SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — It has been a week since he last was seen, but residents and officials are still trying to find a missing local man with some special needs.

Police say the last reported sighting of Peter Peterson, 61, was on Sept. 24 in Ellsworth. Peterson was reported to have been standing by the side of the road on High Street in Ellsworth with his thumb out, looking for a ride home.

Peterson is a regular at many local businesses and is known to hitchhike frequently around Mount Desert Island and to and from Ellsworth and Bangor, where he likes to visit bookstores, officials have said.

Police have not confirmed the Sept. 24 sighting, however, or other possible sightings around MDI a day or two before that, according to Police Chief David Chapais. There have been some search efforts to try to find the man, Chapais said, but searchers have been hampered by not knowing where to begin.

“We just don’t have a starting point right now,” the chief said Friday. “We’ve had a lot of volunteers out.”

Pieces of paper with the word “missing” printed in large type at the top with photos and descriptions of Peterson underneath were posted in storefront windows around downtown Southwest Harbor on Friday. At the public library, fliers with Peterson’s picture and the words “our friend Pete is missing” and “keep hope alive” were taped to the entry doors.

According to Chapais, police in Ellsworth have looked along the Route 3 corridor between High Street and the city line and other people have searched along portions of Route 3 in Trenton. Peterson is fond of animals, especially horses, and so searchers have looked near the Kisma Preserve in Trenton and at a horse farm not far south of the preserve on Route 3, he said.

On Thursday, Acadia park ranger and volunteers with trained search dogs looked around in the woods in Southwest Harbor between the Ocean’s End subdivision off Route 102 and Seal Cove Road but came up empty, Chapais said. He said he expects others to volunteer their time and effort to help look for Peterson during the weekend.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said. “Unfortunately, as time goes by, your optimism shrinks a bit.”

Some reports have suggested that Peterson is autistic, but Chapais said he is not sure that has ever been officially determined.

According to Andy Mays, a local fisherman who has known Peterson for more than a decade, Peterson has pronounced behavioral quirks but is capable of doing many things on his own. Peterson lives by himself but has help paying bills and getting to medical appointments.

Peterson doesn’t drive but has been known to travel long distances and, having had surgery to improve his eyesight not too long ago, has become more mobile again, according to Mays.

“He’s independent,” Mays said. “As far as being able to navigate a bus schedule, that’s not a problem for him at all.”

Mays said he went hiking with Peterson most of the way up Mount Katahdin 15 years ago and has enjoyed Peterson’s sense of humor many times.

Mays said he has no idea where Peterson may be, but that he has become more concerned as the days have gone by.

“I just hope he comes hitchhiking back into town oblivious to the fuss,” Mays said.

Peterson is 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 230 pounds. He is bald, has a gray beard, walks with a limp, and has a lazy eye, according to police. He likely is wearing bluejeans, brown shoes and a gray hooded sweatshirt.

Anyone with information about Peterson’s location is asked to contact Southwest Harbor police at 244-7912.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....