Gambling On An Island

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“If you want to save a piece of history and preserve a Maine island of natural beauty,” commented the Maine Times, “you can do one of three things: be born a millionaire and buy it outright; interest a conservation group or foundation in buying it, and hope that they will respond in time to save it … or take a king-size gamble like going into debt to raise a down payment and working like mad to raise the balance from other conservationists you know must be out there somewhere …”

Last March, three mmmillionaires in Kennebunkport took the king-size gamble when they heard that Vaughn ‘s Island, thirty-five acres of unspoiled sand, salt marsh, and pine just off the Maine coast, had a developer ready to buy. Alexander B. Brook, Sterling Dow III, and Alexander Armentrout formed a trust binding them to preserve the island for the people of Maine and took an option on the $60,000 property. A donor put up collateral for a bank loan for the down payment, and the three trustees obligated themselves to pay $10,000 every six months until the $60,000 was paid off. As interest fees and other expenses mounted, including an $18,000 out-of-court settlement with the developer, what at first had seemed a not too impossible task of raising $10,000 by September 14 quickly became a $45,000 anxiety. Funds were raised by an auction and a Labor Day lobster bake. “But what really brings in the money, ” says Mr. Brook, who is editor-publisher of the York County Coast Star, “is personal letters to local people we know and particularly personal visits. They take time, but they bring it in.” The Vaughn‘s Island Preservation Trust got its $45,000. “It shows you people will respond,” says Brook. March 14 is due day for their next $10,000 plus $1,000 interest on outstanding notes.