by Esther J. Perne
Golden sunshine, clear blue skies, warm scented pine carpets and clean refreshing waters…It seemed like any other beautiful summer in the Belgrades, except that change was afoot.
1995 was the year that Belgrade was planning a Bicentennial Bash for 1996. The celebration would be big and had already been in the works for a year, but now memorabilia to fund the ambitious schedule was on sale in local businesses and a call was being put out for floats for the various parades. The plan, and it was a successful one, incorporated Belgrade's three centers Belgrade Lakes, Belgrade Depot, and North Belgrade each with its own day, plus ongoing dedications and celebrations and observations of history throughout the summer, all with no library, no historical society and no town museum to consult.
1995 was the year that conservation took center stage state and region wide and caught on locally watershedwide. Because of conservation awareness, new buzz words buffer strips, runoff, phosphorus control were becoming familiar vocabulary. The effect of water quality on property values would soon be released in a report by the University of Maine. And there were concerns about new lake-friendly ways to build and landscape. The challenges of Gloeotrichia and milfoil lay in the future.
1995 was the year that groups and organizations at all levels were popular: the KVM women, the individual lake associations, the Maine Lakes Conference and a new group called the Lake Associations of the Belgrades (LABs). So strong for so long, the last of the area's women's clubs, the KVM, was still raising money at a July fair at the Belgrade Central School to donate to good causes. The five lake associations in the Belgrades were following their individual missions be it dams, water quality, issues with speeding boats and also tentatively joining in with the new group, LABs, that would link them together and eventually become the 7 Lakes Alliance so active in the Belgrades today.
1995 was the year that the Colby College connection with the Belgrades took a significant step forward. Colby was the site of the annual Maine Lakes Conference, sponsored in part by the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (now renamed the Maine Lakes Society and headquartered in Belgrade Lakes), during which LABs conducted one of the sessions: "The Belgrade Lakes: Threats and Opportunities." And it was from the Colby College Environmental Studies Program in 1995 that LABs hired two summer interns to help monitor water quality and review road, driveway and property runoff a beginning to a long liaison with Colby faculty, students and alumni.
1995 was the year that child power received some much-needed attention as schools in the area organized conservation projects and added natural resource studies to classes. An emphasis on nature and the outdoors also became more integral to recreation programs and camps.
The best and last news of the season was a water level reprieve for Great Pond. Just as the lake was bracing for an unprecedented foot and a half water level drop in September to facilitate bridge construction in Belgrade Lakes, the good news was announced. Boats could be left in the lake, docks would not be high and dry and the mail could get through. Bridge engineers had determined that water levels could be maintained until their normal lowering later in the fall.
As 1995 wound down it seemed like any other beautiful fall in the Belgrades, except that some significant changes had been set in motion that helped form the Belgrades of today.