SKOWHEGAN — For Jeff McCabe, executive director of Lake George Regional Park, this year’s annual winter carnival and ice fishing derby on Saturday will be bittersweet because it will be his last.

McCabe, 38, park director since 2007, will step down this year to become a community outreach coordinator in Maine for the nonprofit Northern Forest Canoe Trail, of Waitsfield, Vermont.

“This is my last year doing the carnival; it’s been a great run,” he said of his nine years at the park. “I think the support of staff and volunteers is what makes this happen to get kids outside for winter activities.”

McCabe, originally from Arlington, Massachusetts, graduated from Unity College in 2000 with a degree in environmental education. For five years he was executive director of Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District. In that capacity, he traveled the state working on conservation and environmental issues as they relate to water quality and soil erosion.

He took over as park director in December 2006 when Nancy Warren retired.

“The legacy of Lake George is pretty inspiring,” McCabe said in 2007, noting its history as a youth camp — Camp Modin — for years before the park was established in 1993.

The state bought the land and leased it to operators of the park, which straddles the Skowhegan-Canaan line. The park is leased to both towns and run by a nonprofit group, Lake George Corp. The park, which survives on donations, fundraisers and gate fees, also is helped by extensive volunteer and internship programs, according to McCabe.

Including land purchased in 2002 with money from the Land for Maine’s Future program and foundation grants, the park is now a 320-acre destination with swimming beaches, boat launches, hiking trails and miles of cross-country ski trails.

McCabe said the Lake George board of directors is looking at hiring someone to take his place, first as an assistant to park ranger Derek Ellis this summer, and possibly hiring a new director as the year progresses.

McCabe, D-Skowhegan, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008. The term-limited House majority leader recently announced his bid to run for the Senate seat now held by Rodney Whittemore, a Republican from Skowhegan.

Fair weather with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark are predicted to greet visitors Saturday at the 24th annual winter carnival and ice fishing derby.

And there is plenty of ice on the lake, despite an unseasonably warm winter so far, McCabe said.

“I think this year a lot of folks were concerned about the ice,” McCabe said. “Over the weekend we had 12 or 13 inches of ice on the lake, so that’s great.”

The official start time for the fishing derby is 6 a.m. Saturday, but participants can register from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and again on Saturday.

“Watch for the light in the shack,” said park ranger Derek Ellis, noting that when the light in the derby fishing shack near the boat launch is on, that means anglers can pick up their entry tickets. The derby fee is $5, which makes participants eligible for door prize and derby prizes. The derby ends at 3 p.m. There also is a 50/50 raffle and a children’s door prize.

First- and second-place winners in the derby will be announced for trout, pickerel, bass, white perch and yellow perch.

“Come early, because parking goes fast,” Ellis said.

Ellis, 43, of Skowhegan, was hired as park ranger in August 2013. He took over for Bob Hubbard, the original park ranger, who was hired when Camp Modin moved to Belgrade Lakes and the state acquired the park.

McCabe said 100 to 200 people register annually for the ice fishing derby, while — depending on the weather — 1,000 people visit the park at some point during the day.

Once of the biggest attractions is the Sled Box Derby Race, in which children bring homemade cardboard boxes fashioned into snow sleds to race for prizes.

Registration begins at 10 a.m. and judging starts at 10:30 a.m. Awards will be given for best crash, most creative, best looking and longest sled ride. The rules note that entries must be cardboard boxes, with no skis or sleds.

McCabe said a local contractor will come with a bucket loader to pile snow for a sledding ramp.

“Come Friday, we’re going to be creating a sledding hill to create a track to make sure that the kids have a hill to use their sleds and head down the hill,” McCabe said. “It’s attracted over 100 children the last few years. It’s a big draw.”

Food will be on sale by the local Boy Scout troop starting about mid-morning in the warming hut on west side of the lake. Offerings are to include corn chowder, baked goods, hot dogs are more.

Members of the Semper Fedelis women’s club will be on hand again this year, toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, McCabe said.

The annual chili cook-off starts at noon, and judging will take place around 1 p.m. The entry fee is $5 and the chili must be in a container that can be warmed over a wood fire.

Skiing and snowshoeing trails will be open all day and new maps will be available.

“This year skiing and snowshoe conditions are perfect and Somerset Woods will take people on a walk at around 1 p.m.,” McCabe said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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