The Working Waterfront

New mailboat in the works for Isle au Haut

Land preserved in Round Pond, Scarborough

Tom Groening
Posted 2015-09-24
Last Modified 2015-09-24

There’s one more day of summer showing on the calendar as this column is being written, but the signs of autumn are everywhere on the coast of Maine. Along with the crisp, cool air that moved into place last weekend, we’ve been seeing the median age of sidewalk strollers in Rockland tick upward by a decade or so.

It’s a great time to be in Maine, actually, so those grayer heads we see are also wiser for choosing their visits in September.

Soon, though, many waterfront activities will be buttoned-up for winter. Most of what we’ve gathered here was gleaned from late August newspapers.

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It once was the second-busiest lumber port in Maine (behind Bangor). Today, it’s not thought of as much of a waterfront town. The city of Calais is hoping to change that view, the Quoddy Tides newspaper reports, by expanding its marina.

The city manager wants to learn if the existing docks on the St. Croix River can be doubled from the current 80 feet to 160 feet, thereby accommodating more boats. The city hopes to apply for a state grant to improve the facilities.

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Family pride seems to have been bruised in Scarborough, according to the Falmouth Forecaster. The Benjamin family sold its 135-acre homestead farm to the Scarborough Land Trust for $2.5 million, but “some family members now openly regret the sale because the trust plans to rename their father’s property,” the paper reports.

The new name is Pleasant Hill Preserve.

Ed Benjamin, son of the late Jerrerd Benjamin, told the paper his father would not have agreed to sell the land had he known it wouldn’t carry on with the family name. The terms of the sale include stipulating that it remain undeveloped and accessible to the public.

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Another, less controversial preservation effort crossed the finish line in the Lincoln County town of Round Pond in late August. The 1.1 acre harbor-front parcel known as Lupine Meadow was purchased by the Round Pond Village Improvement Society in partnership with the Medomak Valley Land Trust with funds raised from donations. In late August, more than $350,000 in donations and pledges had been received.

A Facebook page devoted to the effort noted that supporters sent donations from as far away as Louisiana and Italy.

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Construction of a temporary bridge in South Bristol began this month as part of a years-long process (reported on in The Working Waterfront in April 2013). Locals objected to the design of a new bridge created by the state Department of Transportation and hired their own architect, who came up with a plan that met the residents’ aesthetic standards. The swing bridge had operated there for many years.

The Lincoln County News reports that the channel (see historic photo above) will be closed to boat traffic beginning Oct. 21, since the temporary bridge will not be able to be raised. Car traffic will be diverted to the temporary bridge beginning Nov. 3, the paper reports, when the contractor will demolish the swing bridge and begin work on the permanent replacement structure.

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October is a good time for a boat to enter retirement, right? The Deer Isle-Stonington Island Ad-Vantages reports that Miss Lizzie, the 50-foot wooden lobster boat that has served Isle au Haut for 48 years, soon will be taken out of service. A community celebration was hosted on Aug. 23, the paper reported, with many islanders turning out.

The replacement for Miss Lizzie—which the paper notes was named for an island postmistress—is under construction in Surry by boatbuilder WESMAC, a company run by Steve Wessel and Linda Greenlaw Wessel, she a former Isle au Haut resident and known for her former career as a swordfish boat captain (featured in the book and film, The Perfect Storm).

The new boat, a Super 46 fiberglass vessel powered by a Caterpillar 803 engine, should be completed by June.

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The Island Ad-Vantages also reported some good news about Route 15, which is the primary link between U.S. Route 1 and Blue Hill and Stonington and most of the peninsula towns in between. The road has been in rough shape, and municipal officials have been clamoring for the state to improve it.

A 7.4-mile section from Blue Hill to Route 1 in Orland, the paper reports, will see drainage work and asphalt overlay work at a cost of $5.1 million. The work will be done by Nov. 20. Traffic will be detoured until then.

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The Bangor Daily News and Lincoln County News each carried stories about former schools being sold, which is likely to become the norm as student populations continue to decline in Maine.

The BDN reported on Belfast’s former Crosby School being sold to a developer who plans on converting it to apartments (the school was purchased in the late 1990s from the city by a nonprofit which later ran into financial hard times). The LCN reported on Wiscasset Primary School being put on the market by town officials. Interest in the building was expressed by a woman who thought it would work as a health/fitness/beauty facility and by a representative of Lincoln County Healthcare.