Friends of Hog Island Update – 2003

It’s not as if we haven’t been busy since we last saw many of you.

Since June 2002, when we successfully completed our second annual “work-and-learn” week on Hog Island, your officers and advisory board have invested considerable time, energy, and personal expense in developing the Friends of Hog Island (FOHI) organization along the lines that we discussed last summer.

We met with Maine Audubon Society staff in October at Gilsland Farm and again in January in Sharon, Connecticut, for our mid-winter board meeting. Our development committee members were similarly active last fall. Our colleague Jay Collier helped us launch the new FOHI Web site — a polished and professional “front door” to the public for our volunteer organization, and a window linked to Maine Audubon’s many other programs and activities.

Our combined efforts in 2002 — backed up with input from a number of you — yielded a draft by-laws document under which FOHI could organize itself and a draft memorandum-of-agreement by which our efforts could be coordinated with Maine Audubon.

But by January it became apparent there was a fundamental divergence of views between our two organizations on the vision for FOHI and its relation to Hog Island. Where some of us — myself included — sought a more structured and FOHI-organized approach to the incorporation of volunteer efforts into the camp and its operation, Maine Audubon was seeking a looser confederation of volunteers, organized under a committee structure and reportable to the camp director, that would preserve flexibility and minimize workload impacts on staff at Gilsland Farm.

This temporary impasse has since led to the resignation of several of our officers and board members.

Neither of these two differing approaches was wrong. They were simply different ways by which we might achieve the same goals for the camp and the island that we love so dearly. A diversity of viewpoints — and a certain amount of creative tension — are inevitable in any new start-up organization. We have not been immune to impassioned debate.

But it is now time to move on and move forward, lest we jeopardize our successes to date and lose sight of our common objective: the betterment of the Audubon Camp in Maine, its program, and its island home.

The Maine Audubon Society remains the camp’s manager and custodian and, as such, our efforts must remain within its vision for Hog Island and the assigned role for us as volunteers. I respect these parameters.

As vice president of FOHI, it has been my responsibility to step up as interim president of your organization and to serve at least until June, when we gather and determine, with Seth Benz’s guidance and support, how we can best serve Hog Island and Maine Audubon as a loose association of friends and supporters.

As best as I am able in the intervening months between now and June, as interim president I will endeavor to follow the basic tenet of the Hippocratic oath: “cause no harm.” I will endeavor to position us for success in the future.

Since January, I personally have devoted my energies to writing articles about the camp and enlisting several freelance writers to attend sessions this summer, with an eye toward increased national publicity for the 2004 camp program. That’s where I feel I am best equipped to help the camp.

Between now and June, I ask each of you to reflect on how you might devote your skills and talents to the benefit of Hog Island and the Audubon program. Specifically, I ask the following:

  • Sign up for the June 16 — 21 FOHI “work-and-learn” week. Bring a spouse or a friend. If you can’t make the June session, register for another week this summer. Let’s help keep the entire camp program full this summer.
  • Decide how you might volunteer your talents and skills when we discuss with Seth Benz in June how a committee system of volunteers will work throughout the coming year.
  • Circulate the 2003 camp brochure and show off our new web site: They’re the best tools we have to expose Hog Island to the world.
  • Continue your record of financial giving to the Audubon Camp in Maine. Increase it if you can.

And if you haven’t already done so, express your thanks to Tom Schaefer, Betsy Cadbury, Art Borror, and other advisory members who have given so unstintingly of their time, their treasure, and, yes, their tears, over the past 10 months. Rarely in my experience has a small group of individuals served its membership with such dedication.

Although I only had the pleasure of knowing and working with the late Rick Ylagan for a single summer, I have sought guidance in his passing as we endeavor to chart a future path for Friends of Hog Island. Rick loved this place so.

I think he would tell me to pick myself up, dust myself off, check the weather, get my bearings, and strike off in a new direction that will, ultimately, get me to the same place we all want for the Audubon Camp in Maine.

And that’s what I’m going to do.