As aspirations to preserve the Boothbay Harbor way of life continue through new business, property development and preservation, the two sides of the harbor have become a dichotomy over the past few years. However, two Atlantic Avenue nonprofits are attempting to buck the trend: Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation seeks to broaden public access to harbor waters with the creation of a waterside green space and Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation is looking to preserve commercial fishing access, resources and heritage through acquisition of properties that have long served fishermen.
BRMF President Deanne Tibbetts said despite the clear differences between the two groups, she still gets questions about the status of the highly anticipated park. “We are solely working waterfront. We're not public access, we have nothing to do with preserving access for the public in any way, shape or form. It's all working waterfront and I think that's the major difference between us and the park.”
BRMF was launched in late 2018 when a group of locals came together and discussed the future of working waterfront access and heritage. With the help of anonymous donations, the group bought longtime lobsterman and pound owner Douglas Carter’s Sea Pier property. In early 2019, BRMF announced a partnership with Luke’s Lobster, a Saco-based seafood company which now operates a buying station on the newly dubbed Carter’s Wharf.
“Our focus right now is on two main projects going on,” said Tibbetts. “Last fall we started a collaboration with the Penobscot Marine Museum and that's the digitization of historical photos and preservation or documentation of the industry and current practices … We've (also) been working with engineers since January of 2019 on Carter's Wharf and the old co-op piers.”
The wharves are slated for renovations in 2022.
BHWP began as Friends of the Harbor in mid-2018 and changed to Stewards of the Harbor before settling on BHWP when it bought the former Cap'n Fish's property through donations in late 2019. The two motel buildings were demolished in June 2020 to make way for a new green space, East Side Waterfront Park.
BHWP President Bob McKay said the park will have an area dedicated to local fishermen who need the space to store traps, ground out, tie up for a few hours and do basic gear or boat work. However, the main purpose of the property will be public access to the water, open space for leisure and events, and other amenities such as a general store, two apartments and public bathrooms which will be built into the historic Hodgdon House.
“Now work is starting to ramp up with the demolition of the basement level floor in the house. The basement will have public handicap-accessible bathrooms for visitors to the park which will be equipped with steps into harbor waters and a splash-pad.
Said McKay, “As soon as the ground starts thawing out a little bit, Jody Lewis is going to be breaking ground, bringing blacktop up. There's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be placed in the lower level of the Hodgdon House as far as receiving water and electric and all the lines will be connected into there. We're hoping we'll have the splash-pad in by the end of June or just into July.”
While McKay and BHWP ensure locals and visitors have a place on the east side of the harbor to spend time near the water, Tibbetts said BRMF is working to ensure as much space for maritime workers as possible. “That's kind of why we started with Carter's, to make sure as we move along and our waterfront gets developed, there is a place for fishermen … (but) our mission isn't just to support Carter's Wharf, though, and that's a distinction that needs to be made. We're in support of our fishing community as a whole and we believe that to have working waterfront in the future, we've got to acquire waterfront property or at least keep it working waterfront.”