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Kayak tour combines scenic paddle with history of Maine’s Malaga Island


By Steve Minich

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    PHIPPSBURG, Maine (WMTW) — Alice’s Awesome Adventures offers a kayak excursion steeped in Maine history.

The guided tour takes you to Phippsburg’s Malaga Island, where, a little more than a century ago, the state forcibly evicted an entire community because residents were of mixed race.

“Today, it’s easy to come out in a kayak. It makes a huge difference to come by hand-powered boat,” Alice Bean Andrenyak with Alice’s Awesome Adventures said.

The trip is just under two miles from the launch spot in Cundy’s Harbor — taking you across the picturesque New Meadows River to Malaga Island.

Maine’s Total Coverage took a trip with descendants of a family who lived on Malaga Island.

Though many decades ago, the island’s colonists most likely rowed their boats, Carrie Skeffington said: “I think it just kind of brings you back to that time period.”

The trip helps set the town of the experience to the island.

“Always wondering what the island was actually like for them, what did it look like? We all know the beautiful coast of Maine, but to see the actual places where they lived and worked, to have that connection to the past,” Skeffington said.

“It’s about the history of Maine, and not everything is good,” Andrenyak said.

Andrenyak is a registered Maine guide who has passionately studied the history of Malaga Island.

In 1912, the island was deemed an embarrassment to Maine. The state forced nearly 50 people, Malaga’s entire colony of mixed-race families, off the island.

Bodies were exhumed from the cemetery, and all the buildings were taken down, leaving virtually no trace that the colony ever existed.

Today, Andrenyak leads her guests along the island’s one-mile loop trail, pointing out the buildings that used to be.

“If someone doesn’t bring the island alive for them, it’s just another space that you walk through, it doesn’t mean anything,” Andrenyak said.

“Just to be here and walk in their footsteps, it’s a meaningful thing, pretty emotional,” Rick Linscott said.

Linscott joined Andrenyak for the second time as his family made their first trip.

The family is direct descendants of the colony’s patriarch Benjamin Darling. They say they represent a new generation of descendants — ones who are no longer ashamed but anxious to share the link to the island and their relatives.

“As much as our ancestors were denying it, many of us now are trying to embrace it and feel good about the progress that’s been made and the apology that’s come from the state of Maine,” Linscott said.

“it gives them a chance to touch history,” Andrenyak said.

It’s a chapter in history Andrenyak says we don’t have to be proud of, but one she’s made it her mission to share.

It’s a story that’s best appreciated by first paddling there.

“It’s such a peaceful place that it’s hard to imagine that they were causing much of a problem out there because we are off the mainland, so it solidifies the idea that the whole situation was wrong. The eviction was wrong,” Skeffington said.

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