State proposes $250k fine for Worcester cabins

Regulators say Worcester Wreath built more than 52 cabins and a restaurant in the woods of Washington County without proper permits.
An aerial photo of the Worcester cabins. advertises the accommodations as “luxurious rustic cabins” that are “built with the intention of our guests viewing the progress of the future Flagpole of Freedom Park.”

Environmental regulators indicated Wednesday that the state plans to fine the company behind the failed Flagpole of Freedom project $250,000 for building several dozen cabins, a restaurant, roads and parking areas in the woods north of Columbia Falls without obtaining necessary permits.

The draft agreement, released Wednesday, also requires Worcester Holdings LLC to apply for after-the-fact permits by March 1 for the development, which the company is marketing as Flagpole View Cabins, and proposes fines of $100 per day for additional violations.

Worcester Holdings LLC, which does business as Worcester Wreath, reportedly “stripped, graded and did not revegetate at least seven acres of land” on the property starting in 2019.

Over the next three years the company built a restaurant and 52 cabins, using them as worker housing and seasonal rentals, charging between $169 and $229 per night. 

Worcester Wreath continued to advertise the cabins and takeout restaurant after being notified of violations by Maine Department of Environmental Protection inspectors, according to the document.

The consent agreement must be approved by the citizen board that oversees DEP before it can take effect. The board is scheduled to meet Feb. 28.

The simple A-frame cabins are nestled among thousands of acres of balsam forest north of the Washington County town of Columbia Falls, where Worcester Wreath sources many of the tips for the wreaths that the nonprofit Wreaths Across America places on headstones around the country each year. The forest is adjacent to thousands of acres of blueberry barrens owned by the Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Company. 

An aerial photo of the Worcester cabins.

State inspectors first visited the property nearly two years ago after receiving a complaint about an “unpermitted development,” and made several visits over the ensuing months. 

In a violation notice issued two days after the first visit, DEP staff ordered Worcester Wreath to apply for after-the-fact permits and stop all construction before Feb. 1, 2023, or until obtaining necessary permits.

Rob Worcester, co-founder and managing director of the now-defunct Flagpole of Freedom Park, did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

In a statement to The Maine Monitor in August 2022, Worcester said the company “reached out immediately’’ when it learned of the alleged violation. 

“Worcester Holdings respects the important oversight role of Maine’s DEP and it is our intention to be in full compliance at all times. We believe Worcester Holdings has acted in good faith and fact, and followed all of the appropriate state and municipal guidelines for the size and scope of this project. We are actively working with DEP to come to a full resolution.”

The Worcesters initially proposed the cabins as part of a 2,500-acre development known as Flagpole of Freedom Park. An attorney for the family told the Monitor earlier this month they were no longer pursuing the billion-dollar project.

This is not the first time the company has been fined for environmental violations.

In 2022, Worcester Wreath owner Morrill Worcester agreed to pay $5,000 for failing to obtain a permit for a stream crossing on a road they were building in Jonesboro, causing sediment to be discharged into the stream.


Kate Cough

Kate Cough is editor of The Maine Monitor. She previously served as enterprise editor for The Monitor while also covering energy and the environment and writing the weekly Climate Monitor newsletter. Before joining The Monitor, Kate was a beat reporter for The Ellsworth American and digital media strategist for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. Kate graduated with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Magna Cum Laude from Bryn Mawr College. Kate is an eighth generation Mainer, who lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, daughter, and dogs.
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