SKOWHEGAN — Amid a colorful backdrop Friday of falling autumn leaves, shafts of sunlight cutting through occasional showers and the Kennebec River rolling its way south, a team of Skowhegan Area High School students worked with drills, hammers and precise measuring equipment.

The group of nine students in Mike Jones’ woodworking class was installing an informational kiosk for Somerset Woods Trustees, which owns the historic Kennebec Banks rest area east of downtown Skowhegan.

“This is a combination of my advanced woodworking class and my intermediate woodworking class,” Jones said, supervising the students — some on raised platforms, others on the ground, feeding finished timber to their classmates.

Jones said the class did a similar project last year across from the middle school, and the success of that job got the attention of the trustees, who commissioned the group to design and construct a kiosk to display brochures and other informational material. The structure also will display a sign giving some of the history of the site, which was an early Native American camp and a spot where Benedict Arnold and his 1,100 soldiers passed in October 1775 during their ill-fated trek to Quebec.

The 8-foot-tall structure was measured and cut in class at the school for assembly Friday on site. It will have a green metal roof on six trusses to match the covered picnic tables at the rest area and slots for travel information. Somerset Woods paid for all of the material, Jones said.

“It’s all pressure-treated; we’re going to strap the roof with strapping, put the steel on and have nice decorative trim to match the steel and ridge caps,” Jones said.

Nancy Williams, executive director of Somerset Woods, said the kiosk will provide information on recreational opportunities in the region, including the trails across the Kennebec River at Debe Park. There will be maps showing Somerset Woods preserves and other areas of interest for day trips or longer visits.

Kennebec Banks, on U.S. Route 2, is a popular stopping point for locals and visitors en route to Bar Harbor and the coast or Maine’s Western Mountains.

“There are people here that come by all the time, and there are campers as well who come by,” Williams said. “We just thought that this was the prime location for something like this, not only for tourists, which is important to this economy, but also to residents who enjoy the river. Look at this. It’s really the nicest place in the whole area to enjoy the view.”

Somerset Woods Trustees was formed in 1927 and probably is the oldest active land trust in Maine, according to the group’s website. Louise Helen Coburn (1856-1949), of Skowhegan, botanist, historian, poet, author, philanthropist and visionary, initiated the Somerset Woods Trustees and was its first president.

The organization owns 1,155 acres in lots of varying sizes scattered throughout Somerset County, though most of the parcels are in the Skowhegan area. In addition to those properties owned outright, the trustees also hold conservation easements on another 843 acres of fields, forests and wetlands, also found throughout the county.

Students on Friday, some bundled up against the chill of a November morning near the river, busily assembled the kiosk timbers and trusses, measuring as they went.

One student, Shylanda Price, a high school junior from Mercer, said she enjoys the challenges of the woodworking class.

“I just like to do it for fun,” she said from the job site. “I think this project is great. It’s showing the community that the high school students do a lot more for the community than they think.”

Devin Reid, a junior from Skowhegan, said the hardest part of the job was pre-cutting all the pieces so they would all fit when they got to the Kennebec Banks site.

“It’s coming together quite well. Everything’s fallen into place better than I expected,” Reid said. “There’s been a few difficulties squaring stuff up, but other than that, it’s gone well.”

Another student, Rishi Findley, a sophomore, of Skowhegan, said he likes the idea of adding something nice to an important historic site.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said, looking out past the oak trees on the river band. “There are plenty of trees and it has great color in the fall, and there are the signs for people from out of town who can learn more about the place.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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