Town getting restless as Freeport man enters 20th year of construction on schooner made from recycled materials
FREEPORT, Maine — Down a quiet, narrow dirt path off Flying Point Road, behind a thin wall of trees, hides a carefully constructed, massive pile of junk.
At least it used to be junk. Now it's Harold Arndt's dream boat, a 113-foot-long, steel, two-masted schooner called Island Rover, built completely of recycled materials.
"It'll have all the comforts of home, all previously owned," Arndt said as he walked through the 75 percent completed boat last week, pointing out where the full-size kitchen, sleeping quarters, research laboratory and dining hall (or "people's room") will be when it's all finished.
Arndt, president of the Island Rover Foundation, a nonprofit organization that oversees the construction and eventual operation of the schooner, knows the boat by heart. He sees all the yet-to-be built amenities where others only see dimly lit steel ribs curving up the insides of the massive steel hull.
But now, just short of the 20th anniversary of the start of the project, Arndt may be forced to make a decision that puts the ship's future at risk.
On Aug. 7, the Town Council will vote on a consent agreement with the foundation that will determine whether Arndt and his team will be able to continue working on the boat at its current location.
Arndt started building the boat as a private project in the early 1990s, but said he decided to start a foundation in 2000 to help fund the project and use it as an educational platform. The shift to nonprofit status caused the construction to go out of compliance with zoning laws in the residential neighborhood.
Under the law, the foundation, technically a corporation, cannot build a boat in that neighborhood. The agreement grants the foundation the ability to bypass those laws with the stipulation that the project be completed within a specific time frame.