State transportation workers have posted new road signs in Whitefield, urging drivers to be aware that they are sharing the road with horse-drawn buggies.
The signs are going up as several Amish families, who bought property in Whitefield and Jefferson over the last several months, are arriving from New York state and Kentucky to move into their new homes.
The Amish are known for their distinctive dark clothes and rejection of most modern technologies, including cars and trucks. Their primary mode of local transportation is horse and buggy.
At the beginning of April, Tony Marple, chairman of the Whitefield Board of Selectmen, drove around his town with Department of Transportation workers to see where the state’s signs had been posted.
“We found one by Damariscotta Lake and one down by the Whitefield-Alna line on Route 218,” Marple said. Those are likely to be moved, as they are far from where the Amish families live.
Marple said the town might install signs on some town roads as well.
“We don’t know yet what their patterns of travel will be,” Marple said.
For now, the signs will alert drivers in the area of the loop of routes 218, 126, 215 and 32.
Along with the signs, Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett said he plans an awareness campaign to encourage people to pay attention to who is using the road.
“Horses and buggies have as much right on the roads as vehicles,” Brackett said, “and the rules apply to them as well.”
Brackett said his department will post information on its Facebook page, and it also will post some digital signs to remind drivers to be careful.
“Anything we can do to heighten awareness we will do,” he said.
The sheriff’s office has fielded two complaints – one from a person who drove by a buggy after dark and didn’t think its reflector was sufficient, and another from a driver concerned that three children were walking abreast on the side of the road.
That’s a safety concern, the sheriff said – like roads in many other rural Maine towns, Whitefield’s roads have few if any sidewalks.
Brackett said the Amish community has been wonderful to work with, and he plans to make sure that their buggies comply with visibility standards in state law.
Pat and Robin Chase of Whitefield have hosted a number of Amish who have been looking at property in the area and getting it ready to move into. The Chases, who have a farm of their own, have said they want to see the farmland in their town remain.
Several Amish communities have been established elsewhere in the state – in Fort Fairfield, Sherman, Smyrna and Unity. The Whitefield community is their southernmost settlement in Maine.
Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at: