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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 28, 2014
More than a decade in the making
Nonprofit CHI in final stages of purchase for 30 acres atop Caterpillar Hill

The Gallery at Caterpillar Hill

The Gallery at Caterpillar Hill, along with 30 acres stretching to Walker Pond, is in the final stages of negotiations for purchase by the non-profit Caterpillar Hill Initiative. The purchase has been more than a decade in the making.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Howard

by Faith DeAmbrose

Since 2003, the Caterpillar Hill Initiative has sought to purchase a large parcel of land on top of Caterpillar Hill. With an expansive vista matched by few others along the Maine Coast, the thought of development initially drove the nonprofit to form. From that, an idea to create a center for the arts and education grew. The idea began to slowly take shape, and after more than 11 years of dreaming about what a future might look like, the property is now in the final stages of negotiation, with a down payment soon to be on its way to the seller.

If all goes as planned, said CHI President Dylan Howard, the nonprofit will take control of 30 acres of land extending from Caterpillar Hill Road all the way to Walker Pond for a price of $740,000. The land will be purchased with the help of Equity Trust, a nonprofit that aims to “promote equity in the world by changing the way people think about and hold property,” according to its website. Equity Trust will provide a $100,000 loan for the down payment and funds to complete an amphitheater fundraising project. The loan will be paid back over time, according to Howard.

CHI has also received funding and resources from the United Nations under its Miracle Corners of the World program. “Caterpillar Hill is now a ‘Miracle Corner,’” said Howard.

The property owner, Basil Ladd, will hold the mortgage to the property, and monthly payments will be made to Ladd and Equity Trust going forward. “We have the funds for the down payment,” said Howard, adding that it is only the beginning.

Over the past two years, work on the project has been done in earnest. Concept plans have been drawn, a large fundraising project—for the construction of a 48-foot diameter mandala-like amphitheater—has begun, and last September, area residents enjoyed the first live outdoor concert at the site by Noel Paul Stookey.

The Gallery at Caterpillar Hill, which sits at the top of the hill, will remain, but with an entirely different mission, said Howard. Kelly Mitchell, who has operated the gallery since 2000 is in the process of legally transferring ownership of the business to CHI, and while it will continue to be a gallery showing landscape art by area artists, half the proceeds from the sales will benefit the work of the nonprofit. Mitchell will soon step down from the CHI board of directors, but will be the Director of Art next summer.

There also are big plans for the rest of the property, Howard said in a recent interview. A derelict building on the property will be demolished by next spring, which will open up the view even more. A partnership with Project Nature Connect will establish an accredited program in “ecopsychology,” and work is being done to stimulate the creative economy and Eco-tourism through local partnerships with area schools and organizations.

Howard is hoping that once the property is in hand, the community will be more inclined to support future fundraising efforts and to take an active interest in the formation of the project and its construction. CHI’s board of directors is looking for a few new members, as well as some volunteers to spearhead various fundraising projects.

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