Commentary

Waterfront access should be preserved for generations

Mon, 05/09/2022 - 3:00pm

Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation (BBHWP) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by folks in our community who believe that a resource as beautiful and important as our waterfront must be secured for generations to come. We are committed to protecting our working waterfront and preserving our community’s right to waterfront access. In October of 2019, BBHWP purchased the former Cap’n Fish Motel property on Atlantic Avenue in the heart of the East Side, the historic center of Boothbay Harbor’s fishing and boat building industry. 

Park Vision

From the start, our vision has been to transform a motel and restaurant property into a public park, provide working waterfront facilities and establish other improvements to the property for public benefit including a Children’s Splashpad and a small General Store. We have made significant progress including: the removal of the motel buildings and pavement, replacement of the pilings on the North Pier, installation of the Children’s Splashpad and opening of the South Pier for lobster trap storage and repair along with waterfront access for our local fishermen. A focus of Park planning has been to create a safe and environmentally sustainable property. Environmental improvements have already been accomplished and we have applied for permits to install tanks to repurpose water from the Children’s Splashpad for green space irrigation. Funding has already been committed for installation of solar panels once other updates have been made to the three existing buildings.

Working Waterfront

Maine has a rich maritime history, but less than 20 miles of the 5000-mile coast remains as working waterfront in our state. Our property is located in the Limited Commercial/Maritime District and our site plan is intentional in protecting and preserving working waterfront while honoring our community’s right to access the water. We’re committed to ensuring that our fisherman have access needed to continue Maine’s maritime traditions and our South Pier is already being utilized by our local fisherman. To that end:

• We’ve dedicated the South Pier to Working Waterfront. This 7500 square foot concrete-topped pier is currently being used by fishermen as a convenient location to load, unload, work on traps and boats.

• We are collaborating with OceansWide.org to retrieve abandoned “ghost traps” by providing a staging area for traps recovered in Boothbay waters. Salvaged traps are returned to fishermen free of charge. Unclaimed, usable traps are gifted to young fishermen just starting out while the rest are recycled. Over 1300 traps have been recovered to date!

• We are offering waterfront winter trap storage on the South Pier and Park property and over 3000 traps have been stored so far.

• We have made four of our moorings available for marine businesses and fishermen at affordable rates, representing deep discounts from prevailing rates.

• We created substantial dedicated parking for marine businesses and fishermen. Without convenient parking and areas to load/unload, Boothbay Harbor will lose its commercial fishermen.

• We offer temporary tie up and storage. We responded when several Carter’s Wharf floats were temporarily unusable, those fishermen used our floats and when a local fisherman became disabled, we provided temporary waterfront trap storage for his traps.

Unfortunately, the Park will not be open to the public this summer as planned. Pandemic related delays slowed progress in 2020 while permit appeals by a Park abutter have significantly interrupted progress since. An appeal of our amended site plan is currently in Wiscasset Superior Court and an appeal of our “Park and Marina building permit” is still pending at the town level. We are hopeful that these issues will be resolved soon. Moving forward, our next steps will be to secure additional approvals for completion of the Park which will include reimagining the Hodgdon House, finalizing the South Pier layout for docks and floats, conversion of the former restaurant to a public pavilion and renovation of the boathouse building.

While we are heartened and encouraged by strong community support, we share in the disappointment that unexpected delays have stood in the way of our community enjoying the Park this summer. We are most grateful to have received donations and letters of support from all over the country from people who appreciate our fishing heritage and value public access to this magnificent resource.

Our Board of Directors is deeply committed with enthusiasm and dedication that has been unwavering. Many Board members live on the East Side or have long standing connections. Together, we see our community Park as the very best use of the land. Our seriousness of purpose has not been deterred by delays and we will continue to work with the town, state and community to open this park for all to enjoy soon and for generations to come.