Coast of Maine Living Circa 2020

By Sheila Dassatt

Let’s talk about this, with the pros and cons of this subject.  With the reality of the Covid Virus, this is the first change of living in 2020 in general.  As you know, Maine has always been labelled “Vacationland.”  It is written on the Maine license plates as a reminder of this.  This year, most of our most famous and popular events did not happen. I never thought I’d see the day that we did not have the Maine Lobster Festival!  This is the week of the Union Fair, which promotes our Maine Blueberry Season.  This is just one or two of the festivals that did not happen this year.  So, let’s try to stay positive…

As a lobster fishing family, we have discovered that folks are taking to the water for their rest and recreation.  I wish I had bought stocks in the kayak companies!  I have never seen so many kayaks in my life.  Now, this is not a bad thing, it is peaceful, provides exercise, a family can do this and you can ride around with these colorful, color coordinated pieces of plastic on the roof of your car.  So now, this is a great place to be, as long as you are not in an area where there are sharks, now.  This is something new in Maine, which the claim is the warming of the water.  Have you seen the ones that you can stand on and do your paddling standing up?  This is all a new concept for me.  It is interesting to see them out there balancing and have a boat go racing by, with a full wake rippling their way.  Now that’s a true challenge!  I’m not quite ready to take on that challenge just yet, but more power to the ones that do.

I am so glad that some of our communities continued to have their lobster boat races. This is the final week of the race schedule, which was held in Portland.  This is such an important event, as the Portland Tugboat Fleet also held their tugboat races donating the proceeds to the Make a Wish Foundation.  The full update on the event, including the lobster boat races will be in this issue of Maine Coastal News, thank you, Jon.

One thing that I’d like to point out in this article is a concern for sure.  I have been with the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association for sixteen years now and can see the change over the years.  When I first came “on board,” I knew that I had to withstand the test of time.  One of the strongest issues that I was involved with was the Working Waterfront Program, which has always been very important.  We have a very strong working waterfront in many places now, such as the boat yards that we see along the way, such as Front Street in Belfast and Billings Diesel in Stonington, as one example for me. One of the things that we have to be careful of, as I have noticed as of recent, is that we don’t want to diminish the amount of room that is available for the commercial fishermen on the waterfront.  Progress is all in good faith, but money also talks.  There is much more space for the big yachts at the docks and fences and signs that say “private property, no admittance.”  We used to be able to just tie up, especially if you’re a taxpayer, and respectfully be there long enough to clean your boat or stay there for a break down if you’re on a public dock.  Taxpayers should still be able to do that without animosity.  These are the things that are also changing on the waterfront and I want to be sure and mention these concerns to all that care about these preservations.  We still work on these issues and need more input from you along the way.  Please don’t let our way of life be completely wiped out by private enterprise even if it private/public facilities.

There also was a time when a local person could find a rental place to live in on the coast.  With first hand experience, most of the houses have been purchased by folks from away, fixed up and made top dollar rents such as $1,000 a week as a summer rental.  This is all fine for a tax base for the communities, but it makes it very difficult for a local person just starting out to find a decent place to live.  My concern is that we do not want to lose our traditional way of life on the coast to homes that we cannot afford to purchase or rent.  It has happened gradually, and before you know it, the biggest part of our communities are owned by big dollar people or even companies.  These folks may own two or three houses on the coast of Maine, and we don’t even realize it until we have a need for our growing families.  This is where we are at in the year 2020.  Please pay close attention to these changes and concerns. Times are changing fast and we need to be sure that we can afford to live here in our own state.

We are working on preserving our way of life and will continue to pay attention to these changes along the way.  Yes, life is about change, it is inevitable, but too much change too soon is hard to deal with, such as all the change that we are dealing with this year.  Let’s stay strong and be sure that we all stay safe.  We will do our best to work together in the year 2020.