In Maine, A Rural Coalition That Works

[imgbelt img=mainecoast528.jpg]Maine rural legislators from the inland had never worked with Maine rural legislators from the coast. Until they did.


Nancy Smith

Watson’s General Store in Cundy’s Harbor, Harpswell, Maine.

The second victory came in 2006 when Maine voters approved a small bond issue aimed at aiding Maine’s “Working Waterfront.”  The $2 million dollars raised in the bond has paid for 19 projects, including the construction of a pier in one of the few multi-fishery communities left on the coast, the purchase of development rights on shoreland essential for access to the fisheries, and matching funds to ensure that essential infrastructure for Maine’s fisheries is held in these business sectors.

Mainers will continue to face the challenges of finding the balance between those who want to live on the waterfront because of lifestyle and those who live there to work. Vacationers, retirees and summer residents may not be accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of our traditional industries.  Coastal real estate firms and chambers of commerce now publish brochures that describe what it is like to live in a fishing village or a town with a shipyard, in order to minimize conflicts between these two distinct cultures.

The cumulative effect of all these efforts will be the continuation of Maine’s tradition of place-based food production and harvesting, along with the businesses and lives centered around serving the needs of Mainers who choose to live on the coast.

The lesson learned is this:  when farmers and fishermen band together to address common rural challenges, even from their different home fronts, great things can be accomplished.

Rep. Nancy E. Smith is chair of the Business, Research and Economic Development Committee of the Maine House of Representatives. Rep. Leila J. Percy is the chair of the Marine Resources Committee.