It is very sad news that I have to pass on that our fellow WhiteBlaze member "Weary" has passed on. Here is an article by Jym St. Pierre about Weary.
Robert Cummings of Phippsburg died Thursday, January 21, at age 86.
Born in Bath, Maine, Bob Cummings was a 1958 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Journalism, where he worked part-time as a reporter for the Champaign-Urbana Courier. After returning to Maine he worked briefly in the Machias Bureau of the Bangor Daily News before joining the staff of the Bath Times. Later he worked at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram for many years.
Cummings covered many environmental topics during his journalism career, but undoubtedly his biggest boot print on history will be his landmark work, which helped lead to the recovery by Maine of more than 400,000 acres of forgotten public lots.
When townships were laid out in the District of Maine, then part of Massachusetts, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, approximately 1,000 acres were set aside for public uses in each future community. Around 1870, paper companies and other large landowners in Maine acquired the one-time right to log those public lots in many of the townships in northern Maine that were never organized into towns. The companies came to believe they owned the cutting rights in perpetuity. In fact, many acted as if they owned the land outright.
Beginning in March 1972, Bob Cummings wrote dozens of articles on Maine's "lost" public lots. The publicity brought attention to the issue and helped lead to a lawsuit that resulted a decade later in the State recovering nearly a half million acres. The legal decision, along with earlier out of court settlements with private landowners, culminated in consolidation of scattered public lots into a highly regarded system of public reserved lands managed for multiple use, including recreation, habitat protection and sustainable forestry.
Today, we cherish Maine's public lands, but it was not always so. In 2004, Cummings reflected to a colleague: "Most found the idea that the state could misplace 400,000 acres of land absurd. Both my editors and many readers treated the story as almost a joke. None of the major environmental groups paid any attention. The NRCM board debated the public lots and concluded it wasn't an environmental issue. Audubon as near as I can tell ignored the issue entirely. My role was to keep the story alive until the legal and political processes could take notice and respond."
During his more than three-decade newspaper career in Maine, Cummings also covered many other major conservation and environmental issues, including proposals for oil refineries on the coast, clearcutting in the North Woods, and plans for massive dams on the Penobscot and St. John Rivers. He introduced thousands to hiking trails at the Cutler Preserve in Washington County, canoe trips on the Allagash, winter adventures up Katahdin, and to countless other places in the Maine outdoors.
He was criticized for writing stories that called attention to the beauty of the seven peaks of Bigelow Mountain, but the publicity helped put the referendum that snatched the mountain from the hands of developers over the top. Today, rather than another mountain blanketed with condos, outdoor enthusiasts and critters of many species can enjoy the Bigelow Preserve as a wild sanctuary.
Cummings was also instrumental in other conservation initiatives. For instance, he founded the Phippsburg Land Trust in the 1970s and served on its board of directors for years. The land trust has protected hundreds of acres and has developed many miles of trails. Cummings said his goal was to establish "walking preserves in each section of Phippsburg." He served on the committee that dreamed up the Land for Maine’s Future Program in the 1980s and during the Angus King Administration in the late 1990s he sat on the State's Land Acquisition Priorities Committee. In addition, he edited the newsletter of the Maine Association of Conservation Commissions for years.
In 1981, Cummings published a book on energy conservation entitled "Housewarming." Sales were mediocre. He later said that "When I ran unsuccessfully for the state senate from Sagadahoc County in 1992, I bought the 8,000 unsold copies for 10 cents each and gave them away door to door. I now buy them back for 50 cents when they show up at the Bath and Brunswick library sales, so I have a few to give away a second time."
In 1993, two years after he retired from journalism, Cummings took a train from Boston to Georgia and spent six months walking home to Maine covering most of the 2,170 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He also walked into leadership roles at several Appalachian Trail organizations, including the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, and the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, which he helped to create. He maintained several miles of the Appalachian Trail system on Whitecap Mountain for decades.
Over the years, Bob Cummings earned much recognition for his trail blazing environmental journalism. Bob was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize. The Maine Press Association named him journalist of the year in 1978. He earned the Down East Environmental Award in 1981, and in 2004 he received a Distinguished Service Award from the Appalachian Mountain Club. In 2005, RESTORE: The North Woods presented him with a Restoration Leadership Award. Most recently, in October 2015, Cummings received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Bob Cummings is survived by Mary Ellen Cummings, his wife of 52 years, and his three children, Brenda, Stephen, and Charles.