Located just three miles off Lincolnville Beach, Islesboro had a long history of boatbuilding, fishing, and agriculture, but during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, the community became host to a growing summer community. Penobscot People first inhabited the islands for portions of the year, evidenced by shell middens discovered on the island. The first European inhabitants are believed to have settled on the island in 1762. By the late 19th century, the settlers shifted to more agricultural use at the north end while at the south end the summer cottage community of Dark Harbor began to develop and remains vibrant today.
- Islesboro Community Center
- Fourth of July Parade
- Alice L. Pendleton Library
- Islesboro Islands Trust Trail Network
- Grindle Point Sailor’s Museum
- Islesboro Historical Society
- Islesboro Farmer’s Market
- Islesboro Sporting Club
- Municipally owned airstrip
With three boatyards, two general stores, a K-12 school, a health center, and a growing number of small, home- based businesses, the island’s economy today is mainly service-based. The large summer community of owners of second homes employs caretakers, landscaping professionals, and domestic workers who provide seasonal work for year-round residents. The year-round boatyards service not only Islesboro’s small fleet of fishing boats, but also its numerous sailboats and power boats.
Islesboro Central School, a K-12 school, diversifies its student body by hosting a magnet program designed to enroll students Grades 5 and up from the mainland. Magnet students make up one-third of the student population, and also provide social opportunities between island and mainland students. The school is recognized for its small class sizes with individualized attention and a pathways program for work or apprenticeship experience.
Sea Level Rise:
In 2016, a study was commissioned of two areas on the island. The study highlighted vulnerabilities at key spots—the Grindle Point ferry landing and “The Narrows,” the single access point between up-island and down- island residents. Work is ongoing to address the risks identified in these locations. In 2019, the town created a Sea Level Rise Committee to study how sea level rise will impact the entire island.
Vinalhaven is home to one of the state’s most profitable harbors by way of its landings. Lobster fishing is estimated to employ over 500 people on the island and the need for access is critical. The town maintains three public access locations in Carver’s Harbor. For the most part this provides sufficient access for fishermen, although public access to the water is still lacking. Recommendations in the Downtown Master Plan will help guide decision-making in the near future to preserve and potentially increase access.
When Islesboro’s residents struggled to obtain adequately reliable, high-speed internet from their service provider, the community sought their own municipally owned internet infrastructure. In 2016, the community approved a $3.8 million bond to build the infrastructure. Upon completion in 2018, over 600 properties were connected to the fiber optic network, providing universal, affordable gigabit fiber to the home with some of the fastest broadband speeds in Maine.
CENTRAL SCHOOL MAGNET PROGRAM
A groundbreaking magnet program, created more than twenty years ago, has helped the island maintain its previously declining school population. Mainland students, who pay tuition, commute to the Islesboro Central School (ICS) by ferry. Students experience small class sizes (~12 students per grade in Grades 6–12) and many opportunities for hands-on experience. ICS students consistently score well above state averages on standardized tests; win awards at the Maine State Science Fair; participate in many sports; and attend top colleges after graduation.
ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY CORPORATION
The Islesboro Economic Sustainability Corporation (IESC) was created in 2019 to provide a locally controlled entity for improving long-term economic sustainability. The IESC has an independent board of directors appointed by the Town of Islesboro Select Board. The IESC can make loans to local businesses, purchase and lease property to businesses, and fund and oversee community improvement projects. Although a quasi-municipal entity, all donations to the IESC are tax deductible.
How to get there
Islesboro can be reached by sea or air. The Maine State Ferry Service’s Margaret Chase Smith leaves Lincolnville Beach on the hour and Islesboro on the half hour between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. The three-mile trip takes roughly 20 minutes. The private water taxi Quicksilver provides scheduled and chartered trips. Concord Coach Lines will make a stop at the Lincolnville Beach Post Office, a five-minute walk to the Lincolnville Beach ferry terminal. Islesboro has a municipally owned airport that operates seasonally but is not monitored. Penobscot Island Air is available for chartered flights, as are Air New England and Maine Instrument Flight.
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