Whether ounces or gallons, Roadside Spring users swear by their water
Last Saturday morning, David Peary of South Portland held an empty bottled-water bottle under one of the Roadside Spring pipes on Route 26 in Woodstock.
He was filling up with drinking water on his way to a day of skiing at Mt. Abram.
It’s something he’s been doing for 20 years.
“I happened to see the spring and see people filling bottles with water,” he remembers.
He stopped to get some himself and he’s been doing it off and on ever since when he drives by on ski day trips.
A few minutes later John Rothwell of Woodstock stopped with four one-gallon plastic bottles that fit perfectly in a milk crate. He positioned the crate under one of the pipes and waited as the first bottle filled.
“I get four or eight gallons weekly,” he said, a ritual he has kept up now for about five years. Before that, he had bought bottled drinking water. “Then my oldest son suggested we just get it from the spring,” he said. “It’s really good.”
Next to stop was Paul Boghossian, with two five-gallon jugs.
He’s in the process of moving permanently to Bethel, and has been getting water for about five years.
He recalled that when he was driving by one night around midnight, he saw someone filling bottles at the spring.
On one of his own stops, Boghossian talked to another spring user, a man who lives in central Maine but drives all the way to Woodstock. “It’s great water,” said Boghossian.
Peary, Rothwell and Boghossian represent the diverse users of the spring that has been a popular roadside stop for decades.
Jim Chandler, who tests the spring water regularly for the town to ensure its purity, said people’s reasons for using the water range from simply liking its taste and coldness, to having a lot of iron or other minerals in their home water supply, to living in a lakeside camp with undrinkable water.
Over the years he’s encountered the full spectrum of users, including an employee of a bottled water company.
“I once was maintaining the well and was talking to one of the patrons,” Chandler said. “He said he preferred the Woodstock Spring, even though he could get free water through his work. He gets 5 gallons every week.
“There is almost always someone at the spring getting water. Some with many bottles. but also many people, including truckers and construction workers, stop by each day and fill up their water bottle for the day at the spring. One person even claimed that his wife’s rheumatism acted up when the spring was not in operation.”
Marcel Polak of Woodstock said he has used the spring off and on for the past 30 years. His home water is drinkable, he said, but he prefers the spring.
“There’s hardly a time I go there that I don’t see someone else,” he said. He recalled chatting with a man from Montreal, a native Romanian, who was vacationing in the area.
“Anyone visiting – they’re told about the spring,” said Polak.
Because so many people use it, Polak sees the site as another place for townspeople to socialize, like the Post Office.
Another regular user is Ron Deegan of Woodstock. “I had to put in iron filters at my house because my water had a lot of iron,” he said. But it’s not a perfect system, so he uses the spring.
“I get 12 gallons every other week,” he said.
He’s been there through the past 27 years in all kinds of weather, from 90 degrees to frigid cold and snowy conditions. After a snowstorm, however, he typically waits until the town crew clears out the turnout, making the stop a safe one.
About 15 years ago spring devotees nearly lost their resource when the state filled it in. The Maine Department of Transportation had had concerns about health liabilities, because the spring is located in the MDOT right of way.
But residents and the town leaped into action, and Woodstock took over responsibility, with Chandler serving as water quality tester.
The spring property is owned by Mike and Kathy Mills Giunta of Massachusetts, who have a summer residence in the area. The spring has been in Kathy’s family since the early 1950s, when her father, Francis, bought the land and the nearby farm. Kathy is a Woodstock native.
The Giuntas use the spring themselves, and have enjoyed socializing with other users. They also keep the spring area clean when they are staying here.
Mike recalls that about 20 years ago, his daughter was doing some cleanup there when a young man came by and offered to help. “She told him, ‘You know, this spring belonged to my grandfather,’ and he replied, ‘It belonged to my grandfather.’”
It turned out the two were cousins who had never met.
The Giuntas have made an agreement with Woodstock that the land would never be developed, Kathy said. “We’re very anxious that it always be available to the public. That would have been my father’s wish.”
Mike said their children have pledged to preserve the spring and, he said, “I expect they will talk to our grandchildren about it, too.”
Town Manager Vern Maxfield expressed his gratitude for the Giunta’s vigilance. “The Town of Woodstock, and many other people, are very appreciative of the Giuntas’ efforts to keep the spring accessible to the public,” he said.