Volunteers Construct New Stairway at Devil’s Head

A look at the mostly-finished stairway to the shore at Devil's Head, all of which was completed by volunteers using donated materials. (Submitted photo).

By Lura Jackson

Summertime in the United States is often synonymous with beaches – and while Calais doesn’t exactly offer the archetypal stretch of sandy shores that most beachgoers flock to, the beach that it does have is now a bit easier to access thanks to the efforts of volunteers at Devil’s Head. Work has nearly finished on a new set of stairs leading from a short path next to the access road down to the beach where the St. Croix River meets Passamaquoddy Bay.

The beach access path has been a mainstay at Devil’s Head since the park was created approximately 13 years ago. However, erosion resulting from rain runoff and storm tides gradually wore away at the granite steps leading to the shore, making them uneven and unsafe for visitors to traverse. Fixing the steps and restoring easy access to the beach was one of the main goals for the Friends of Devil’s Head, a group that established itself in 2015 with a goal of rehabilitating the park.

Many plans were considered for the stairs, including one that involved a metal staircase, one that involved a wholly wooden staircase, and another that integrated wood and stone together. The consensus between the Friends of Devil’s Head was that the new steps should look appropriate to the natural environment while also offering the highest amount of safety for visitors. 

An option for completing the steps with a minimal amount of mechanical interference was presented by one of the volunteers, Ken Ross. Ross offered the group significant experience with working with stone and creating new public structures and pathways in public parks. Ross’s plan was further fortified by the city’s willingness to provide the Friends of Devil’s Head with granite curbing that could be used as steps.

Assisted by his brother, Carl, Ross began the process of planning how to move the existing uneven steps – most of which were used to fortify the new steps – and how to place the curbing. Each of the new steps are 15” wide. Rather than stacking them edge to edge, Ross decided on placing the steps alongside 9” of crushed stone, making each step a total width of 26”. The wider steps make the path much more gradual and easy for visitors of all mobility levels to navigate. A total of thirteen steps were installed on the path, most of which were moved with nothing more than a crowbar. Now that the steps have been moved into place, a set of removable wooden steps will be added to the bottom of the stairway to improve access to the shore itself even more.

If you haven’t been to the beach this year, it’s a good time to visit the shoreline at Devil’s Head. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the cooling breeze. 

Coordinating the movement of several massive granite steps are Ken (left) and Carl (right) Ross. The brothers moved the old steps out of the way or added them underneath the new steps for stability. Thirteen new steps were installed to create a pathway to the beach at Devil's Head. (Submitted photo).