Pond Island Paradise

The expansive beaches of Pond Island offer visitors spectacular views in all directions–from Mount Desert Island to Isle au Haut. Area residents enjoy picnicking, exploring, camping and hunting on this 241-acre island. Thanks to the generosity of its former owners, Pond Island (along with tiny adjoining Lamp Island) is now a Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve where these traditions will continue.

This gift adds to a remarkable tapestry of conserved lands in Blue Hill and Jericho bays, helping to sustain the region’s renowned beauty and recreational appeal. North of Pond Island is MCHT’s Tinker Island Preserve and Long Island, on which Acadia National Park holds a conservation easement. In the archipelago that includes Pond there are three private islands protected in their entirety (Eagle, Sheep and Black).

Pond Island was purchased in 1992 by Peter Blanchard, C.W. Eliot Paine, Willard W. Brown Jr., and the late Louise Brown. From the outset, their vision was to protect the island’s wild character and encourage respectful public use. Alan McIlhenny, Pond’s previous owner, had donated a conservation easement to Acadia that allowed six house lots, but “we never thought of developing it,” Paine says. “Part of the charm of the Maine coast is having access to places like this.”

“I’ve always believed in stewardship more than ownership,” Blanchard observes, a philosophy captured in their signage: “Kindly help us keep this place special.” Yet even the stewardship of dedicated owners is ephemeral, he notes. “At some point, reality sets in and you realize that you won’t be around forever.”

All three island owners knew that the undivided interests they shared in Pond could become complex and burdensome for the next generation. So on a foggy morning in August, they traveled to Pond for a ceremony transferring the island to MCHT. It was a little like walking your daughter down the aisle, Blanchard jokes, seeing the island into a new chapter of its long history. But he feels certain that the care bestowed on Pond for the past 22 years will extend through time: “MCHT will carry that forward in a more permanent way.” He hopes that the Trust can expand the scope of stewardship–tackling challenges like invasive species and reestablishing historic meadows.

Best of all, says Paine, is that the island’s traditional uses will continue. As they have for generations, people will come to picnic and stroll. Schooners will stop by, adding–in Blanchard’s words–“a different kind of splendor when they’re around.” MCHT will maintain the established campsites enjoyed by area residents, local outfitters and Maine Island Trail users.

Few people can appreciate the importance of that access more than MCHT Project Manager Bob DeForrest, who first visited Pond Island 20 years ago, bringing groups–with permission–as a sea-kayaking guide. He recalls how much he valued the “incredible island experience there” and the landowners’ willingness to share it. “It’s gratifying now,” he says, “to know Pond Island will continue to provide that experience to others.”