I first drove up to Rangeley with my son in the summer of 1999. A few months later, in the fall, our family bought a cabin on Rangeley Lake and we had our first view of this beautiful area in the fall as we drove up Route 17, now the “Rangeley Lakes Scenic By Way”, which runs from Rumford/Mexico up to the Rangeley Lakes area. I always look forward to this stretch of the trip, the last leg of a 4-5 hour drive. The bumps in the road feel like a free wheeling country roller coaster ride. We saw our first moose on this road and have hiked on the Appalachian Trail which runs nearby. At its peak the road passes through the “Heart of the Land”, one of the most beautiful scenic views in the state of Maine.
But on this trip I nearly drove off the road. Just a few weeks before the mountain views were spectacular…. ready to pop with color. But now, driving up Rte 17, in Roxbury, I saw a huge “dagger” on one of the mountain tops! It was a massive wind turbine! And then I saw a whole vista of wind turbines… looking like alien swords piercing the entire landscape. After more than a decade of seeing nothing but the mountains from this road, I was now looking at the Wind Turbines of Record Hill, a Project (I later learned) that was now going forward full steam. I pulled off the road, nearly hitting a bicyclist, and took a few pictures.
I thought about the wind turbines most of that evening. I knew that there had been some controversy over the installation of turbines at Saddleback Mountain near the Appalachian Trail a few years ago but so far nothing has happened…at least as far as I know. I knew nothing about the Record Hill Wind Project. But the next morning at the Rangeley Library it didn’t take long to find some basic facts and a report from the State of Maine on the Record Hill Wind Project, see http://www.maine.gov/dep/bep/2010/03-18-10/RH%20-%20DEP%20scenic%20excerpts.pdf
In the conclusion of this report it was noted that … ”the Project has been conceived and designed to have minimal visual impacts on scenic resources within the study area. The Project will not have an unreasonable adverse impact on scenic values and existing uses of scenic resources of state or national significance”
This was not quite my reaction on first glance at the wind turbines. And my guess is that it is not what is being experienced by many of the locals in the area either. And if my cabin was just a few miles south I too would be facing these noisy and flickering turbines as I paint, hike, canoe, garden, and chop wood. Maine takes pride in having some of the most beautiful, quiet, and unspoiled countryside in the United States. Is there a state at risk here? We may get the answer in the years ahead if the tour buses stop coming to see this “unspoiled” countryside of Maine.
But then this is not my backyard. I’m “from away”. I’m just here to paint leaves. I should be thinking of all the local jobs that come along with these projects, how it helps the local economy and the energy resources of the State of Maine, etc. But I’ve read enough in just one day that suggests that these jobs are generally short term, 6 month construction jobs that do not impact long term unemployment and that Maine may not, in fact, really need the minimal amount of energy provided by these turbines. Truth be told I am also embarrassed at how little I really know about the pros and cons of wind power turbines in the US. I should be more educated about this important issue. They have been around for a while and I’ve seen them on the landscape from California to Maine. But it has never been so disturbing to me. It is going to be hard for me to ignore them now or to pretend they are not there. They are nearly in my own back yard. I certainly don’t have any answers. But I am reminded of a few lines from Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”
…”how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
From Bob Dylan, Blowing In The Wind