A man's passion for saving quarries

By Stephen Betts | Sep 08, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts Fred Dodd describes plans he has for the Engine Quarry in Rockland if he is able to acquire it from Rockland.

Rockland — Fred Dodd looks out over the body of water known as the Engine Quarry and sees an ecological and historical treasure.

Dodd has tried for the past two years to buy the former limestone quarry, clean it up, and make it a preserve where the public can swim, kayak or just enjoy nature.

But his attempts to buy it have been stymied and at times he has been left out of the loop when the city-owned property has come up for sale.

Dodd has a history of preserving lands. He purchased 17-acre Oak Island off North Haven in 1995 and has created a walking trail, but otherwise has left it in the natural state as he found it.

While in the Midcoast in 2006 to visit Oak Island, Dodd saw an advertisement for property for sale on Mountain Road in Rockland. The land included a two-acre quarry. He visited the site and found a quarry littered with debris.

Dodd saw through the mess, however, and purchased the property. He has a small home on the site and cleaned up the quarry, which is now safe for swimming.

"I'm a biologist, so I have my own personal lab," he said.

The Sherborn, Mass., man started International Zoological Expeditions after he finished graduate school in 1970. He has field stations in Belize where tens of thousands of students visit to experience the tropical rain forest and tropical marine environment.

Two years ago, he was in Rockland for a visit and found out that Engine Quarry might be available for purchase.

Engine Quarry is located on the west side of Old County Road and to the north of Thompson Road. Much of the 14 acres is the water-filled quarry that Rockland took ownership of in 1982 when Maine Drilling and Blasting Inc. failed to pay its property taxes. The property had previously been owned since 1905 by Rockland-Rockport Lime Co.

The city solicited bids for the land in 2014, but never followed through on a sale.

Dodd said he toured Engine Quarry and had a test done that found that -- despite a lot of trash having been dumped there -- the quality of the water was good. He also swam and snorkeled in the quarry.

"It's a beautiful quarry, it needs to be saved," he said.

Dodd contacted then-City Manager James Chaousis about the possibility of buying the property.

Dodd eventually submitted a bid in December 2015 and was told by Chaousis that he was the high bidder and the only step remaining would be for the council to approve the sale. He said he was repeatedly told by Chaousis that the sale would be approved.

Dodd had bid $20,000 for the property. Greg Dorr, whose brother Owen Dorr lives adjacent on the north side of the quarry, offered to swap Engine Quarry for a lot he owned at 45 Rankin St.

Dodd said he was confident he would get the land until March, when he was advised by a local real estate friend to watch an archived City Council meeting online. Dodd said he was amazed when he heard Chaousis recommend to the council that no action be taken on the sale

He said he never received an explanation for the change of heart.

In early 2017, Dodd said he was contacted by Greg Dorr, who advised him that the city was again soliciting bids on the quarry and that the deadline was the following day. Dodd said he had been assured by the city that if the land came up for sale again he would be contacted in case he wanted to make an offer.

Dodd contacted the city and resubmitted his earlier bid.

The city had put the property back out to bid at the request of Jake Barbour.

Barbour offered a 0.64-acre parcel he owns adjacent to the city landfill -- which is assessed by the city at $4,500 -- and would grant the city an easement on a long, narrow parcel on Rankin Street for a walking trail that is planned to stretch from the former MacDougal School property to city-owned land on Old County Road.

Barbour pointed out last month that the property he has offered the city adjacent to the landfill has been used by the city during the past few winters for snow dumping. City Manager Tom Luttrell acknowledged last month the city would need to find an alternative location for dumping if there was a winter with significant snowfall and it did not have access to the land.

Barbour said last month he continues to want the city's interest in the quarry. He said he believes he has as much legal claim to the property as the city, because his mother had acquired mineral rights to the quarry many years ago.

He said if the city sells its interest to someone else, he may have to take legal action to acquire title to the land. Barbour has not revealed what he would do with Engine Quarry if he acquired it.

The council rejected July 10 on a 2-2 vote a proposal to sell the water-filled quarry to Barbour. Councilor Valli Geiger had been absent from that meeting.

Dodd said he still hopes he will be able to acquire the quarry. Dodd said if he did acquire it, he would work with neighboring property owner Daniel Hestad of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Dodd said he would buy the adjoining property and create nature trails. Hestad acquired 7 acres on Thompson Meadow Road, adjacent to the quarry, in 2014.

Dodd said if he bought the quarry he would first remove the trash from the water, including many tires and large appliances.

Other possibilities include setting aside space for Scouts or general campers to camp out adjacent to the quarry. There is an apple orchard on the Hestad land. There are locations around the quarry where people could easily launch canoes or kayak.

"This is an ecological and historical treasure," Dodd said.

Dodd said his interest is not limited to Engine Quarry. He said if there are other quarries in the area that owners are interested in selling, they can contact him at 508-654-5252.

At last month's council meeting, resident Annie Higbee said what Dodd wants to do with the property is "awesome." She said it would create a property that all people could enjoy, and that preserving a beautiful quarry should be a higher priority than a site for snow removal.

Cathy Dorr, who lives next to the quarry along with her husband, Owen, praised the plans proposed by Dodd.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Sep 10, 2017 20:36

As usual I did not proof read my posting above but please correct my spelling on a couple of items. Even if you choose not to I think you will get the point.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Sep 10, 2017 20:33

Nice letter Sandra. However lacking is the fact that Mr. Dodd has not "buttered" the council or the power behind them on this issue. You see the players are the ghosts of the current landfill Mountain of Out Of State Demolition Sweet Heart Deal made for the benefit of not the taxpayers but special interest. There is no redeeming benefit to the Mountain created by David and party. If they can not see the forest through the trees (open space ) then how could they comprehend the even slightest benefit of years of experience, training, investment, and benefits laid before us. Threats and intimidation do NOT go with Mr. Dodd. He is straight forward, smart, capable, generous, and willing but that does not fly in the plan of the city council who wants each of us to love everyone, regardless, wants us to through salaries around like rice and will, as in the pass, develop the most useless, unnecessary, agenda with complete incompetence and motivation to benefit all the people of Rockland and not just Main Street, or their "away" ideas and agendas they dragged in here with them. Mr. Dodd's plan should go to a city wide vote and not rely on the narrow perspective of only five people who have not proven to be competent to respect the benefits and advantages of Br. Dodd's creative idea. Personally he might just develop a plan to hide the Mountain and at least lower the stench we have to deal with for eternity. Such a sick, nasty, and vial pile of stupid from out of state.

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Sep 09, 2017 12:36

Francis Mazzeo, if you have some time, Rockland Volunteer Gardeners could use your help some days!  We agree that the parks are expensive to maintain but they are also a draw for our visitors but more so, our local residents use them all. We have about 30 full and part time volunteers now attempting to keep the Public Services budget down. Many volunteers just held a picnic for the children at MacDougal Park. It was well received and if you would like to hear the plans for the area we would all like to share the mission. I do also agree I think we can find a way to get to Old County Road from the park. I would welcome you to join at least the gardening group. The experience has been rewarding.  Watching kids come off the breakwater having fished for mackerel and talking to visitors who think we live a wonderful place and also the fun we all have while we are "working" has been worth all the work we have put into this venture.


Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 09, 2017 11:56

I agree with Sandra's comment as well. We really don't need an easement for trail from McDougal park as for as I am concerned we have too many parks to upkeep now. We need to try and preserve a healthy environment for our youth. All the wealth in the world isn't going to replace what we have already destroyed. When is enough enough.

Posted by: Judith Weisman | Sep 09, 2017 10:59

I agree with Sandra Schramm. Well said.  This is a no-brainer. Here's a guy with knowledge, good and community-oriented intentions, and the private money to implement his ideas, and the city council is back-tracking, waffling, and once again not acting for the public good.   What is up with that? Wake up, City Council! For a change, do the right thing!

Posted by: Heidi Ruth Locke | Sep 09, 2017 06:56

Mr. DODDs' idea is a no brainer!! Wake up Rockland-cut the crap and let this environmentally sound proposal continue!Thank you Mr Dood for coming to the beautiful area to preserve the quarry for future positive use;  and for future generations!

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 08, 2017 18:43

I agree, although I too do not live in Rockland but come with roots in Hope for many, many, many years. Shopped in Rockland, always and worked in Rockland. But surely this is an area problem-decision and surely those living in surrounding areas should enjoy this wonderful natural habitat.

Posted by: Don Dickinson | Sep 08, 2017 18:08

I don't live in Rockland but I agree.

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Sep 08, 2017 17:03

Interesting read. We have a potential buyer with years of Ecosystem experience and the determination to maximize the environmental uses of the property and whose intent is to unearth all that lies beneath. Then we have what surely sounds like unfriendly demands and veiled threats being made. It would seem that this is all very complicated and I would not like to think the easement for the trail from the McDougal Park property would become a bargaining chip. We are a community that has many needs and we need to all work together to accomplish certain goals.  Mr. Dodd's plans fit nicely with the hiking trail plans. It also seems as though Mr. Dodd was yet another "victim" of the Chaousis era. That area surely could benefit from the preservation of the Ecosystem in light of the years of neglect. It is a wonderful habitat for birds and wildlife. And that the other interested party will not divulge plans at all should raise some curiosity.  It would seem that we might welcome Mr. Dodd to Rockland to further his mission as his plan sure seems to offer great benefit for Rockland and he comes with a proven track record to further his endeavors. I like that his plan is a clear outright purchase without strings or attachments.

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