The view upriver from the location of a proposed pier on the Penobscot River. The pier would be used by  Bowden Point Properties, a Virginia-owned company, to load barges with processed granite taken from Heagan Mountain in Prospect. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Environmental Protection

A Virginia-based company that bought most of a mountain in Prospect intends to quarry granite there, crush it and barge the processed rock back to the state.

But some residents of the 600-person Waldo County town are deeply opposed to the $12 million project, which they say would disrupt their lives and the natural habitat for wildlife that live there.

“No one’s going to want to live here if they blow up our mountain and destroy our peace, tranquility and environment, and ship it to Virginia to make buildings out of,” said Brandy Bridges, whose family has lived near Heagan Mountain on Bowden Point for more than a century. “We would lose everything.”

Bridges fears the company will blast the mountain “into a pit” over the course of generations.

The project, which already faces sharp local opposition, would be a major development in an area that so far has only seen smaller quarry operations.

In late December, Bowden Point Properties applied for two key permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a 50-acre mineral processing facility and associated pier. The company needs the permits before it can build an 80,000 square foot rock processing building off Bowden Point Road — a building larger than a football field — and a 710-foot pier that will extend into the Penobscot River off the northern shore of the road. The pier would include a drivable trestle, a series of cofferdams and a telescopic barge loader to load the vessels with the processed granite.

The company is also discussing dredging in the Penobscot River with state and federal agencies and discussing whether doing so would disturb contaminants. It will need to apply for permits from the state agencies regulating groundwater, air quality and mining, and will need to file a mining application and a site plan review from the town of Prospect.  

Bowden Point Properties is an affiliate of Salmons, Inc., a Virginia Beach-based company that has been involved in the aggregate business for 30 years. It has a crushing facility in Virginia, according to one of its DEP applications.

James Salmons, the head of Salmons Inc., first came to Prospect about five years ago with a proposal to buy Heagan Mountain and had been coming to town planning board meetings for months, according to Kathleen Jenkins, the board chair.

The lawyers had a request for the board. Prospect has a shoreland zoning ordinance that requires a 250-foot setback from the river where there can’t be any development at all, and they asked to change that to allow more development on the company’s property.

Map of Bowden Point, with Heagan Mountain and a proposed pier where granite quarried from the mountain would be loaded onto barges. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Environmental Protection

“We said we can’t and we won’t,” Jenkins said.

That zoning amendment would require voter approval, board members told the company. Before taking that step, the pandemic began, and things went quiet for the Heagan Mountain project.

In late November, the town received notice that Salmons Inc. intended to file permit applications with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the pier and mineral processing facility.

Once officials determine that the permit applications are complete, the public has 20 days to request a hearing. Jenkins has gotten calls and emails already from concerned Prospect citizens and expects that they will request one.

In the past, Heagan Mountain had been quarried for granite on a small scale, but there has been no significant blasting or travel since Jenkins came here in 1970, she said.

At a virtual informational meeting held on the project in mid-December, someone asked company representatives how long the new mining operation would go on.

“They said the project will last for generations,” Jenkins said.

Neighbors like John Hyk, who owns a portion of Heagan Mountain, believes that would be problematic for the peninsula and the greater region.

 “You’re talking about a lot of blasting, blasting and dust, a lot of dust,” he said. “And where’s it going to go? In the summer, when the wind’s primarily in the south-southwest, it’s going to blow down the river to Bucksport and Fort Knox.”

Brandy Bridges of Prospect has deep roots on Bowden Point, the scene of a proposed industrial development that she opposes. Here, her mother Marilyn Brown poses in 1955 on Heagan Mountain, with the Penobscot River behind her. Credit: Courtesy of Brandy Bridges

Hyk, a former town selectman and former Waldo County commissioner, is deeply opposed to the project he believes would diminish the peaceful landscape that now is home to birds, moose, deer, bobcat and other wildlife.

He also worries that Prospect does not have the resources to fight against the project.

“This is a big, powerful company,” Hyk said. “This is like Goliath and David. The town of Prospect can barely fill its volunteer fire department, its planning board and its board of appeals.”

Locally, no permit applications or formal zoning requests have been filed with the town, Jenkins said.

The town doesn’t have a comprehensive plan, so Prospect residents may not get to have a say on elements of the project that are especially concerning to them, such as impacts on the groundwater at Bowden Point.

The company is planning to drill at least one well and use 50,000 gallons of groundwater a day in its stone-crushing facility, according to the application.

“We’re all dependent on the same aquifer,” Jenkins said, adding that 25 or so families live on the Bowden Point peninsula. “And I read nothing about drought conditions, which we have experienced. It takes a certain amount of precipitation to recharge a well. I don’t know how it would recharge 50,000 gallons a day.”

Salmons Inc. estimates that the quarry and associated operations will provide 35 to 40 new jobs.

“Operations will be in full compliance with environmental regulations and best practices as well as prove a safe working environment for our employees,” it said.