HISTORY OF AROOSTOOK STATE PARK
In 1938, the newly created State Park Commission ( which had been formed in 1935) recommended that the State accept a gift of 100 acres of land near Presque Isle. This became Aroostook State Park, the first in the State Park system.
In April of 1938, Governor Barrows and his council accepted the area. At a meeting of the Presque Isle Merchants' Association on April 16, 1938, Mr. Raymond Randall, secretary of the State Park commission, explained that plans would be drawn up to include recreational facilities, and that the actual work of development would be done by the WPA or P.W.A. The State commission, he explained, had $7,500 available for State parks, but that money was to be used for maintenance only. He went on to explain that when the park was completed, it would be the first to offer winter and summer facilities. Plans for development included the possibilities of parking areas and picnic grounds at the top of the mountain with a suitable road running to the top of it, table shelters and fire places, over night camping facilities, ski trails, toboggan slides, ski jumps, horse back trails and walking trails; while at the bottom, suggestions were made for bathing beaches, diving floats, boat landings and ice skating areas. The Merchants' Association carried on the introduction of this area as a State Park, which was started by the Presque Isle Carnival Association, with the assistance of Andrew J. Beck of the Governor's Council.
On April 25, 1938, an enthusiastic meeting of the executive board of the Merchants' Association was held to perfect plans for the formation of a Quoggy Joe Boosters Club. It was announced that soon teams of solicitors would call on the citizens of the county to explain the movement and solicit financial support. The members of this committee elected, consisted of Keith Field, Jasper Crouse, John Pasquale and Robert Wright. Among the captains that aided in the drive for financial backing were Larry Alline, Keith Field, Morton Bartlett, John Pasquale, George Noyes, Harry Green, Frank Hayes, and Roy Beaulieu.
Moving pictures were shown in the summer of 1938 to help raise funds with which to purchase the one hundred acre tract. The $2,000 needed was raised with citizens of the county giving generously. It was announced in August of 1938, that work on the State Park at Quoggy Joe would start under the direction of an expert, Mr. Newton S. Stowell, and that the deed to the State Park would be presented to the Governor of Maine during the Northern Maine Fair. This event occurred amid impressive ceremonies, with Mr. Walter Tapley, president of the Merchants' Association making the presentation to the chief executive of the State.
Good news for State Park boosters was received late in October, 1938, when it was learned that the sum of $16,000 had been granted for the development of the Quoggy Joe Project.
On October 26, 1938, it was announced that WPA work on the State Park would begin within a few weeks; with Mr. C.P. Bradford as the engineer. $7,715 had been allotted and that the first work would be
the building of a trail on the west side of the mountain, a ski and toboggan slide, a ski tow, skating rink on the lake, toilets and warming houses on the shore of the lake, and warming houses along the ski slopes, also clearing and grading for parking spaces.
Work on the State Park was begun on December 21. A committee for the big opening was named by President Walter Tapley of the Merchants' Association and was: Harry Green, Fred P. Stevens and Harvey F. McGlauflin.
The first bit of ground was broken by Elbridge B. Sprague, long a resident of Spragueville and who at one time owned the whole Quoggy Joe area. Mr. Bradford, the engineer was present with a crew of 35 WPA workmen, who soon began clearing for a long ski trail and other improvements. Early in January of 1939, the ski trail which was 2,700 feet long and from 25 to 30 feet wide, was finished. Word was received that a 265 foot toboggan slide would be brought to the State Park. It was formerly used at Bates College and had cost about $1,500. The annual downhill and slalom championship races were held at Quoggy Joe in the latter part of February, 1939. The park was officially opened with a program of events on March 19, 1939, and about 500 people were present for the event.
When the Governor of Maine and the council had appropriated the $1,800 necessary to secure a project of $9,000 through the WPA, it assured the future of the State Park at Quoggy Joe. Mr. Tapley of the Merchants' Association announced that the money would be used in completing the ski jump, the lunch ground, and it would do most of the necessary work on the shore line.
In November of 1939, Mr. Tapley, president of the Merchants' Association, revealed that plans for winter sports developments were rapidly nearing completion. According to his statement, about 25 men would be employed on a five months program of improvements. The Quoggy Joe trail would be thoroughly cleaned of all small growth left from the summer months and rocks removed. A new beginner's trail would be cut and the small jump that was started the previous season would be finished. Also, work would begin on the 70 meter jump. The warming cabins that were finished in the spring, were to be provided with heating and plumbing systems, along with provisions for a spring water supply. An improved tow would be installed, making the burden lighter for skiers, and it was quite likely that a second tow would be installed to end at the summit of the mountain. A large practice area for beginners
was planned, as well as a permanent telephone timing system for slalom and downhill races. It was announced that the Presque Isle Polaris Ski Club and the Caribou Northmen Club would continue to hold their series of downhill and slalom races at the State Park.
The toboggan slide, made of wood, is remembered as being much longer than 265 feet. Merle Sprague recalls that that the wooden chute came only as far as the road, and that from the road to the lake shore,
the chute was made of hard packed snow. The entire slide was about one thousand feet long, and it took approximately 12 to 15 seconds to go from the starting point to the end of the run, which was on the lake.
When the new road was built to the camp sites, and new parking lots developed, the toboggan slide was no longer feasible to operate. The original wooden chute was allowed to rot and decay. The old toboggan
site now serves as an entrance to the Qua-quajo Nature Trail.
The ski jump was never actually completed. Those who remember, laughingly recall that no one ever dared to go down it. Some have related that it would have been like jumping into a cellar, however the ski slopes were used for many years. In fact, the winter sports activities were not discontinued until the spring of 1961.
In the late 40's and early 50's, in conjunction with the Presque Isle Recreation Center, Ski-School classes were held at the State Park. School buses would pick up youngsters at the Rec. Center on Saturday mornings and transport them to the Park. As many as 200 children were enrolled, and Alta Delano the Park Ranger's wife would serve gallons of hot chocolate at the lodge.
W. R. Edgecomb, who coached the Presque Isle High School ski team in 1945-1946 and 1947, remembers that ski instructors came by chartered flight from New Hampshire to give local youngsters skiing lessons. These men were not paid, but were interested in promoting skiing in Northern Maine.
In 1954, a vast improvement program was underway at Aroostook State Park, and by the summer of 1955 an entire new swimming beach, picnic area, and other facilities would be ready for the thousands who visited the park annually.
One of the major improvements would be an entirely new swimming beach, 600 feet long. With the new beach would be four new toilet units, new bath house, a spring fed water system, new picnic grounds that would extend the full length of the shore line adjacent to the beach and a new parking area.
The State Park offered improved facilities for skiers in the winter of 54 and 55. The ski slope had been bulldozed and widened somewhat on the south end. It was to have a 1,000 foot run, and a new, faster ski tow installed by the time the snow arrived. The tow was to be moved from the center of the slope to the south side.
A new camping area was also proposed for the south end of the park, approximately one quarter mile below the new parking area. The Presque Isle Garden Club, which had sponsored a nature trail through the wooded mountain section of the park, had proposed an additional trail that would take in the shore line.
This improvement program would virtually double the size of the park's facilities, and were the first major improvements made in nearly ten years.
Linwood "Red" Delano was the first ranger at the park, and served in that capacity from December, 1947 until May, 1959. A massive stone erected near the entrance of the nature trail at Aroostook State Park
bears a bronze plaque designating the Quaquajo Nature Trail as a memorial to Linwood R. Delano, former park ranger.
"Red" Delano was quoted as saying that Quaquajo Mountain is the correct spelling of the often misspelled mountain, and that the Indian name means peaked mountain.
In the summer of 1948 there were eleven camping parties at Aroostook State Park. Their camp sites were on the lawn in front of the Park Lodge. In 1958 the original camp site consisted of about three acres with facilities for ten camp sites. The present camp site consists of twelve acres, with 30 camp sites and one small group site.
From the initial donation of one hundred acres of land in 1938, to the 577 acres now owned by the State of Maine, only 2 acres was actually purchased by the State. Over the years, many citizens have given generously of their land, so that all might enjoy the beauty of this park. Although the winter sport facilities have been discontinued, occasionally a few of the "natives" will clear the snow from Echo Lake
and skaters will enjoy this winter sport for a time. If skiers no longer enjoy the slopes at Quoggy Joe, cross country ski trails are plentiful; as are snowmobile trails. It is interesting to note that from that December day in 1938, when Elbridge Sprague broke that first bit of ground, Aroostook State Park has always been a community affair. Over the years, many of the farmers lent their tractors, various tools,
and donated their labor. Through the efforts of Larry Park, who initiated the cross country ski trails on his farm, skiers may now enjoy miles of scenic trails through Aroostook State Park.
Visitors at the park are probably unaware that the new camping site was once a potato field, but if they wish to observe carefully, they will see that trees growing there had seeded themselves and grow in straight lines about the width of the old potato rows.
The children's play area, on the road to the camp site, is sheltered by a white pine tree, one of three in the State Park.
Each visit to the Park reveals a new and unique experience, not only in the beauty of nature as summer gives way to the colors of autumn, and the stillness of winter, but the knowledge that through the untiring
efforts of many generous people, this portion of Spragueville is available to everyone.
Tradition says the hill derives its name from an Indian by the name of Joe, who was found entombed by some early explorer or surveyor, near a quagmire at its base, hence Quagmire or "Quaggy Joe". To the
east at the base of the mountain lies a beautiful lake of about one hundred acres. Although only a brook when the first settlers arrived, it was called Echo Lake. Tradition says that Indians going onto the
mountain and sounding their war-whoops would hear an echo.
The summit is said to be 2000 feet higher than the surface of the lake. The east side of the mountain for nearly half the distance down from the top is nearly perpendicular; then it is a gradual descent to the lake and is covered with a dense forest of hardwood. The land all around the hill is of the best kind; on the west side it is cleared and cultivated more than halfway up the hill. To the southeast is Mars Hill, northwest is "Haystack" in Castle Hill. "Haystack" was called on the English map which was published during the northeastern boundary controversy, Mount Hellion. This mountain, Quaggy Joe, and Mars Hill were claimed by the English in that controversy as being the height of land named in the Treaty of 1783 as "dividing the waters which flow into the St. Lawrence from those which flow into the Atlantic". It, however, happened that these isolated hills were no heights of land whatever, as they had no connection with each other being separated by large streams. Between Haystack and Quaggy Joe flows the Presque Isle Stream which comes a long distance to the south and empties into the Aroostook River some six or seven miles to the north.
At the top of the highest peak was a clump of spruce trees, on a pole, nailed to the tallest tree was a white flag about two yards square. There was also a second white flag on Haystack Mountain. This was said to have been done by some engineers who laid a railroad line from St. Andrews to Quebec in 1837, and the line crossed what is now the boundary line south of Mars Hill and a little south of Quaggy Joe. At that time it was supposed that the location was a part of New Brunswick.
The summit of Quaggy Joe was made a station for observation by the boundary commission for running the line between Maine and New Brunswick under the Treaty of 1842.
Another interesting story found in Rev. Park's manuscript is a short one concerning how Quaggy Joe Mountain got its name. He states that it is a misconception that the mountain is named after an Indian who used to live there, but that it is really a corruption of what the first Indian said to the first white man encountered on the mountain. "Quaquajo" In Malacite, "Where are you going?"
Aroostook State Park
87 State Park Road
Presque Isle, Maine 04769