Swimmer puts dent in dam restoration costs

A COMMENDABLE SWIM — Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Lake Association (PLPPLA) Vice President Peter Barber and member Ron Burd discuss the swim fundraiser, which Burd completed on Tuesday morning. Burd said the flippers gave him an advantage, allowing him to keep the same pace at which he swam 10 years ago. (De Busk Photo)

A COMMENDABLE SWIM — Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Lake Association (PLPPLA) Vice President Peter Barber and member Ron Burd discuss the swim fundraiser, which Burd completed on Tuesday morning. Burd said the flippers gave him an advantage, allowing him to keep the same pace at which he swam 10 years ago. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Ron Burd’s favorite songs were emitting into his waterproof earbuds. He was swimming at a good pace and completely absorbed in his morning swim. He was surrounded by the scenery he loved.

When he finished his swim, he paused — floating in the shallow water and tilting his head back as though he were enjoying one last song and looking across Pleasant Lake in the direction he had just swam.

Perhaps, he was soaking in the satisfaction of achieving a goal.

Burd had just swum four miles in two hours and 57 minutes. Plus, he did this swim at age 70.

His challenge was part of a lake association’s fundraiser for the replacement of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Dam. So, there was a crowd of 20-plus people waiting at the “finish line,” which on Tuesday morning was the Casco Town Beach, also known as Pleasant Beach.

When Burd finally stood up — swim flippers in hand — he walked in the water toward the people on the beach.

His first words were, “What a wonderful day.”

Like his buoyancy of attitude and his buoyancy in the water, Burd said he was uplifted by a community of people who also cherish Pleasant Lake.

“Doing this, having all these people here to greet me, it’s amazing. We all have something in common — we care about this special place. It feels like we are kindred spirits,” Burd said shortly after his almost three-hour swim.

He calculated that he swam at a pace similar to when he did a swim fundraiser 10 years ago. At a rate of 60 strokes per minute, Burd executed 10,620 front crawl strokes, taking him from Otisfield Beach to Pleasant Beach.

“It was incredible. He never stopped for a snack or anything,” his wife Joyce said.

Joss Gelfand, a friend of Burd’s who was visiting, was part of the small sendoff party that started on Otisfield Beach at 7:30 a.m. Like Joyce, Gelfand chose a kayak to accompany Burd during his notable swim.

“It’s a remarkable achievement at any age. Ron is a trooper,” Gelfand said.

Eight-year-old Annabelle and her grandfather put their kayaks in the water when Burd swam past their dock. She said it was hard work to keep up with him.

“It’s amazing how he can swim that far,” she said.

Burd said that he didn’t have any worries or jitters the night before the big swim. After all, he typically swims about one and a half miles a day. A good routine countered any anxiety that someone else in Burd’s shoes (or swim flippers) might have felt.

“My goal was to have eight hours of sleep. I went to bed at 10 p.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. I slept well and listened for the wind and didn’t hear any,” he said.

The swim had been scheduled for Tuesday based on the weather forecast, which called for a light and variable wind.

That morning, Burd ate an energy-packed breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries, peaches and bananas, he said.

He said his swim flippers acted as “age assisters” giving him the edge he needed to keep up the same pace he swam a decade ago.

“Ten years ago, it felt like the pace was faster. Today, I kept looking for the camps like Camp Trudia. It seemed slower. Ten years ago, it was a hazy day. Today, there was a bit of a glare from the sun,” Burd said.

Since he turns his head to the left to breath, his face was aimed toward the morning sun.

But, it was a pleasant swim, he said.

“I have an underwater I-Pod, The music helps me focus. I have an eclectic collection of songs, mostly from the ‘60s: Tom Rush, Peter Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell. My favorite song didn’t come on. It’s Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game,” he said.

“I would have to do a longer swim to go through all 256 songs,” he quipped.

Burd committed himself to doing the swim-a-thon fundraiser this summer because the aging Pleasant Lake Dam is being replaced this September. He is a member of Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Lake Association (PLPPLA).

There is really no set amount of money that PLPPLA is trying to raise because the cost of replacing the dam is already covered.

That’s because the towns of Otisfield and Casco share the responsibility for the dam’s maintenance. The residents of each of those towns have already approved the funding for the construction project.

The total cost of the dam replacement is $500,000, which is split 50/50 between Casco and Otisfield.

The PLPPLA’s current Vice President Peter Barber said that several thousand dollars have been raised. Not only is the PLPPLA’s website have ways for people to contribute, but also the owner of Pear’s Ice Cream and Hoagie Shopped has a donation jar for the cause.

“More money will be trickling in,” Barber said.

“Ron’s interest in doing the swim was specific to the dam restoration project,” he said.

“Our goal is to show our commitment to the dam project. We want to have ‘some skin in the game,’” he said. “The lake association is happy that the towns worked well together, and — to use another sports metaphor — ‘stepped up to the plate.’”

Barber has served on the Pleasant Lake Dam Subcommittee for about two and a half years — since the dam was discovered to be failing after an inspection by the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) and also a second inspection by a private-sector engineer hired by PLPPLA.

Casco Selectman Holly Hancock has sat on the dam subcommittee, too. As stated, the total cost of the project is $500,000, she said.

For T-Buck Construction, which was awarded the bid, the price is $421,639. The remainder is for the engineer Myron Petrovsky to oversee it,” she said.

Petrovsky owns MBP Consulting, out of Portland, which has worked on the project since 2014.

Half the cost of the project, which is $250,000, is what the Town of Casco is paying, Hancock said.

“We are hopeful that it will start in early September. What we have agreed to is a September start,” she said.

Currently, T-Buck Construction is working with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wetlands about how the water lines will be installed for the Casco Fish Hatchery, she said.

Right now, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “is asking for the plans with two pipes because the pipes failed to the fish hatchery. The state does have the money to pay for the sleeves that are going through the dam to the fish hatchery,” she said.

The dam is located off Meadow Road (Route 121) from the parking lot of the Hancock Lumber administrative office in Casco.

“There used to be a saw mill at the site of the dam. The saw mill stopped operating in the 1960s,” Hancock said.

She talked about what role the PLPP lake association has had in this whole process — since it was discovered that the dam needed to be repaired.

“They have been interested partners with the towns of Casco and Otisfield in the health and well-being of the Pleasant Lake Parker Pond watershed,” she said. “The dam needs to be replaced so that the water level is maintained to make sure all the critters and small fish in the perimeter and the shallows survive. That is for the health of the whole water body.”

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