Sheriff’s Office Seeks Vandals Who Ransacked Coperthwaite’s Yurt

The vandals ransacked the former home of Bill Coperthwaite, now known as the Library Yurt. Anyone with any information on the vandalism is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. (Photo courtesy David Craven)

By Sarah Craighead Dedmon 

 The yurt that was home to Machiasport legend Bill Coperthwaite was severely vandalized in December and now the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the property’s caretakers and owners are hoping to find those responsible.

Coperthwaite was internationally known for his work and writing on behalf of simple living, and made his home in Machiasport on a parcel of land he named Dickinson's Reach in honor of his favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. The property was originally conceived as a communal living center and contains many examples of yurt architecture, including the multi-story yurt which served as Coperthwaite’s own home. 

Coperthwaite constructed the yurts using only hand tools, but a generator had to be taken by sled to the site to clean up the debris left by the vandals. Caretaker David Craven said it took nine people six hours to restore the building, which has been converted to a library yurt in the time since Coperthwaite’s death in 2013.

The vandals pulled out drawers and dumped tools on the floor, threw books off the shelves, and discharged the contents of a fire extinguisher over every single floor of the yurt. “There was no way you could sweep it all up,” said Craven, noting the work party trekked the 1.5 mile trail to the yurt in single-digit temperatures.

Craven said that he hopes someone might come forward, even anonymously, and help the person or people who did this take responsibility for their actions. He’s confident that the new owners would not be vindictive, but rather hopeful that it could be turned into a positive learning experience, just as Bill would have hoped.

“Bill Coperthwaite was the most tolerant person there ever was, and would give anybody anything,” said Craven. 

Upon Coperthwaite’s death, ownership of the property transferred to five people who created the Dickinsons Reach Homesteading Residency, which allows people from all over the world to spend a period of four to six weeks living and learning on the property. Two people coming to begin their residency discovered the damage. 

“A lot of landowners would just put up a gate. They’re not that way and they don’t want to be that way, but it is pretty disheartening,” said Craven. “The owners want people to be able to enjoy the land.”

 In order to preserve public access while protecting the privacy of the homesteading residents, the owners constructed a brand new trail that is open to the public year round and which takes hikers to a site called the Mill Pond.

 “You walk out and go over the brook and there’s a sign that says public trail this way,” said Craven. “It goes to a beautiful spot.” 

The trail to the yurt is private and closed to the public, though the owners might grant permission for a visit if the yurts are unoccupied. Anyone may apply to the residency program by visiting www.insearchofsimplicity.net. 

 

If anyone has any information concerning the crime, please call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 255-8308 and ask for Deputy Toni Bridges or Deputy Chris Simpson.