Wealthy Maine Couple Poison’s Beach Trying To Get A Good View

Two Maine millionaires are embroiled in a legal battle over accusations that one poisoned the other’s trees to gain an unobstructed ocean view, resulting in a lethal herbicide contaminating their small community’s only public beach.

Lisa Gorman, the widow of the late LL Bean president Leon Gorman, alleges that her neighbor, Amelia Bond, applied herbicide to her oak trees without consent in 2021. The Associated Press reported that Bond, former CEO of the St. Louis Foundation, then proposed splitting the cost to remove the dying trees in 2022, which would provide her with a clear view of Penobscot Bay, a picturesque harbor filled with lobster boats, yachts, and schooners.

The herbicide Tebuthiuron did not only affect Gorman’s property. It spread to the town’s only public seaside beach, Laite Memorial Beach, prompting a legal investigation. The AP noted that residents were seen walking their dogs just 500 feet from the contaminated soil, where the herbicide, known to be lethal to aquatic plants, was detected.

The Bond couple, part-time residents from Missouri, have paid substantial amounts in fines and compensation, including $1.5 million to Gorman. They are also responsible for ongoing monitoring and remediation efforts at the beach and its park. Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey has agreed to further investigate the incident.

Many residents of Camden, a town with just 5,000 people, believe the fines are insufficient and are calling for harsher penalties or even criminal prosecution. “Anybody dumb enough to poison trees right next to the ocean should be prosecuted, as far as I’m concerned,” said local resident Paul Hodgson.

The maximum fine that the Maine Board of Pesticide Control can impose is $4,500, which the Bonds have already paid. State Representative Vicki Doudera suggested that wealthier perpetrators should face a sliding scale of fines. “It makes me so livid,” Doudera said. “This situation, the minute I heard about it, I thought, ‘Wow! These people are going to get a slap on the wrist.’ That’s just not right.”

An attorney for the Bonds stated that their clients “continue to cooperate with the town of Camden, state of Maine, and the Gormans” and “continue to take the allegations against them seriously.”

The herbicide Tebuthiuron is notorious for its persistence in the environment. It does not break down easily, continuing to kill plants long after application. Apart from removing the affected soil entirely, the only solution is to dilute the herbicide and wait two years for it to become safe for surrounding plants.

The incident has stirred strong feelings among Camden residents. Lynn Harrington questioned whether the Bonds should remain visible in town, where they are members of the Camden Yacht Club. Dwight Johnson described the Bonds’ offer to share the cost of tree removal after causing their death as “underhanded.”

Many residents acknowledged that the wealthy part-time residents, referred to as “from away” by Mainers, have the financial means to easily pay fines and evade serious consequences. “They just pay the fine because they have plenty of money,” Hodgson remarked. “That’s the town we live in.”


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