When Friends of Baxter State Park President Barbara Bentley learned two weeks ago that the privately owned parcel beside Katahdin Lake would be given to Baxter State Park, she turned to the one person she thought could truly understand the nature of this unusual place.

Maine watercolorist Evelyn Dunphy has painted there countless times over the course of a decade, and even fought for Katahdin Lake to be preserved in 2006. So when the Friends learned Huber Resources Corp. was giving the 143 acres around Church’s Beach to the park, Bentley called Dunphy to ask for her help.

The artist went right into her studio to paint the view of Katahdin from that parcel, to give the landowners as a token of thanks.

“Evelyn has painted all seasons there. She was the visiting artist to the park. She is a natural person, the artist who I would go to with an idea of what to give,” Bentley said. “(Gov. Percival) Baxter struggled to buy 28 parcels and then to give them to the state. That this parcel is given as an unrestricted gift, it’s really an extraordinary thing.”

The missing piece to Baxter State Park’s Katahdin Lake section is small, but it’s a stunning, historic and aesthetically significant 143 acres. The lakefront spot was first made famous by Frederic Church in 1850 when the American landscape painter came to Mount Katahdin.

Today few know it as intimately as Dunphy.

Since 2000, she has created a collection of Katahdin watercolors that now hang on walls around the country.

“The second I saw Katahdin for the first time, what an impact it had on me. I painted it every year since. By the time the Katahdin Lake campaign came along I was contacted by the Department of Conservation, because really I had a collection of Katahdin paintings. The timing was amazing,” Dunphy said.

She donated several paintings to give to donors in the Katahdin Lake campaign. She traveled to New York City and Boston to share her love of Katahdin Lake with them. In the end, the Trust For Public Land raised $14 million to preserve the area for Baxter State Park.

For Dunphy, of West Bath, the year-long effort led by the trust was a powerful journey, and definitely a calling.

“It was in danger of being clear cut or developed. When you realize those things could happen, it really lights a fire. I don’t think I really thought my voice could have an impact, it never occurred to me that could happen.

“What I found out was my work could speak for me,” said Dunphy, who was later given the trust’s People’s Choice Award for conservation.

Now the famous Katahdin Lake beach that is treasured in the art world is saved. And Dunphy is relieved this wild, remote location that affords the opportunity for a solitary experience with Katahdin is there for all to enjoy.

“Really the views from Katahdin Lake are unsurpassed. There is so much of the park I haven’t seen, but I’ve been to a few places. It’s pretty hard to beat the Katahdin Lake views. And Church’s Beach is really significant. (In Church’s) sketches and his painting, it is recognizable that he did them from there,” Dunphy said. “The artistic significance to that lake is just phenomenal. It has great significance for American art and Maine art.”

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