On January 18, 2020 we held a "20th in 2020 Celebration honoring our founders . . .
. . . and the 20th anniversary of the founding of CVOA. The event was held at the King Pine Room at the Sugarloaf Base Lodge, and included a social time with appetizers, buffet dinner, speakers Bonnie Farrar and John McCatherin, and entertainment by Elvis Rocks. A great time was had by all.
Shown are six of the original eight founders of CVOA. From left, Don Fowler, George Abbott, Sherie Packard, John McCatherin, Annie Tuell and Neal Trask. Missing from the photo is Paul Houlares, also CVOA’s first president, and the late Dick Crommett (d. 2004). At various times over the years, all of those original founders served as CVOA officers or in other leadership positions.
John McCatherin's words . . .
For over 20 years now, CVOA members have been involved in a variety of activities: skiing, shooting, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, mountain climbing, and so forth. If I’d known that CVOA was going to survive and be that active this long, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, I would have taken better care of myself.
I’ve been skiing Sugarloaf for 67 years now, starting in 1953, the first year of the rope tow. Barb has been up here going on 20 years now and the two of us frequently remark about what a wonderful community it is. In trying to figure out why, Barb hit the nail right on the head. “Everyone that’s here is here because they want to be.
Carrabassett Valley and the entire Sugarloaf area is a community of interests – mostly centered on the outdoors. And CVOA has given us an organization through which we can exercise and celebrate those interests.
Let me share with you a brief history of CVOA’s beginnings. Like a lot of good things in Carrabassett Valley, beer was involved.
During hunting season in 1999, I met a forlorn George Abbott at Tufulio’s. The Penobscot Indians had posted their land, which consisted of about half of the town. An area where many of us had hiked, fished and hunted for years was now off-limits. George remarked: “I feel like a prisoner in my own backyard.”
On December 9, 1999, George, Don Fowler, Neal Trask, Paul Houlares, Sherie Packard, Annie Tuell and Dick Crommett met at my house, where we formed a committee to look into organizing an outdoor organization. And we outlined a plan to work with the Penobscots to overcome their concerns.
As a member of the Carrabassett Valley Board of Selectmen, I took our ideas to the other selectmen and got buy-in there.
Then George and I took our plans to the Penobscot Tribal Council in Old Town. It was a polite and candid discussion but without a decision. Meanwhile, we had recognized the wisdom of a new outdoor organization and moved ahead to build it.
Don Palmer of the Rangeley Guides & Sportsmen’s Association came over and talked about that organization, and while our ultimate objectives were different, we voted at that meeting to form CVOA.
Working with Don Fowler on the by-laws, we spent a fair amount of time on the purpose of the organization, which as originally written was “to promote and encourage outdoor recreation and conservation, to assist major landowners in the region in the stewardship and protection of their lands and to foster safety and conservation education among adults and children in the region.” That basic purpose essentially remains today and has served us well.
By then things started to move quickly. The by-laws were adopted. Officers were elected: Paul Houlares, president; Tom Spring, vice president; Annie Tuell, secretary; and Sherie Scribner Packard, treasurer. Directors included a few names that are still around these days: John McCatherin, Neal Trask, Don Fowler and George Abbott.
And then came a breakthrough: In March 2000, at a meeting with the C.V. Board of Selectmen, the Penobscot Indian Nation voted to rescind the posting of their lands.
Then project ideas began to flow:
Neal Trask volunteered to look into a safe place to shoot (20 years later he’s still up to his eyeballs in the range).
Houlie, Tom Spring and others organized the first of many clean-up projects and the team picked up four tons of refuse --interestingly, most of it from woods contractors working on Penobscot land.
Nancy Perry proposed and organized the first booth at Homecoming, a tradition that continues each year even now.
George organized a rebuild of an important snowmobile bridge used by hikers.
By August of 2000, CVOA had 65 paid members.
By the way, did I mention that the nature of these members was quite social. Like I said earlier, beer was occasionally involved.
The ideas and projects continued – right through this, its 20th year. CVOA now has nearly 1100 members with about half of them also members of the range. Before we wrap this up, I’d like to take a different look at the cause celeb that led to the creation of CVOA.
In just Carrabassett Valley alone today, there are probably 100-plus miles of bike trails; maybe 30-40 miles of snowmobile trails; 31 miles of ATV trails; the seven-mile long Narrow Gauge pathway; the Maine Huts & Trails network of another 30 or so miles and an assortment of trails to scenic locations, swimming and fishing holes, and picnic spots, many of them with picnic tables built by CVOA.
Most all of this is on land owned by the Penobscot Indian Nation, who we honored several years ago when CVOA successfully nominated them as Landowner of the Year in a state-sponsored event.
That’s a far cry from where we were in 1999 and without a doubt – CVOA – the people here tonight -- and many who can’t be – can take a good deal of pride in the significant role we’ve played in all of this.