June 5, 2011

A fitting tribute to a local legend

A trail honoring Cornelia 'Fly Rod' Crosby is growing in Maine's Rangeley Lakes region.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

RANGELEY - Sometimes big stuff happens through grass-roots efforts, like the 1,400-mile International Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Canada, or the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail that connects New York with Maine.

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Ben Godsoe of the High Peaks Alliance land trust is leading an effort to build a 45-mile trail between Strong and Oquossoc that marks the places where Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby fished and worked. Here, he stands beside Crosby’s grave at the start of the trail in Strong.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Cornelia Crosby helped build Her Lady of the Lakes church in Oquossoc.

Additional Photos Below

Both came out of big dreams and permission-based trails.

The folks at High Peaks Alliance in Farmington think they can do the same thing.

They're working on a 45-mile permission-based historic trail that would connect five western Maine communities and showcase their mountain region. The trail also would teach people about a local fishing legend, Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby.

The 45-mile trail envisioned would wind through Strong, Phillips, Madrid and Rangeley, where it would become a water trail connecting to Oquossoc. The entire trail is fashioned around the historic places where Crosby's life unfolded.

"The whole landscape of her life, that will be the trail," said Ben Godsoe, a member of High Peaks Alliance and the project director.

Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby was the first Registered Maine Guide and led sportsmen in the Rangeley region at the turn of the last century. She marketed Maine at sportsmen shows in Boston and New York City, the same way guides do today. But she was the first to draw them to Maine.

"We wanted a scenic hiking trail. It's to help economic development, to help people understand the area and its history, which is what she did," said Bud Godsoe of Madrid, Ben's father and the mastermind behind the trail.

The members of High Peaks Alliance hope to stretch the 45-mile trail from Strong, where Crosby is buried, to Phillips, where she lived, and on to Rangeley, the region she helped make famous. The trail will conclude with canoe trip across Rangeley Lake to Oquossoc, where she helped build Her Lady of the Lakes church in 1908, after she converted to Catholicism.

"I think it's a great idea. It adds more of a story to the area, and it's such a great story," said Kate Williams, executive director of the 10-year-old Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

"She was the first Registered Maine Guide. She's a strong, interesting woman. Definitely when we mention her in our presentations, it captures peoples' interest."

In 2002, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail also arose from the work of a nonprofit trying to tell a historic story across a landscape.

Today, the 740-mile canoe trail traces the route taken by Native Americans from upstate New York to Fort Kent, with 55 miles worth of portages and campsites open to the public.

The Fly Rod Crosby Trail is similar and very achievable, said Williams in Waitsfield, Vt.

In Strong, where the Fly Rod Crosby trail will begin, Crosby's tombstone tells of a life long passed.

Beside the Sandy River outside Phillips, the Railroad Museum tells the story of the passenger trains that brought fishermen to the region in Crosby's time.

In Rangeley, the famous riverbanks were her frequent stops.

And in Oquossoc, Crosby has a display in the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum.

The classic photo of "Fly Rod" posing in a skirt and hat with her split-bamboo rode is known nationwide in fishing circles, said Katherine McBrien, a curator at the Maine State Museum.

"I know that we get requests for her photograph all the time. It is the most widely requested photograph, that portrait of her," McBrien said.

The trail that will honor her is expected to take five years to create, Godsoe said. After two years of work, there will be roughly 11 miles built by this summer, with a kiosk in Phillips, Ben Godsoe said.

As it becomes known, it is expected to draw fishermen, hikers and many more.

"Our research indicates people are interested in heritage travel, to have an experiential opportunity to learn about a time or period of time," said Williams of the canoe trail. "And the overlay of her story in western Maine just adds to the (outdoor) allure and opportunity there."

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

 

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Additional Photos

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The Fly Rod Crosby Trail between Strong and Oquossoc will end at Rangeley Lake. The trail is expected to take five years to create. By this summer, roughly 11 miles will be complete.

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Fly Rod Crosby grew up in this neighborhood in Phillips. The historical society building on the left will be part of the trail.

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