Out of the 5,300 miles of coastline here, there are less than 20 miles left supporting working waterfront/access (2007 Island Institute). Real estate development is at the core of this accelerating loss.
In the mid-1900s across our nation and here in Maine, we began protecting our land as an integral part of our ecosystem, to avoid industrialization ruining wild open spaces. This foresight led us (1970s) to extend this preservation ethic to include working forests and farmland. Between 2001 and 2011 Maine became a national leader in working waterfront preservation. This ethic desperately needs to continue throughout Maine’s coastal communities.
Working waterfront supports more than $740 million in state revenue and 35,000 jobs. (ME Policy Review Vol 20 Issue 1) Loss of access to shore and working waterfront is significant. Once a property converts “out” of water dependent use, it is unlikely to ever convert back. Our responsibility to the future of our community, our state and our nation is to continue protecting the remaining working waterfront. Specifically, for our town this means keeping all our “legally non-conforming” businesses on the east side under the existing ordinances. There is still plenty of room for improving and sustaining them under current zoning. In the bigger picture we are focused on a higher good which is to keep this entire zone protected. The recent 2015 comprehensive plan for our town declares an intention for us to do just that.
In 2014 over 130 area citizens came together to discuss their “Visions and Values” for our region. A survey was taken. Here are some of the top priority values revealed: Preserve our small town way of life and sense of community; Protect the natural beauty of our environment; Value and respect our sense of history by renovating and repairing buildings rather than replacing; and, Honor the fishing and lobstering industry.
Let’s keep working to provide public access and working waterfront for our future!