For decades, the Penobscot Salmon Club has occupied a beautiful spot along the river’s Brewer shore, welcoming anglers who sought migrating fish returning from the sea.
Salmon fishing hasn’t been allowed on the river since a planned season was canceled in 2009, after the species was federally listed as endangered on the Penobscot.
Still, the historic site of the Penobscot club has been a beacon to some, including paddlers who launch canoes at the site, or others who sit on the porch and watch the river flow past.
Recently, a Bangor Daily News reader and recreationist contacted me to say he was one of those occasional visitors. On warm days, he sometimes swam in the river, accessing it by walking down a gravel beach. He also carried his kayak down the beach and launched there.
But on a recent visit, he saw signs that seemed to discourage him from accessing the club. “No Trespassing,” “Private Property” and “Keep Out” signs are posted intermittently on the driveway, which is off North Main Street.
On Friday, Paul Sevigny, one of eight stockholders who own the property (and the treasurer of the Penobscot Salmon Club), said he put up the signs about two years ago, after the property was treated poorly by visitors during elver season.
“They left trash all over the place. Condoms. They used the woods as toilets, tossed fish up onto the banks,” Sevigny said. “I don’t know what else to do.”
What he did was what many landowners would have done: He erected signs.
And caught in the mix are law-abiding visitors — such as the BDN reader — who want to obey landowners’ wishes but would love to access property that they recognize as special.
Sevigny said that despite the signs, the club’s officers and stockholders aren’t interested in gating off the property from everyone. Instead, he’s hoping those who would disrespect someone else’s land would see the signs and realize that they’re not welcome.
“I’m perfectly happy with responsible people using that area,” Sevigny said. “The need to be absolutely certain that they clean up after themselves, and if they see anybody who is not respecting the property, they need to report it to the police.”
Sevigny’s message makes such perfect sense. It seems obvious: Don’t damage someone else’s property. If you see something going on, tell the authorities.
Unfortunately, landowners across the state can tell you horror stories about incidents during which their land has been used as a dump by others looking to discard all sorts of debris.
One common thread in those stories: Most of those activities take place in spots where the culprits aren’t likely to be caught immediately.
Nowadays, the same can be said of the property the Penobscot Salmon Club sits on. Anglers aren’t there fishing for salmon any longer, and club membership has dwindled. That’s why Sevigny is hoping others step forward if they see anything going on at the venerable old club.
“We used to push [prospective members] away, because back when fishing was good, we had a limit of 225 members,” Sevigny said. “I think we’ve got 20 or 25 paying members now, and people like myself who are lifetime members.”
Sevigny said he’d like to see conservationists and recreationists join the club because they want to make a difference. And he said “fishing clubs” in Canada are popular no matter how good the actual fishing. The reason: Members golf together, or ride dirt bikes, or find other ways to have fun.
He’d like to see the same thing happen here — avid kayakers who joined the club could access the river easily, and would help make the site busier, more vibrant.
The more people who visit and treat the Penobscot Salmon Club with the respect it deserves, the better it will be for all, he said.
“Why not use the recreational opportunity that we have right here?” he asked.
Sevigny said anyone interested in learning more about becoming a member of the Penobscot Salmon Club should call Peter Bartley at 989-0810 or email T2R11@aol.com.
Editor’s note: Richard J. Warren, publisher of the Bangor Daily News, is a stockholder in the Penobscot Salmon Club.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.