Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby

Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby was born in Phillips, Maine on Nov. 10, 1854, and died one day after her 92nd birthday on Nov. 11, 1946. She is buried at the Strong Village Cemetery at the base of Lambert Hill Road. Local volunteers want to build a 35-mile trail across western Maine named for Crosby.

AVON – Maine’s most famous sportswoman once hiked these woods and, if everything goes according to plans, that experience may once again be available to everyone.

Phillips native Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, a late 18th-century six-foot-tall superwoman of the woods, was Maine’s first registered guide, the only documented shooter of caribou in Maine, a fly-fisher extraordinaire who wrote, lectured and demonstrated her talents in the wild. Her impact propelled Maine as “The Nation’s Playground,” (a term she coined), which, in turn, has brought millions of outdoor recreational enthusiasts to the state over the decades.

And she learned to do all of this in western Maine.

To honor Crosby and provide a walk in the woods she once frequented, from Strong to Oquossoc, where she learned to fly fish and hunt, the local nonprofit, volunteer organizations, High Peaks Alliance and the Sandy River Land Trust, are holding a trail project kickoff event 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18 at the Avon Town Hall.

Interested community members are encouraged to attend and learn more about the planning stages and building of a new 35-mile Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby Trail across western Maine’s High Peaks Region and enjoy a free spaghetti dinner provided by the hosting groups.

The trail project is getting a big boost from a grant that provides for AmeriCorps volunteer Ben Godsoe to work for a year on the planning, mapping and building start up of Crosby’s walk across western Maine.

In addition, the Mt. Abram High School Class of 2010 will be collecting contributions of canned food items at the dinner as their senior class community service project.

The trail building and food donation collection are community service projects that celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In this area, King’s “Day of Service” consists of volunteer help that will continue through the year. Volunteers will help the local food pantry restock its shelves and assist in the trail’s construction.

Godsoe, who grew up in Phillips, has returned as an AmeriCorps volunteer who will be working with the Maine Conservation Corps when trail building begins and in the planning stages with Stephen Engle, director of the Center for Community GIS in Farmington when working on the GPS mapping that will be crucial to the project.

Among the groups interested in this project are the Rangeley Area Guides’ Association. One idea, said Kirsten Brown Burbank, board member and treasurer of the SRLT, is to start the footpath at both ends at the same time, in Oquossoc and Strong, then work towards meeting in the middle as land use permission is obtained.

“It may mean using existing paths, old railroad beds, getting easements or individual permission to cross; we’d like to be able to trace the footpath Crosby used,” Burbank said. The paths fit neatly into both the High Peaks Alliance and the SRLT missions of preservation efforts, public access, and land stewardship, among the organizations’ ongoing work.

“If we can achieve just 5 miles of the trail the first year that would be great,” said Burbank, who was an AmeriCorps volunteer working in the MSAD 58 schools 10 years ago. “It’s a big idea and we’re very excited about it.”

By Bobbie Hanstein Daily BullDog

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