is an interview series to highlight and celebrate Essex Heritage’s diverse community of partners and supporters. This fall we asked Mary Hillery and Greg Guckenburg, the 2015 Bakers Island Light Station Keepers -- to share their view of Essex Heritage and why she loves the Essex National Heritage Area. Interviewed December 2015.
Are you an Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County) native? If not, when and why did you move here?
We are not native to the North Shore of Massachusetts but learned to love it when on Bakers Island for 20 weeks this past summer as Bakers Island Light Station Keepers for Essex Heritage. We sold our house in Maine two years ago, planning to move to Massachusetts, but after this summer, we wanted to stay close to Bakers Island as volunteers in coming summers. We now live in Gloucester and can see Bakers from Magnolia harbor.
What do you find most inspiring about the Essex National Heritage Area?
Now that we know the meanings of the Essex Heritage triangle: shipbuilding, textiles and agriculture, we see The Essex Heritage triangle everywhere we go, for drives or walks or hikes!
What is your favorite place in the Essex National Heritage Area?
The ten acres of Bakers Island, where we lived and worked this past summer, have to be our favorite Essex Heritage area. The new walking trails made the outdoors just as exciting as progress on the lighthouse tower and structures. We swam and hiked and picnicked outside. We watched sailboat regattas from the lawn. We saw brilliant sunsets almost every night.
We also especially love the Little River Trail in Newburyport, where our grandchildren live.
As new members of the Rockport Sunday Hikers, we have enjoyed many Cape Ann trails which are co-managed by Essex Heritage and local land preservation groups.
When did you first become involved with Essex Heritage?
We were lucky to be connected to Essex Heritage through a member of Friends of Seguin Island Light, who is also an Essex County resident. We were Lighthouse Keepers on Seguin Island, Maine, in 2013. It was a wonderful experience and a learning experience, too. Then we were honored to be chosen as Bakers 2015 Keepers for the first season the light station property has been owned by Essex Heritage. As the summer progressed, with guests arriving on the Essex Heritage boat, volunteers working on painting buildings and blazing trails, news organizations and donors making special visits, we realized how valuable the Seguin experience was for us and for Essex Heritage. Setting priorities is of the utmost importance for the future of the ten acres and six structures.
Essex Heritage is important to our region, our state, or our nation because…
When we were kids we took the great outdoors for granted, as all children do. Greg was a ball player and a surfer. Mary was a Trailblazer Mountaineer Girl Scout. We thought the parks and mountains and the waterways would always be there for us and our grandchildren. Now children know that the world is changing fast. We love the way Essex Heritage is involving kids in community projects and helping to protect the great outdoors as every child’s playground.
Help us continue to connect people and the places that make our Heritage. Become an Essex Heritage Member.