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More in Business
Experienced surveyor starts business in Norway
EXPERIENCED — Barry Allen, a professional land surveyor who has been surveying land in western Maine for more than 36 years, shows off his old surveying maps that adorn the walls of his home in Norway.
DATED — A framed surveying map created by local land surveyor Barry Allen's seventh great uncle, James Keyes, in 1723.
NORWAY — Barry Allen, who has lived in Norway for about 12 years, has more than 36 years of experience surveying land in western Maine.
Since January, he's been operating his own business, Lost Corner Land Surveying, which he anticipates will really pick up speed as the summer months approach.
When asked what inspired him to start his own business, Allen responded that he "didn't really plan to."
"I started working for my former employer back in April, 1976," he said, "and I got laid off this past September." For two months, he searched for another job, but nothing interested him.
"I decided I would just start my own business," doing what he loves, with his wife, Dennise Whitley, who works for him part-time.
Allen, who grew up in Jay, surveyed the property for Oxford Casino on Route 26, The Roberts Farm Preserve and the Gingerbread House in Norway, to name a few. He specializes in boundary surveys, subdivisions, flood certificates, topography surveys and deed descriptions.
He most recently surveyed the Ordway Grove Trail in Norway, he said, a trail system which contains many of the largest and oldest White Pines in Maine.
But Allen is not only a surveyor – he also refers to himself as a "history buff."
Allen is the winner of Season 13 of "So You think You Know Maine," a game show that aired on Maine Public Broadcasting Network in 1988-1989.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," he said, of competing on the show.
According to Allen, he was on the show for two years. He compares the show to "Jeopardy," except every question is about "anything to do with Maine," from art, to history, to geography.
"They probably took me off the air to get rid of me, because I was never defeated," he laughed. "It was really fun."
Allen said that his seventh great-uncle, James Keyes, was a land surveyor in Massachusetts. Once, while in a Boston bookstore, he noticed a small surveying map on the wall, dated 1723, and coincidentally, when he went over to look at it, learned it was his uncle's.
"It's been in my blood for a long time," he said, of the surveying profession.
At a private school in Massachusetts, a friend of his discovered a surveyor's diary from the eastern portion of nearby Woodstock, surveyed between March 28 to April 22, 1808, which Allen added to his old collection of Maine maps.
"The school still had this diary in their records," Allen said, enthusiastic.
"The guy [surveyor] took really meticulous notes on what he did everyday," explained Allen, of James Irish, from New Hampshire. "It's pretty fascinating."
What he enjoys most about surveying is being outside, he explained, and the fact that no two jobs are the same.
Allen studied forestry at the University at Maine in Orono. At the time, he worked as a forester all over the Allagash region of Maine and became particularly interested in the surveying aspect of forestry, he said.
"I love writing deed descriptions," Allen said. He said the job encompasses a lot of investigative work.
He has also dealt with his fair share of boundary and right-of-way disputes between landowners.
"It's not just the people you are surveying, but you have to read the deeds of all the properties around them to make sure there aren't conflicts," he said.
While he loves what he does, he admits "it's not all roses."
"You run into irate people; people will threaten you and tell you to get off their land," he explained.
On March 23, he said, he was disturbed by a story he read in the Sun Journal, "Neighbors at War," about a two-year-long legal dispute between Sumner landowners over who owns Abbott Pond Road.
He said he was peeved to learn that not once was the word "surveyor" mentioned in the article. Seeking a surveyor's expertise, versus a lawyer's, should have been the first course of action by the landowners, he said.
"The article contained advice to first seek a lawyer as a dispassionate third party to a disagreement may not be the best course of action in most cases," he wrote, in a letter to the editor.
"Most lawyers will approach the situation as being advocates for their clients," he explained.
"That is fine, that is their job, but the cost of a protracted legal battle can often be avoided with intercession of a professional land surveyor as the first course of action."
"In my more than 36 years of experience surveying in Western Maine, I have seen most potential boundary-based legal battles defused when a thorough, properly conducted boundary survey reveals one party to be in the right and the other not," he wrote.
"Surveyors deal in the collection and interpretation of evidence, be it physical, written or oral," he explained.
"Clients are informed that this evidence will determine the location of boundaries and easements and the fact that the client is paying the bill does not in any way guarantee the results of the survey will be in their favor."
In other words, Allen takes his job very seriously. He is also a registered professional land surveyor in Arizona, where he lived for a few years before returning to Maine.
"I've worked all over Maine," rain or shine, he said. "From Eastport to Kittery, and everywhere in between."