camden

 

Select Board transparency

I’ve been hearing people comment that the Camden Select Board hasn’t been transparent and forthcoming in their process concerning the Montgomery Dam and I have to respectfully disagree. I’ve heard that they should “put it out there,” referring to all the available information — I’m not sure what that means or what form it should take, but there have been several easily available sources of information if one just takes a little time.

There’s always the Select Board meetings, but if someone can’t attend a meeting (in person or via You Tube in real time), they can always watch the video at their later convenience after it’s been uploaded onto the town’s website. The local papers, in print and online, have done an excellent job of covering the matter from the start. The town website has a ton of information.

As far as I can tell, there’s been plenty of transparency and efforts on the part of town employees and Select Board members to inform the public. And they’ve been very responsive to citizens’ concerns at the meetings I’ve attended or watched. But one has to make the tiniest bit of effort oneself — it’s not just going to fall out of the air into your brain!

Sue Kandziolka

Camden

 

Let kindness and fairness prevail

On a warm day not long ago, the Fiber Queen gazed into the mirror and asked, mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest in the land? After some research and reflection, the mirror replied KCC is the kindest and fairest in the land. The Fiber Queen had always believed that she was the fairest in the land and thought the mirror had misunderstood the question. So, on a cool day not long ago, the Fiber Queen again gazed into the mirror and asked, mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest in the land? The mirror again replied KCC is the kindest and fairest in the land. The Fiber Queen in righteous indignation commanded her minions to conjure up a magic potion of sour grapes that would silence KCC. It’s noteworthy that when the Fiber Queen believed she was the fairest in the land she was quite content to have KCC speak. Let’s hope that at the end of this story kindness and fairness prevail for everyone in the land.

Ron Gamble
Rockport