A citizens’ group of Camden residents held its first meeting July 21 to gather information on how best to preserve Montgomery Dam and the waterfall at the head of Camden Harbor.
The existence of the dam and large portions of Harbor Park are threatened by town officials who want to tear them down. The Save the Dam Falls Committee, as the group will be called, is concerned that town officials of Camden have failed to maintain the dam and have not expressed concern or respect for the value that the waterfall continues to offer Camden. The group feels that town officials have also failed to offer the people of Camden any public hearing or a range of options regarding the future of the dam.
The goal of the group is to preserve the legacy and beauty at the head of Camden Harbor by offering the people of Camden a choice to preserve both the Montgomery Dam and the Olmsted design of Harbor Park.
Montgomery Dam is owned by the Town of Camden, having been gifted to the town in 1992 by the Montgomery family. Harbor Park is under the stewardship of the Camden Public Library, as gifted to the people of Camden by Mary Louise Curtis Bok in 1932.
“Camden should be protecting the dam, not destroying it,” said Tom Rothwell. “It’s our responsibility to protect the legacy of the dam and the park.”
Meg Quijano recounted some of the many anecdotes about visitors to Camden, who constantly exclaim, as they look over the falls and harbor, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!”
In response to Camden officials claiming that the falls serve no purpose, Ron Hawkins said, “‘No purpose’? Our industry is tourism, and the dam is crucial.”
“The waterfall is as important to Camden as Mt. Battle and the Belted Galloways," added Denise Pukas. "It’s unique. We would lose our brand if we lost the dam."
Some of the participants in the Save the Dam Falls Committee are downtown merchants with decades of experience, enjoyment, and commercial success at the river.
Dan Gabriele has been with Marriners for 40 years; Tom Rothwell has been at the Camden Deli for 30 years; and Arthur Kirkland has run The Leather Bench with his brother for 50 years.
The Smiling Cow holds the record, however, with 80 years in business, although Meg Quijano would like to point out she has not personally been there that long.
Other contributors to the effort to save the dam range from several lifelong residents of Camden to relatively recent arrivals of six years’ residence.
Ken Gross is a member of the Save the Dams Committee