Group Formed to Rehabilitate Devil’s Head

By Lura Jackson

The 315 acre conservation area of Devil's Head can be seen here as it projects into the St. Croix River. A group has been formed to rehabilitate the park's trails, restore its roads, and create trail signs. Photo by City of Calais.

Just outside of Calais as one travels downriver along Route 1, a 315-acre parkland known as Devil’s Head awaits visitors with its numerous opportunities for scenic viewing and outdoor recreation. While the area enjoys a long significance in local history, the park itself wasn’t fully completed until 2006 when the many volunteers and donors coordinating its creation donated the land to the city. Since then, the park has fallen into disrepair as a result of a lack of resources on the city’s behalf. Recognizing the park’s many needs, a group has been formed to rehabilitate it—and volunteers are needed.

The movement is being spearheaded by Brand Livingstone, an avid supporter of local history and the natural landscape of coastal eastern Maine. Livingstone initially eyed the area of Devil’s Head for conservation in the 1970s, though efforts didn’t begin in earnest until decades later. Beginning in 2002, Livingstone helped coordinate the purchase of the lands—an effort that raised $320,000 from various donors—as well as the creation of the park, representing approximately $240,000 in donations and materials. By 2005, volunteers, many of them local, built a new access route from Route 1, a parking area, three outdoor toilets, 1.8 miles of upgraded access road, and 1.5 miles of trails. 

Development of the park continued throughout 2006, with Ernest Carle proposing the creation of a wildlife opening that would benefit woodcocks, flycatchers, warblers, grouse, and snowshoe hares. Also completed was the creation of a vernal pool for woodfrogs and spotted salamanders in addition to the species that use the amphibians for food. 

In 2006, parts of the Devil’s Head Park were accepted to the National Register of Historic Places, affirming its historical significance. Traditionally used by aboriginal Native Americans for a massive annual harvest of fish and clams, the area was later used by Passamaquoddy, French and English settlers to access the St. Croix River. In 1890, a hotel by the name of DeMont’s (in honor of the leader of the French expedition to St. Croix Island) was built on the lands, serving visitors from Eastport and Calais who traveled by steamboat to its fashionable estate. DeMont’s burned in 1920 and the area became lost to the wilderness until 2002, when Livingstone and Lee Sochasky of the St. Croix International Waterway Commission began efforts to secure it for the people of Calais.  

By the time the efforts to create the park were completed, Devil’s Head had become an ideal place for outdoor education, forestry management demonstrations, scenic viewing, ecotourism, and low impact land and water recreation. While many projects remain in the pipeline, such as the creation of additional trails, interpretive signs, benches along the trail, and a viewing platform at the St. Croix Island overlook, the main focus of the newly formed volunteer group is to restore the park to safe conditions.

“We aren’t looking for money,” Livingstone said of the group, which has been given the name Friends of Devil’s Head. “We’re looking for volunteers, people to clear the trails, to fill holes caused by erosion, and those willing to create small signs directing visitors.” The replacement of the stone steps leading to the beach and the creation of a hand rail are also priorities. Once those tasks are complete, other efforts to continue upgrading the park may commence.

 

While the group is informally being coordinated through a Facebook page located at www.facebook.com/friendsofdevilshead, a formal meeting is planned at the Holmestead on Main Street in late March or early April to take advantage of the snow melt. A list of necessary tasks and materials will be compiled and added to the Facebook page before that date. To volunteer your assistance with time or materials, send a message to friendsofdevilshead@gmail.com or call Brand Livingstone at 454-2604.