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Whether you're a summer visitor, a seasonal resident, or you call it home year-round, you likely share our sentiment that the Belgrade Lakes is nothing short of Heaven on Earth. When our dad, Alan Charles, who grew up in Oakland and spent summers on Messalonskee and Salmon Lakes, found a perfect little lot on the Western shore of Great Pond, he set to work building his own little slice of heaven: a humble A-frame camp which he envisioned as a gathering place for his immediate and extended family we, his children, were not yet a twinkle in his eye.
Designed by his cousin and architect Tom Reilly, who has his own camp on Long Pond, construction was completed on the Charles Camp in 1971, and promptly became Dad's refuge, the recreational destination of his family, and the preferred location for all summertime birthdays and celebrations.
As children, our entire summers were spent at the A-Frame, and we had the privilege of the best of "lake life." Early morning trolling off of Hoyt's for salmon, night fishing off the dock for perch, canoe paddles into the shallows, loon lullabies, watching storms drift across the lake followed by double rainbows over the island, hammock swings, building forts in the woods and OH SO MUCH SWIMMING.
So many of these experiences were quietly shepherded by Dad, who delighted in our joy while also instilling in us a reverence for the beauty and fragility of our playland. He invited us to stop and observe the natural world, and often marveled out loud about things like patterns in the water, cloud formations, the color of leaves, and would reminisce about the astounding number of loons he used to see crossing the lake in the '70s.
Dad created this little paradise for us, largely by hand in fact, but even more remarkable was his commitment to sharing it with others, and being a steward of the entire Belgrade Lakes watershed. This commitment led him to be exceptionally involved in the many organizations that work on these efforts in the Belgrade Lakes, to which he dedicated countless volunteer hours. He served on the board of the Belgrade Lakes Association (BLA) and coordinated volunteers for the annual raffle, was a volunteer inspector at area boat launches to prevent the proliferation of milfoil, joined water quality testing initiatives, and participated in the annual loon count. He was one of the first on our road to receive a LakeSmart Award, modeling practices to prevent the leaching of chemicals into the lake, and on his own volition motored all of our guests out to view "Goldie," Colby College's data buoy off of Hoyt's, initiating visitors to the importance of lake health.
In recent years, as age impeded his mobility, Dad became a fixture at the BLA raffle table in Belgrade Village, where he took on multiple weekly shifts to spread the gospel about conservation and raise money to protect his beloved lakes. He loved being an ambassador of BLA, chatting it up with fellow volunteers, and making friends with literally everyone.
Dad passed away at camp on June 16 of this year, and we, along with our camp road neighbors and all of his friends in the Belgrade Lakes feel his absence profoundly this summer. In our sadness, however, we find comfort being surrounded by the slice of heaven he left behind for us, and are proud of the diligence and care he put into leaving this world a beautiful and more protected place for generations to come. We hope that others are as inspired by his legacy as we are, and that the next time you're struck by our region's beauty, you might send a little thought up to him in thanks.
Submitted by his children, Kymberlie and Nicholas Charles