Group seeks to preserve Caterpillar Hill lot

This story was published on Oct. 25, 2005 on Page B1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

SEDGWICK – A local gallery owner is hoping to purchase 10 acres on the top of Caterpillar Hill to save it from development and to preserve it for public use.

Kelly Mitchell, who has operated The Gallery at Caterpillar Hill on Route 15 for the past decade, said she wants to preserve and maintain the landscape and showcase the local artistic community.

The property, which has been owned by the Condon family for years, is listed for just under $2 million.

“It is a very special place to everyone for a variety of reasons,” said Mitchell, who has created the Caterpillar Hill Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause. “The view is a national treasure.”

The group has signed an agreement for right of first refusal for the property and is currently negotiating a purchase and sale agreement with the seller’s trustee.

Members launched a public capital campaign in September and have, so far, raised about $7,000. Individual gifts have ranged from $1 from a local veteran to $1,900 from Mitchell herself.

“We are getting donations just about every day,” she said. “Our mission is to use it as a resource to stimulate cultural tourism on the whole peninsula.”

Under her proposal, the gallery building, which she has been leasing for 10 years, would remain on the site. The existing building that was once used as an icehouse would be converted to a museum on the region’s ice-harvesting history.

A third structure would be razed and replaced with an art and education center, sunken into the contour of the land so not to obstruct the view of Penobscot Bay.

A later phase of the plan includes purchasing a separate lot in Sedgwick for future use as an artists’ community.

Mitchell said the Caterpillar Hill property could also be used to connect visitors to other historical society museums in the area or simply as a place where locals can walk in the woods. Because it borders land the town purchased in the 1990s, the group is prepared to offer the town a right of way from Route 15 to the public beach on Walker Pond.

The initiative will hold an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at the Blue Hill Library. The public is invited to hear the history of the project and ask questions.

“We, all 12,000 residents of the Blue Hill peninsula, have the opportunity to have ownership and participate,” said Nancy Appel Boothby, another member of the group. “We want input. We want participation.”

Mitchell also plans to meet Nov. 16 with the first selectmen from all the towns that make up the Blue Hill peninsula to discuss the project.

Her gallery is hosting an auction of work donated by local artists now through Dec. 15, with proceeds benefiting the capital campaign.