Friday, January 28, 2022

Couple creates enduring connections through memories of a special boat

Roger LeBlanc stands beside his 1972 California
Sidewinder boat as it makes its transition to
being completely refurbished for its 50th
anniversary party this summer.
By Lorraine Glowczak

When Roger LeBlanc of Windham inherited a small rundown ski boat in 2009, he was uncertain what to do with it.

“I kept it for a while, but eventually, I wasn’t sure if I should just scrap it or refurbish it,” LeBlanc recalls. “But my family reminded me that I would never be able to let it go.”

LeBlanc’s 1972 California Sidewinder wasn’t just any old boat. It came with heartfelt memories of youth and summers well spent on Cape Cod with what became a large adopted family. The boat and all the experiences that came with those many summers have guided LeBlanc’s life, even leading him to the shores of Little Sebago Lake in Windham.

It all began when LeBlanc was 6 years old and met Mrs. Jean McManus while attending Littleton Elementary School in Littleton, Massachusetts.

“My second-grade gym teacher, Mrs. McManus, and her husband Warren didn’t have children. However, they wanted to help out families in need so they ‘fostered’ those students on Saturdays during the summer by taking us to the beach,” LeBlanc, who came from a family of 11 children, said. “Looking back, I can see now that we were really poor, but my parents did such a good job at raising us and giving us a good life, we had no clue that we were considered a ‘family in need’.”

Eventually, the gym teacher and her husband, a Commissioner of Rehabilitation in Massachusetts at the time, purchased a small cottage along the waters of Cape Cod and the Saturday excursions to the beach became life on Cape Cod all summer long.

“At first, there were just three of us kids, and we called ourselves the ‘McFranle’ family – which included the first two letters in all of our last names,” LeBlanc said. “But Jean and Warren kept ‘adopting’ more kids, and our non-traditional summer family continued to grow.”

The ‘family’ included people she met on her travels through Europe, including friends from Sweden to Italy as well as many students in need from Littleton.

“One person was a family friend of Jean. His name was Fabio Ventura, and he didn’t speak English at first,” Leblanc said. “Fabio came to the Cape eight or nine summers in a row until he got married. We became best friends and are still friends today.”

The growing “McFranle” family enjoyed the New England sun, playing games on the beach, and swimming. But things got more exciting when the McManuses purchased the California Sidewinder in 1972. LeBlanc was 17 years old.

“We would ski all day long,” LeBlanc said. “That boat would run six to seven hours a day. When we started the engine in the morning, Jean would yell through a bullhorn from the front porch to the dock, ‘Warm it up before you take it out.’”

Although the kids’ days were filled with fun and adventure, the husband-and-wife duo made sure their adopted family had plenty of learning opportunities, preparing them for adulthood.

“We all were required to work,” LeBlanc said. “My first job was at 14, working at a Howard Johnson’s as a short-order cook. We all worked the night shifts so we could swim and ski during the day.”

The McManuses also required them to pay $15 per week to help out with the gas for the boat and the food they ate. LeBlanc said it was a minor donation for the amazing return.

“We were also expected to get to know the neighbors, and we had to help with chores including pulling milfoil out of the water that was growing around the dock,” LeBlanc said. “The cottage was located in-between two cranberry bogs, and while the bogs were being fertilized, so was the milfoil. Unfortunately, we didn’t know as much then as we know now about fertilizer and milfoil.”

LeBlanc recalls the times when he would go on dates. “Jean made sure I knew my manners, gave me mints to put in our pockets, sprayed me with Aqua Velva, and made sure I was dressed well. I remember her advising me as I walked out the door, ‘Remember to keep yourself above reproach.’"

Eventually, the LeBlanc’s summer experiences at the McManus’ cottage ended when he graduated and went to college and joined the military. However, this did not prevent him from visiting the couple when he came home during winter breaks.

“This actually was a precious time for me as I got to know them more personally,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc eventually met his wife, Mary Parisi, and his own family grew to include three sons; Joe, Matt, and Roger Jr. and one daughter, Danielle, who now lives in Cumberland. Although his military career led him to Hawaii, he and the McManus couple never lost touch – each visiting one another every year - either in Hawaii or Cape Cod, where his own children got to ski and ride in the old ’72 California Sidewinder.

The McManuses and LeBlanc continued to remain close until Jean’s death at the age of 70 in July 2009 (her husband passed away six years earlier at the age of 65 in 2003).

It was upon McManus’ death that LeBlanc and her five other “children” inherited the cottage and the old rundown boat that held so many memories. Although the five decided to sell the cottage they all wanted the boat to go to LeBlanc, who at the time lived in his hometown of Littleton.

Yearning to be near water again, he and his wife envisioned a retirement home like the McManus cottage and loved the area of Maine where their daughter lived.

 “We finally found this perfect home on Little Sebago Lake,” Leblanc said. “It reminds me so much of my childhood experiences.”

The LeBlanc family has continued to grow, both biologically and otherwise, and they now host a house full of people every summer - creating another set of memories. Of course, the old blue boat continues to be a part of it, too.

“When I inherited this boat, my intention was just to do a new paint job but it was worse than I thought.” LeBlanc said. “To get this boat refurbished took significant time and work and I’m not sure I would have done it if it weren’t for the local businesses in Windham and Naples who took on this big task. But they did so because of the story that is attached to it. And I must admit, it was a big part of not only my childhood but my own children’s life.”

The California Sidewinder, now named ‘Above Reproach’ in honor of McManus’ dating advice, will be completely refurbished in time to celebrate the boat’s 50th anniversary this summer. The cast of characters will include all of the “McFranle” family members. The celebration will occur in Cape Cod in honor of Jean and Warren McManus and the deep and binding relationships they created for so many.

“We all realize the important role Jean and Warren played in our lives and the many connections all of us have as a result of them. They gave us a wonderful life, guiding us in many ways. Yes, the boat is just a boat – but it carries with it so many important stories and memories. And we would not have it any other way.” <

Bagshaw looking to bring fresh ideas to House District 24 election

Barbara Bagshaw of Windham is running for
the Maine House District 24 seat as a 
Republican and will oppose former State Rep.
Tom Tyler in a June primary for the 
nomination. District 24 Democrat incumbent
Mark Bryant is term limited and the fall
election will determine who will succeed him 
representing Windham in Augusta.
By Ed Pierce

Barbara Bagshaw may be somewhat new to politics, but she’s hoping that voters view that as an asset when determining who to support for the Maine House District 24 Republican primary race this year.

Bagshaw, who was a first-time candidate last fall for a seat on the RSU 14 Board of Directors, is a former educator who led a non-profit arts organization for 10 years as president. She’s lived in Windham for more than 35 years and says that she wants to give back to her community through service as state representative.

“I am running because I am very motivated and inspired to do the hard work to represent the people of Windham,” Bagshaw said. “I know I will make myself available to the needs of the people in order to help and assist in any manner this office would allow. I am doing this to better my community, not just to hold a position.”

In June’s primary, Bagshaw will oppose former State Representative Tom Tyler for the Republican nomination for the November election to succeed current District 24 State Rep. Mark Bryant, a Democrat, who is term limited.

“My strengths are in networking and problem solving. Serving people is the heart of what I do,” Bagshaw said. “I believe people who vote for me need to know this. I want to find out what the people in my district are concerned about. I would love to get them involved in being part of the change they would like to see.”

She said that over the past couple of years, she’s reached out to local, state and federal government officials and many of them sent her back a canned response, suggesting that she contact someone higher up whom she had already reached out to or blamed another political party for the issue or didn’t even respond to her at all.

“These are good examples of what not to do,” Bagshaw said. “I prefer the human touch with a timely honest response.” 

According to Bagshaw, she’s running as a Republican because she strongly believes in supporting small businesses, parents’ rights, and supports providing an effective education for children to achieve the brightest future available to them. 

If elected to serve as a state representative, Bagshaw said she will do what is needed to build a consensus on behalf of all Maine residents. 

“Respect, honor and dignity are attributes I live by. I have many friends who are Democrats,” Bagshaw said. “We honor and respect each other’s differences. We work together beautifully. My friends may have a strength where I may have a weakness and vice versa. I don’t think everything needs to be divisive. We all bring a lot to the table.”

Knowing that Augusta is all about politics, Bagshaw said her skills working in the community will help her there.

“I’m a networker and enjoy working with different people,” she said. “I’m confident that I’ll figure it out to get things done. I want to serve the people and I’ll figure out how to do it. As a consensus builder, I know that our differences make us special. We need to have respect for each other.”

Her life’s passion has been about serving the community and she says that was inspired from watching her mother help others as a school board member in Gorham.

“I have traveled to 24 countries as an international speaker, volunteer in orphanages and done relief work,” Bagshaw said. “Commitment and follow-through are extremely important to me.”

She said she decided to run for the Maine District 24 House seat because she’s deeply concerned about the economy, education and the rule of law.

Her legislative focus if she’s elected will be improving the educational system in the state.

“We have a lot of very talented teachers, and they need to be supported,” Bagshaw said. “Everybody needs to work together. We do need more collaboration with parents and families though. We need to learn what their concerns are and have a deeper level of communication with them.”

Being new to running for elected office, Bagshaw says she places working for residents of the community above all else and pledges to do just that if voters elect her to serve as District 24 state representative.

“We need to support our small businesses and be thinking of how we can get able people back to work,” Bagshaw said. “I want to know what the people in the community are interested in and how I can be of assistance to them. I truly want to serve the community." <

Friday, January 21, 2022

Teacher's creative lessons on food insecurity leads to agriculture award

Stacey Sanborn, right, a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester
School, was honored with awarded the Maine Agriculture In
The Classroom Teacher of the Year Award for 2022 earlier 
this month  for her creative gardening program. Manchester
School Principal Danielle Donnini presents Sanborn with
the official MAITC plaque for winning the award.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Stacey Sanborn, a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester School in Windham, has had a lifelong passion for gardening especially as it alleviates food insecurity. She’s passed that love on to her students and for her innovative and creative approach, Sanborn has been awarded the Maine Agriculture In The Classroom Teacher of the Year (MAITC) Award for 2022. 

The MAITC organization singled out Sanborn as a teacher who incorporates agricultural education in the classroom while at the same time, aligning that subject with core curriculum standards in science, math, social studies, and art. But perhaps just as importantly, Sanborn also introduces the importance of food insecurity and how it affects others’ lives.

This is not the first award Sanborn has received in terms of agriculture and how it can help others who are less fortunate.

“It was while I was in high school and a direct result of my work with a project, the 4-H Hunger Garden that I started, is where my interest in food insecurity began,” Sanborn said.

Her project was recognized for its contribution to the community, and she won her first award, the “America’s Future Award” presented by WCSH Channel 6. She said that this experience made a big impact upon her and became a driving force in her adult life and as a teacher.

“I continue to believe that everyone should have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This belief has stayed with me during my years teaching at Manchester School and co-coordinating the school gardens,” she said.

The agriculture program has shifted and changed throughout the 18 years since Sanborn began teaching at Manchester School.

“Flower gardening is where I started initially,” she said. “The students and I would make arrangements and deliver them to new staff members. I began to see the educational benefits and realized there was more opportunity for me and the students if we expanded the program.”

In addition to the 12 raised beds for vegetable gardens and a hoop house with three raised beds, today the Manchester School campus is also host to six apple trees, three pear trees, and two varieties of grapevines.

Sanborn said incorporating gardening as part of the curriculum is important because Maine is a farming and aquaculture state, and students get to experience how much we are all a part of something bigger and how life is interrelated.

“Teaching students about agriculture helps them to develop the understanding of where our food comes from,” she said. “Students can see the importance of protecting a long Maine tradition of farming. It gets them out of the classroom and into the outdoors where the students are motivated learners with plenty of opportunity for fun and hands-on experiences.”

Her students are involved in all parts of the gardening process – from seed to harvest – and as they do so, they learn the traditional “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Ways in which the conventional curriculum is a part of the gardening program include activities such as composting and soil experiments, pollination, keeping detailed records, data collection, and analysis to name just a few. Sanborn also points out that the social studies curriculum plays a strong role in Manchester School’s agriculture program.

“Gardening offers the guiding principles of being part of a community and being an active problem solver,” she said. “Doing something for others – even if it is something small – can have a big impact.”

Some of what the students grow, they get to sample, making some of their favorite recipes such as carrot muffins and “Amazing Carrot Soup.” What they can’t use in the cafeteria, they give to the RSU 14 nutrition program and the Windham Food Pantry. But the social responsibility the students learn in Sanborn’s class doesn’t end there.

“A former student-gardener who lived with food insecurity started their own garden at home and were so successful they were able to share produce with other families in need,” Sanborn said.

It appears the lessons learned have continued to make an impact on two former Sanborn students, who are now in the fifth grade.

Jaxon Dorr said that he enjoyed learning about gardening outside and not having to be in the classroom all day.

“My favorite part about Ms. Sanborn’s class is learning how to plant crops,” he said.

Jakobi Hougaz-McCormick agreed with Dorr saying “I really liked trying to guess the temperature of the hoop house, but I really enjoyed giving food to the school and others who needed it.”

Sanborn says she feels very honored to be a part of this program and is grateful for the recognition from MAITC, however, she believes this is not her award alone.

“I must recognize a former colleague, Master gardener, and a great mentor Pam Lenz,” Sanborn said. “She has put so much effort into this program and is a major part of its success. Pam has helped me to achieve everything I’ve done, and it is a true partnership. She was instrumental in keeping the program going during the early days of the pandemic when schools were not meeting in person. She continued by starting seedlings, planting them in the garden, and creating gardening videos that were used as part of the remote learning experience. Pam is just as an important part of this award and I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Sanborn received her undergraduate from the University of New Hampshire and obtained a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine. She has been a teacher for a total of 23 years.

She lives in Standish with her husband, David, and has two adult sons, Nicholas and Colby, and is part of a large extended family. When she is not busy teaching and gardening, Sanborn can be found exploring Maine lighthouses and lakes, camping, and trying out her new hobby, golfing. <

Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip raising needed funds for food pantries

A team of jumpers from Hannaford dive into Sebago Lake
during the Polar Dip event offshore from Raymond Beach
last winter. The event raised more than $5,000 for 'Feed
the Need' which supports food pantries throughout the
Lakes Region of Maine. This year's Polar dip is scheduled
to be held on Feb. 19. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Collette Hayes

The Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip, an annual bone chilling event hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club, is seeking brave Mainers willing to plunge themselves into chilly Sebago Lake next month.

Community volunteers, swimmers, spectators, media and Raymond Fire and Rescue, dressed in thermal-insulated wet suits just in case of an emergency, will gather on the ice of Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach on Saturday, Feb. 19. They will cheer, provide team support, and participate in the countdown, as Polar Dip jumpers launch themselves into the frigid waters of Sebago Lake to raise needed funds for local food pantries.

The Polar Dip is one activity during the Fishing Derby activities held the same weekend. This year proceeds raised for both events will benefit “Feed the Need,” which provides support for local food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region in Casco, Gray, Naples New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

“George Bartlett from Busy Bee Laundry in Windham is a member of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club and wanted to bring the Polar Dip back as part of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Fishing Derby in 2021,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “I asked if the proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber’s Charitable Fund or what we call ‘Feed the Need.’ Food security in the region is an issue and we need to do something about it. The whole premise behind the Polar Dip event is to be able to give money to the food pantries in the region.”

According to Mullins, participants will take pledges to take the plunge into a large rectangular hole cut into the foot-thick ice and 34-degree water of Sebago Lake.

“We would like to get as many people involved in the Polar Dip as possible,” Mullins said. “All of the proceeds raised from the event stays here in this community and provides security and food for those in need.”

For those who are not enthusiastic about leaping into the icy waters of Sebago Lake but still would like to make a donation can do so by going to the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce website and choosing an alternative option.

“Information for participating in other ways is on the Chamber website,” said Mullins. “Donations can be made directly to Feed the Need or individuals can gather sponsors and then video a fun snow activity such as a snowball contest in PJs or filling a small pool outdoors and jumping into it.”

Once again this year, “The Even Keel Committee,” a group of five women from South Portland, are planning to participate in this year’s Polar Dip event. Last year, members of the group took pledges for how long they could stay in the lake during the event. Despite the cold temperature, they remained in the water for 10 minutes and were instrumental in raising $4,000 in donations.

According to Peggy Armstrong, an Even Keel Committee member, the group of five swim in the ocean throughout the year which is ideal training for the Polar Dip event. Members hope to once again raise funds this year to help support “Feed the Need.”

Two heated trailers will be provided for the participants. Polar Dip participants are advised to pack oversized jackets, warm drinks and towels. It is advised to wear some type of water shoe but not Crocs. When standing on the bottom of the lake, the mud has a tendency to pull them off.

“We’re excited to have heated trailers donated this year for those participating,” Mullins said. All jumps are scheduled so participants will have full access to the trailers to store their belongings during their scheduled jump time.

For those interested in participating in this year’s Polar Dip, jumpers must register at Participants will be given a specific jump time from noon to 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for “Best Costumes” and “Largest Fundraisers” for the Polar Dip. <

Friday, January 14, 2022

Windham mother sets sights on winning Mrs. Maine Pageant

By Ed Pierce

Christina Erde will represent Windham in
the Mrs. Maine America competition to be
held in South Portland on April 3. She works
at Windham Primary School and also is a
waitress at Rose's Italian Restaurant.

Christina Erde believes in herself and hopes that her message of resilience will help win the crown during the 2022 Mrs. Maine America Pageant in April in South Portland.

Married and the mother of two children, Erde, 37, became interested in competing for the Mrs. Maine title following a discussion with a former state pageant winner.

“I met former Mrs. Maine 2017, Cynthia Peters, and she encouraged me to enter the pageant,” Erde said. “I have never competed in a pageant before but when she shared her experience and how much she enjoyed it and gained from it, I thought ‘You know what? I’m just gonna go for it!’ Two weeks after meeting her, I sent in an application and was awarded the title of Mrs. Windham to compete in the 2022 Mrs. Maine America Pageant.”

During the Mrs. Maine Pageant participants are rated by a panel of judges with 50 percent of scoring based upon an interview (25 percent being interview and 25 beauty), 25 percent swimsuit, and 25 percent evening gown.

“I grew up in Windham and attended Windham Christian Academy from kindergarten through my high school graduation in 2002. My family moved to Otisfield when I was 10 years old, but we continued to commute to Windham for school,” she said. “I attended Central Maine Community College where I studied culinary arts and restaurant management.”

She’s been married to Sam Erde for 16 years and the couple has two two boys, Colin, 10, and Noah, 8.

“I am part of the support staff at the Windham Primary School where I supervise lunch and recess. I also work part time on the weekend waitressing at Roses Italian Restaurant,” Erde said. “I began volunteering four years ago at the primary school when my oldest son was in kindergarten. I then became part of the staff the next year when he was in first grade. I have absolutely loved getting to know the children and families in our town through working at the school. I have also met many local folks as well through working at the restaurant too.”

According to Erde, she usually prefers to work behind the scenes, but feels that competing in the Mrs. Maine Pageant will help her to become more confident and appreciate herself for who she is.

“I saw this as a great opportunity for personal growth as well as a unique platform to promote mental health awareness, a cause that is very near and dear to my heart,” Erde said. “Four years ago, I was hospitalized after suffering a severe mental breakdown. It took me a long time to feel comfortable talking openly with others about my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I felt that if people knew I had a mental illness it would affect their view of who I am as a person. No one should ever have to feel this way. Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you are less than. If anything, it means you are strong. You are capable. You can live a fulfilling and meaningful life.”

She said that experience has made her resilient and determined to assist others in similar situations.

“Don’t be afraid to get help. I am so glad I did, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Erde said. “As I share my story with others, I hope to continue to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and give hope to those who may need it. I am an advocate for mental health and NAMI Maine. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine is dedicated to building better lives for the one in four Mainers who are affected by mental illness.”

She says that her family supports her desire to compete and win the state Mrs. Maine Pageant.

“I am so grateful to have my husband and boys by my side, cheering me on as well as my extended family and friends,” Erde said. “I am so humbled by the love and support I’ve received from the community as well.

The Mrs. Maine America pageant celebrates the achievements, poise, and personality of today’s married women. It is the official state preliminary for the National Mrs. America competition and will be held at the Double Tree Hotel in South Portland on April 3. If she wins the state title, she will compete in Las Vegas for the national title next summer.

“I am so thankful to have amazing sponsors who are supporting me financially or through their services. I wouldn’t be able to do this without their generosity and support,” Erde said. “I have loved getting to know the other contestants. It is so awesome to meet other women with such amazing stories. We come in all shapes and sizes with varying backgrounds. The comradery is great, and we are all rooting for each other. I have never once felt judged or mistreated. Our director, Deb Pronovost, is an incredible leader and wonderful coach. She is very professional and expects the best, yet she is also friendly and approachable.

As a girl growing up in Windham, Erde said that she used to watch the pageants on television but never thought she had what it takes to compete.

“I thought you had to be this Barbie doll with a perfect body and perfect hair,” she said. “There are so many pageants with different qualities and requirements. Some focus on beauty and fashion, others on personality and intelligence. I think over the years many pageants have become more balanced with their focus being more on the personality of who carries the crown than solely on looks and intelligence.” <

Tyler hoping voters send him back to Augusta this fall

Former State Rep. Tom Tyler of Windham will campaign 
for the Republican nomination for the Maine House District
24 seat to succeed Rep. Mark Bryant, a Democrat, who is
term limited. Tyler formerly represented Windham in the 
117th and 126th Maine Legislatures. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
By Ed Pierce

Tom Tyler knows that when it comes to serving as a state representative, experience matters.

Tyler, a Republican and a lifelong resident of Windham, has decided to campaign for the House District 24 seat currently held by Democrat Mark Bryant of Windham, who is term limited. He formerly represented Windham in the 117th and 126th Maine Legislatures and stepped aside in 2014 to help his business, Hidden Brook Associates, to grow and prosper.

Now retired from a long career in sales, Tyler is asking voters to send him back to Augusta where he can serve as a champion for the Windham community and bring common-sense solutions to difficult issues facing the state.

“There is indeed something to be said for experience,” Tyler said. “To represent Windham properly you need somebody up there who knows how to work the system so Windham and Southern Maine don’t lose out.”

If other challengers for the seat file papers, Tyler will be entered in a primary in June for the Republican nomination for the fall election.

He says that if he is eventually elected to represent District 24, his focus in Augusta will vary.

“In the 126th Legislature, I introduced a bill allowing for a child to testify outside of the courtroom,” Tyler said. “If elected, I’d like to continue some of the work that has been done to reform Maine’s Child Welfare System. I just don’t think we do a good job with that in the state of Maine.”

Other areas of interest to Tyler are making possible reforms to the state’s education system and finding new ways to retain great teachers and compensate them fairly.

“I also want to tap in to create ways to get businesses to come to Maine,” Tyler said. “I’d like to see more startups locate in Maine and help the students who graduate from the University of Maine to stay here. By creating a business-friendly environment in Maine, we can keep our young, educated college grads here.”

Lending a hand to Maine’s elderly residents is also a priority for Tyler.

“We have to find a way to have our elderly stay in their homes,” he said. “Whether it be by creating some sort of tax-incentive initiative to keep them there or something else, we need to do what we can for those who are facing having to give up their homes and moving to a nursing facility.”    

Besides his previous experience of serving as a state representative, Tyler knows Windham and he knows Maine very well.

“Having represented Windham before in Augusta, I know my way around,” he said. “Solving the big issues is one thing, but for me, the behind-the-scenes stuff of helping local residents who have a question or need assistance is the most gratifying.” 

He serves as president of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Tyler earned an associate’s degree from Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute in South Portland after graduating from Windham High School in 1966.

Married for 54 years to his high school sweetheart, Sandra, the couple has two children, James and Julie, and several grandchildren. Tyler also learned a great deal from his mother, who worked for the U.S. Post Office for more than 30 years. He’s been a deputy fire chief in Windham and volunteered as an assistant coach at Windham High and at his church and with the Boys Scouts.

“At heart I really am a conservationist and truly believe in the Lands for Maine’s Future Program,” Tyler said. “We have such a beautiful state and one of the safest states to live in too. Maine has a lot to offer people and I’d sincerely like to help. I have no problem sitting down with the other party to get things done in a bipartisan way.”  < 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Windham to weigh options to alleviate Route 302 corridor traffic congestion

The Windham Town Council will vote on adopting the North
Windham Moves Traffic Study during a meeting on Tuesday
evening. The study recommends creating three connector
roads to alleviate congestion and improve mobility and 
safety along the Route 302 corridor in North Windham, 
depending upon available funding.
By Ed Pierce

After decades of having traffic in North Windham grow to the point of gridlock and daily congestion, the rubber is about to hit the road for Windham Town Council members seeking a solution to a longstanding problem.

On Tuesday, councilors will vote to adopt the final report of the North Windham Moves, Regional Mobility, Local Access Transportation Planning and Feasibility Study.  Set up last year as a joint venture between the Town of Windham and the Maine Department of Transportation, the study was conducted by Gorrill Palmer and
North Star Planning and is intended to explore how to alleviate congestion and improve safety and mobility in North Windham.

The study focused specifically on making transportation improvements along Route 302 in North Windham area. It examined the feasibility of creating local connector roads, access management, and implementing corridor and intersection improvements for all forms of transportation using the area.

Prior studies dating back to the 1960s have recommended pedestrian, landscaping, and lighting improvements as well as intersection and signal operational improvements. Some of those recommendations were adopted through the years, but heavy traffic during peak travel times continues to cause congestion, motorist delays and accidents.

The study examined building three new local connector roads to improve local access and to address some of the deficiencies along Route 302.

Concept plans and cost estimates for each alternative were generated during the study and evaluators determined that all three proposed connector roads coupled with improvements to the existing roadways will improve local access, regional mobility, corridor safety and will improve bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in North Windham.

The study follows numerous recent efforts to examine traffic problems experienced in North Windham such as a Service Road Study (2007);  Lakes Region Transit Service Study (2011); 21st Century Downtown Plan (2013); Multi-Modal Route 302 Corridor Plan (2013); Lakes Region Bus Service Assessment (2014); Town of Windham Complete Streets Policy (2014); and the Town of Windham Comprehensive Plan (2017).

Last fall, representatives of Gorrill Palmer and North Star Planning said this study enhances and builds off the good ideas from the prior studies and developed recommendations that can be supported by the public, the town council, and the Maine DOT.

Focusing on the area around and north of Boody’s Corner because of its higher intensity of commercial development, higher traffic volumes, increased levels of congestion, and a higher level of safety concerns, the study only weighed creation of connector roads for locations north of Route 35 and Route 115 and only considered improvements to Route 302 from the River Road intersection up to the Whites Bridge Road intersection.

Major roads looked at in the study were widened in the past to handle higher overall traffic volumes. It details that although there are a few smaller public and private local roads that exist in the area, these  are often dead-end roads or lack the interconnections to make them valuable components of an overall
system beyond the limited direct property access they provide.

Because of that fact, the report indicates that even most of the short car trips in North Windham involve driving on Route 302 or other major streets like Abby Road and Northwood Drive, and on private roads like Franklin Drive, Veterans Memorial Drive, Sandbar Road, Amato Drive, and Trails End Road.

The study recommends that the town look at creating three distinct connector roads.

The East Connector Road would build a roadway beginning at the eastern terminal of Franklin Drive and extending southerly to Route 115. Franklin Drive will also be reconstructed and would serve as a continuation of the East Connector Road. The combined length of this option is about 5,100 feet and would include intersection connections with Veterans Memorial Drive, Sandbar Road and a connection to a realigned Sabbady Point Road.

The proposed Middle Connector Road would build a local roadway beginning at the Franklin Drive and Route 302 intersection and extend southwesterly to Landing Road. The length of this option would be about 700 feet, and it includes intersection connections with Route 302 and Landing Road. This new connector road intersection with Landing Road would not have a traffic signal but would include geometric improvements including turn lanes.

A proposed West Connector Road would build a local roadway beginning at the northerly terminal of Manchester Road and extend northerly to Whites Bridge Road. In this project, Manchester Road would also be reconstructed and will serve as a continuation of the West Connector Road. The combined length of this option would be about 5,800 feet and includes intersection connections with Landing Road, Amato Drive, and Trails End Road. The new connector road intersection with Whites Bridge Road would not have a signal and includes geometric improvements including turn lanes. The existing intersection between Manchester Road and Route 35 will remain unsignalized but will receive geometric improvements under the proposal.

The report says that these connector roads are not intended to serve as bypass routes for regional traffic instead they are intended for local use and purpose. It suggests that when built, these local connector roads would provide access to commercial and residential properties within the area and serve as relief roads from the congested Route 302 corridor.

Report estimates include a cost of $6.4 million to build a West Connector Road, $5.6 million to build an East Connector Road, and $2.1 million to build a Middle Connector Road.

The study and subsequent final report also examined potential property impacts for each connector road option, with total right of way and property acquisition costs amounting to about $2.692 million.

Adoption of the study does not mean that local, state or federal funding would be available for any of these proposals, but it would give the public an indication about how the council intends to address traffic issues moving forward. <

Plummer to seek return to Maine State Senate

By Ed Pierce

A familiar face has thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Bill Diamond in representing Windham in the Maine State Senate.

Republican Gary Plummer has announced his intention to campaign for Windham’s District 26 Senate seat this fall to replace incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Diamond, who is term limited. Plummer has extensive experience serving in the Maine Legislature, including as a state representative and a state senator.

Former State Rep. and State Sen. Gary Plummer, a Republican,
will seek Windham's District 26 State Senate seat this fall, in
an election to replace Sen. Bill Diamond, who is term limited.
“A year ago, I didn’t want to run, I’m retired,” Plummer said. “My wife told me I needed to run for Maine Senate. I can bring something there, which is experience. I know the system and I know the people. Deciding to run has been a slow process for me, but I can do it and I’m in it to win.”

A 1964 graduate of Windham High School, Plummer says he first became interested in politics while attending Dirigo Boys State as a high school junior in 1963. After graduation, he went on to earn a degree in education from Gorham State Teachers College and spent 13 years teaching in Standish before joining Manchester School as an elementary school teacher in 1982.

Plummer was asked by his former biology teacher at Windham High, Bob Hunt, to help serve on a committee examining if Windham should establish its own police force in the mid-1970s and it gave him insight into the workings of town government.

That knowledge expanded further when a referendum converting Windham government to the Council-Town Manager system was passed by voters. Hunt suggested to Plummer that he should run for town council, and he was elected to a council seat in November 1974.

“I loved being a town councilor,” Plummer said. “I liked building and creating the town government we know today. I cast the deciding vote breaking a 3-3 tie to create the Windham Police Department. But after serving eight years on the council things became more routine and the excitement of doing something new started to go away.”

He then ran for Cumberland County Commission and was elected for several four-year terms as a county commissioner.

“It was an enjoyable experience, and I learned a great deal about public safety,” Plummer said. “During my time as a commissioner, we helped transition the position of corrections officer to a career rather than just be a stepping stone to other law enforcement positions.”

His friend, State Rep. David Tobin of Windham, informed Plummer that he would not be running for re-election and Plummer, who had retired as a teacher by then, campaigned and won election as State Representative for Windham in 2004, serving eight years in that role before running and serving one term as Windham’s state senator from 2012 to 2014.

“It was an honor I never took lightly,” Plummer said. “It was a steep learning curve at first. Going from dealing with issues in town government to the politics in Augusta was challenging. My first term was an eye-opening experience. I didn’t expect everything to be so political. But I learned to work with people to get things done.”

Plummer says his willingness to work with others to accomplish legislation that benefits the residents of Windham and everyone in Maine is needed in Augusta and having someone with experience is critical right now.

“I can work with just about everyone,” Plummer said.

District 26 has been redrawn by the Maine Legislature and now encompasses Casco, Frye Island, Windham, Raymond, and now a portion of Westbrook. Currently no other challengers have stepped forward to run for the Republican nomination for the state senate seat, but if there is, a primary election will be conducted in June.

He lives in Windham with his wife Betty in a home his grandparents built on land they bought in 1910. His first wife died and between them, he and Betty have four children, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

His interests include antique automobiles and Plummer is the proud owner of 1965 Ford Mustang and a 1949 Ford F-150 pickup truck, close to the one he learned to drive on as a teen in his father’s hayfield.

“I like just about anything regarding history,” he said. “I volunteer with the Windham Historical Society and helped to establish the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Program.”

Plummer said that he has spoken with Diamond about continuing to champion child welfare issues in the state and if elected, he would also focus on resolving domestic violence issues in Maine.

“A lot needs to be done,” he said. “I am also looking to help address the drug issues in our state and making sure the right individuals are chosen to serve as school resource officers.” <