Rep. Deb McNeil remembers the working piers, the sounds and
smells of the Rockland fishing fleet unloading swelled holds
of herring and redfish.
offensive to some, those smells and sounds of commercial fishing
meant business was good for local harvesters.
a member of the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee,
McNeil has been an advocate and sounding board for issues
affecting the local fishing industry.
seen the bottom fall out of most species, and lobstering take
up as the Midcoast's most important cash crop. She is also
a strong proponent of preserving working waterfronts, as an
economic resource and a cultural link to Maine's past.
Thursday, the annual Maine Fishermen's Forum will host an
all-day session on the vitality of working waterfronts, and
what measures exist to protect them.
forum's board of directors felt working waterfronts, and coastal
access on the whole, was the most pressing subject facing
Maine's fishermen and it needed to be the marquee issue, said
Chilloa Young, the forum's coordinator.
such a prevalent issue, with so much of the coast owned by
out-of-staters who like the view, but may not like the lobsterman
or clammer working near them," Young said.
McNeil among those who believe a strong working waterfront
is an important asset, especially for Rockland, and responsibility
exists on the state and local levels to preserve it.
don't want to look out my window and just see white sails,"
got the money?
But with all this emphasis on funding, the question
of responsibility is rarely asked. Some, like McNeil, said
it's government's role to aid commercial fishermen when access
critics have said investing public funds in commercial piers
subsidizes the industry, and gives access only to fishermen,
and not the general public.
argument was heard loud and clear regarding Rockland's takeover
of the municipal fish pier, after the last private operator
left due to heavy financial losses.
a tussle," said Connors, the state planner. He prefers
the word "investment" to "subsidy," since
preserving access keeps fishermen working, allowing those
dependent on the access to contribute to the community as
an economic and social force.
return on the investment isn't counted in dollars," Connors
it is counted in feet, as in how many can be added to the
rapidly shrinking Maine working waterfront. A December 2002
study by Coastal Enterprises Inc. revealed only 25 of the
state's 7,000 miles of shoreline were traditional working
one reason the preservation of 85 feet of commercial access
in York last year made statewide headlines. The other was
its novelty: a joint purchase by a lobsterman and the York
Land Trust, the first time a land conservation group had invested
in a working waterfront.
easements through the land trust ensured the pier would remain
commercial, and Connors said the purchase has opened up other
land trusts to the possibility of protecting more.
for preservation can't be missed, said Rep. Hannah Pingree,
D-North Haven, who serves on the state's new Working Waterfront
Coalition, an advocacy group formed last summer.
said pressure on islands makes working waterfront preservation
a community survival issue.
preservation of working waterfronts on islands like Vinalhaven
is ensuring the future economic viability of the island,"
she said in an e-mail to VillageSoup.
coalition has appromixately 40 members, she said, and tries
to "agitate, publicize and organize" behind the
various methods of preservation.
think it has come to a crucial point, where the coalition
and members of the fishing community need to create a strong
consensus around which tools could be used to preserve the
working waterfront," she wrote.
said unique access needs for each community on the coast require
many solutions, and having many groups involved with the effort
provides needed flexibility.
the problem of Maine's vanishing coastline access is a boa
constrictor instead of a viper, with the squeeze coming so
slowly local planners can fail to recognize the problem until
can be laissez-faire about it," said Connors. "It's
a slow encroachment. At some point, (a town) is going to decide
whether public response is needed."
response usually means investment of tax dollars, whether
locally from property taxes or from the state pool through
grants or loans.
the 2002 CEI study, 23 of the 25 towns profiled had either
spent or sought funds for working waterfronts in the past.
is also measured in municipal zoning and land use regulations
on the waterfront. Perhaps Maine's best example of working
waterfront planning is Portland, said Connors.
has all the attributes, he said: strong waterfront zoning
that protects access for commercial and marine-related uses,
investment in cruise and dock facilities for recreation, and
a moratorium on development passed through a citizen initiative.
city) did this intent on preserving the character of its waterfront,"
said Connors, including generating the most important asset
any working waterfront needs to survive: community support.
access needs may differ, coastal towns need the support of
the community to ensure the success of preservation efforts.
goes for everywhere, Connors said, from "Portland to