GRAY – The Egypt Road Rock – a makeshift community billboard and beloved sight of many Lakes Region drivers and passengers – was, one way or another, destined for destruction, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.

During its decades of use, the massive roadside rock in Gray, which the department crushed on June 4 in preparation for an Egypt Road paving project, was painted over with an ever-changing roster of enthusiastic announcements – including graduations, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.

In the days following the rock’s removal, hundreds of Lakes Region residents took to Facebook to both denounce the decision and mourn their lost landmark. A commemorative group, “Painted Rock in Gray…Rocks On!!!” has attracted more than 600 members.

“Facebook posts are in the hundreds over the past two, three days since its demise,” said Sharon Young of Gray. “Nobody had been able to come up with a logical reason to spend state funds destroying something so sentimental to so many.”

On Facebook, one commenter recalled memories of seeing the rock while riding in the back of a truck on the way to his grandfather’s camp. Another commenter said he had collected some of the crushed remains. Another said that writing on the rock was on their bucket list. One commenter said he had nearly crashed into the rock on a night when his headlights were turned off.

Despite the online criticism, department spokesman Ted Talbot reaffirmed the state’s decision to destroy the rock.

“In hindsight, we should have removed it long ago,” Talbot said.

Talbot said that the department’s regional manager, John Kennell, had decided to remove the rock for a variety of reasons. The state plans to repave the road this summer, Talbot said. Although the state is not widening the road, he said, the rock made it difficult to complete the paving. Talbot said that the department had successfully paved the road in the past decade without moving the rock.

Talbot said that the department had received comments indicating that snowplows had trouble clearing the area because of the rock. He also said there had been car accidents in the area, although he was not aware of any involving the rock.

The rock would have been removed eventually, Talbot said.

“If we ever need to reconstruct that road, and we will, that rock would have been removed then, if not now,” Talbot said. “When you reconstruct a road, you’re tearing up the entire road, along with curb improvements, occasionally sidewalk improvements, drainage, catch basins, and if any culverts are in the area. Many considerations are in play when you fully reconstruct the road.”

The rock was located near the Raymond line. Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana said that the town of Gray did not participate in the project. According to Talbot, the project was funded exclusively out of the department’s routine maintenance operations budget. Talbot said that the state did not consult with any neighboring property owners prior to the June 4 removal.

“It’s within our right of way, and we felt out of safety reasons and maintenance reasons we needed to remove that obstacle,” Talbot said.

Kim Shelley, a resident of Fran Circle in Gray, said she remembers seeing rock paintings celebrating an individual’s return home or mourning a lost loved one.

“Being a local person, you would see, ‘Welcome home, Megan,’ and you knew exactly who it was,” Shelley said.

Shelley’s step-grandson, Riley LaCroix, commemorated his parents’ wedding by spray-painting their anniversary date on the rock.

Sharon Young, who lives on Gore Road in Gray, said that the rock holds sentimental value for her family, as well. When her granddaughter drives by the rock, Young said, it’s a sign that grandma’s home is fast approaching.

“We’ve driven by a million times, and every time you go by it’s something different,” Young said, adding that she heard the paint on the rock was three inches thick at the time of removal.

Young said she felt “surprise” and “complete sadness” when she saw that the rock was gone. She believes that if the department had provided notice of its plans, residents could have paid for it to be moved back from the road and preserved.

“The biggest thing was the shock of it,” Young said. “There was no notice that it was going to happen so people could have gotten together and tried to do something to avert it.”

According to Shelley, Scott Doyle of New Gloucester has started a campaign to raise $3,000 toward a replacement rock. It would likely be placed at a greater distance from the road than its predecessor, she said.

Talbot said that the department has not received any “direct” complaints about the rock’s removal. On June 4, as construction workers prepared to haul away the rock’s remains, several mourners requested a piece for posterity.

“I know one looked to be a 9-year-old boy who wanted a piece,” Talbot said. “We were happy to oblige.”

A wide range of messages adorned the Egypt Road Rock until June 4 when the state crushed the rock for roadway repaving.  This is all that is left of the Egypt Road Rock. 

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