The Working Waterfront

‘Hub of marine research excellence’ planned in Harpswell

Quahog Bay Conservancy purchases former inn property

By J.W. Oliver
Posted 2023-10-30
Last Modified 2023-10-30

This story first appeared in The Anchor, a nonprofit newspaper and website covering the Harpswell community. It is reprinted with permission and gratitude.

The Quahog Bay Conservancy plans to transform the former Quahog Bay Inn in Harpswell into a “hub of marine research excellence” and revitalize the property’s working waterfront.

Patrick Scanlan, founder and president of the nonprofit conservancy, is proposing to remove all structures on the property and replace them with a saltwater laboratory, a duplex to house students and researchers, a “lobster shack” for retail sales of seafood, and a new wharf.

Scanlan’s JD LLC owns the property. He said he named the limited liability company for his one-eyed cocker spaniel, Jack Daniels.

The conservancy lab would facilitate marine research in a few focus areas: microplastics, kelp and oyster aquaculture, and invasive species.

Established in 2015, the conservancy says its mission “is to revitalize the ecosystem of Quahog Bay to a robust and resilient state for all communities that depend on it. Through sustainable aquaculture, ecosystem monitoring, and community education, we aim to conserve natural habitat, protect native wildlife, foster environmental stewards, and support Maine’s working waterfront.”

The Harpswell Planning Board unanimously approved JD LLC’s application on Sept. 20. The project still needs federal and state permits.

JD LLC will build “environmentally friendly buildings that will help to restore, maintain and support the working waterfront,” according to its application to the planning board for the approximately $13 million project.

The Quahog Bay Conservancy Lab would facilitate marine research in a few focus areas: microplastics, kelp and oyster aquaculture, and invasive species.

The lab “aims to become a hub of marine research excellence in the region,” according to the application. “By focusing on the study of microplastics in the marine environment, we strive to understand their ecological impact (and) their interaction with marine organisms, and develop strategies for their mitigation. Additionally, our research extends to fisheries and water quality, examining the health of local fish populations, promoting sustainable fishing practices, and contributing to the overall health of the marine ecosystem.”

The application says the lab will provide “rigorous testing and analysis of seafood” to ensure that “the seafood harvested and consumed in Harpswell is of exceptional quality, free from harmful substances, and compliant with industry regulations.”

The duplex will provide temporary housing for interns, student researchers and visiting scientists, and the new lobster shack will offer retail sales of lobsters and oysters, and will sell bait, fuel, and ice to fishermen.

The conservancy will operate the retail business and a lobster buying station, Scanlan said in a phone interview. Income from those activities will support the conservancy’s mission.

The conservancy already supplements its income by growing and selling its Snow Island Oysters.

In November 2022, JD LLC purchased the former inn for $2.7 million from the estate of Robert Waddle, according to town records. Waddle, a lobsterman and founder of a lobstermen’s co-op, died at 93 on May 12, 2022, according to his obituary. The inn announced its permanent closure and sale in October 2022.

J. Craig Anderson contributed reporting.