It’s a cool, cloudy Tuesday in late August 1966. Alone near dusk in the new park, I’m a lucky guy. I made it through my first year of college and have this summer job as a state park ranger in my hometown. They hired a bunch of us to help open the new park at Crescent Beach, the second state park in town. The first one is out on the point near the old lighthouses.

David Agan was hired as a ranger at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth the summer that it opened, in 1966. The new park had an unexpected visitor one Tuesday evening. Photo courtesy of David Agan

I see the last car head out the park road, check the bathhouses, find the warm grill, pump a few shots of water from the Indian pump and stir the gray coals. They’re out.

I walk over to the pole to lower the flag but notice a big, black car by the curb. A man in a white shirt and a dark tie gets out of the driver’s side and heads toward me. I head toward him.

I say hi and, in a friendly way, let him know that we close the park at sunset. I know he can see that sunset is minutes away. He says, “Governor Baxter would like to speak with you” and gestures toward the big car. As we walk over there, I’m thinking: Governor Baxter? Is he still alive? Baxter Boulevard? Baxter Library in Portland? He gave Maine people all the mountains and woods up past Millinocket. They named the big park after him. It can’t be him.

Through the open back window, I see a small, old man looking around. He and I greet each other without exchanging names. He says, “I wanted to see the new park.” I tell him a little about the buildings he can see and about the beach you can’t see from here.

“Uh-huh.” He nods. “Have you ever been to Mount Katahdin?” Wow, it is him. I had been there with the Scouts a few years ago. We camped at Katahdin Stream. I tell him. He nods a couple of times.

I try to point out Richmond Island, which he can’t see from his seat in the car. He asks, “Have you climbed Katahdin?”

“Yes. We went up the Hunt Trail to Baxter Peak.” I realize it’s named after him. The governor shows a thin smile as he gazes off through the wetlands in front of him. I tell him that this new beach park opened in July and that we have pretty good crowds on sunny days. “Very good,” he says. I pause, wondering what else there is to point out.

“Have you ever seen Mount Katahdin?” What to say? I answer, “Yes, I have. It’s a beautiful mountain.” He smiles and nods.

The driver speaks from behind the wheel: “The governor’s ready to go.” Governor Baxter thanks me and says goodbye. His Cadillac pulls away and passes around the far side of the huge lot. It’s just woods over there.

Governor Baxter is probably thinking about Katahdin. I am.

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