FRYEBURG, Maine — Selectmen last week approved the applications of several residents to the recently re-formed conservation committee, but a prominent water issues activist did not make the cut.
Fryeburg Planning Board member Robert Ricks had suggested to selectmen last month that they revive the town conservation committee, which was on the books but had fallen by the wayside and had no members.
Ricks said the committee could keep an eye on things like water issues and also re-establish chestnut trees in town.
In an email to the Sun, Ricks explained that "the magnificent American chestnut has been lost to three generations due to its absolute destruction in the early part of the 20th century from imported chestnut blight.
"Fryeburg represents the northernmost point of the historic range of the American Chestnut," he said. "Developing a meaningful Trans-Appalachian Trail conservation partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the south is a move towards re-introducing the American chestnut species back into the great eastern forests," he said.
"Rather than bickering about commercial groundwater extraction, it is my opinion that this project is something the entire community can rally around and make successful," he concluded. "In other words, the American chestnut tree represents much needed common ground."
On Thursday, selectmen appointed Allison Leach, Ricks, Sherri Billings, Warren Richardson and Selectman Kimberly Clarke to the committee.
Selectmen are seeking two to three more members. People can apply at the town office.
However, they denied the application of Susan Meeker-Lowry, who helps run a Facebook page called "Water Waves," which opposed selectmen's proposals to create a tax increment financing district and to sell Eastern Slope Regional Airport land to Nestle for a Poland Spring bottling plant. Both proposals failed in a town vote held Oct. 12.
Selectmen's Chair Janice Crawford said she was not in favor of appointing Meeker-Lowry because of the Facebook posts "and the uncivil way that person has behaved."
Clarke asked what Facebook post Crawford was talking about, and Crawford said it referred to a discussion selectmen had after the vote about how everyone could get along moving forward.
"There was a Facebook post on Water Waves which indicated the selectmen didn't grovel enough for that person's satisfaction," said Crawford. "I don't find that's civil behavior, and in the world we live in, we have to to find people who know how to work with people and act civilly."
The offending post, dated Oct. 27, wasn't signed. But it read in part:
"One thing I was hoping for at the meeting last night, that didn't happen, was an acknowledgement, not just of a big loss, but — okay I'm going to say it — I wanted them to grovel. To moan and groan and essentially apologize for putting us and the town through such a wringer — and probably an expensive wringer. I wanted congratulations on a fight well fought, not to be berated, and even bullied in some cases, because they didn't like what we did or how we did it."
Meeker-Lowry, in an email to the Sun, said she did not deny writing the post. "What's actually funny, is Janice saying I wouldn't be civil when she certainly has a hard time with that herself," said Meeker-Lowry.
Crawford, with fellow selectmen Rick Eastman and Richard Murray, voted against Meeker-Lowry joining the conservation committee. Selectmen Tom Klinepeter and Clarke were in the minority.
Klinepeter said years ago the committee used to keep an eye on the town's forest lands. He said sometimes they were active and sometimes they weren't.
Ricks said he wants to get the committee going sooner than later because he has to have money raised by February to purchase blight-resistant chestnut seeds from the American Chestnut Foundation. He said 12 seeds would cost $1,000.
Selectmen approved the following mission statement:
"The mission of the committee is to restore, protect and beatify Fryeburg's publicly owned spaces by partnering with other groups, working with (town) departments and enlisting volunteers. Through cooperation with landowners we hope to encourage these same goals on private property. We want to create opportunities for all citizens to learn about, access and enjoy our beautiful natural environment."
The committee's first meeting is today at 6 p.m. at the town office. Ricks said it will meet at least once a month.