The power of pictures

In an image-driven age, the work of a documentary photographer can seem
particularly powerful. David Wade’s photographs of Widgery Wharf in Portland,
exhibited in June and reproduced here this month, tell the all-important story of
the city’s working waterfront. Wade’s story centers on Maine’s largest port, but it
resonates up and down this coast: working waterfronts, all less-than-25-miles-of-
them in Maine, are seriously at risk and in danger of disappearing in our
lifetimes. Think about it: a state with a coastline of more than 7,000 miles, with
an important maritime economy stretching back for hundreds of years, unable to
keep its tiny percentage of working coastline intact. Voters came close to
passing a constitutional amendment two years ago that would have allowed
working waterfrontage connected with the fishing industry to be taxed at current
use, instead of the highest-and-best-use rates now required for such property.
The question will come back in the near future, and it’s something we’d like to
hear the candidates for governor talking about (so far, silence). We and others
committed to the future of the working coast will support a well thought-out
working waterfront initiative, and as we do, images of what’s at stake will play
their part.

Community to the rescue

Islesboro’s Class of 2002 gets this graduation season’s good-humor-under-
fire award. The class, as we report this month, spent more than a year raising
over $17,000 for its class trip to Europe, only to see the trip threatened by an
almost-farcical (as if it were funny at all) sequence of events: a terrorist threat, a
prudent cancellation, an uncooperative airline and travel agent, a reluctant
insurance carrier. Parents and others came to the rescue, persuading the airline
and travel agency to relent somewhat, and in the end, with an assist from the
Islesboro Community Fund, another grant and help from the island school
committee, an abbreviated trip was arranged. The immediate lesson, organizers
now say: get it all in writing. A larger message is obvious as well: how wonderful
it is to see a community go to bat for its kids and their hard-earned graduation
trip, even when the senior class numbers only four.

Some get it, some don’t

The Maine Department of Marine Resources takes it on the chin from time to
time, but its response to concerns raised by lobstermen and others over the
wisdom of spraying for browntail moth and mosquitoes has been exemplary.
Assisted by fishermen, department scientists put out lobsters in cages near
areas to be sprayed for browntail moth this spring. The lobsters were returned to
a DMR lab after the spraying and observed until they molted. No differences in
the lobster’s ability to grow shells have shown up so far, but results aren’t yet
complete. Compare the DMR’s posture to that of its sister agency, the
Department of Transportation (DOT), sponsor of the controversial road-widening
project on coastal Route 1 in Warren, and it’s easy to discern a gap of decades
between the two approaches. In recent years, at least, the DMR has learned to
cooperate and help; the DOT still can’t resist the instinct to shove its projects
down people’s throats.

How the news works

For our June issue we carefully assembled five different views of the New
England groundfishery and the anticipated effects of U.S. District Judge Gladys
Kessler’s plan for saving the resource. As the press was rolling, the good judge
was changing her mind, issuing a new ruling that promised to be somewhat less
devastating. Meanwhile all those printed opinions were flying off the press and
headed for newsstands and mailboxes.

A month earlier, on good authority, we announced the anticipated launch
date of the latest tugboat then under construction in East Boothbay — on the
front page. Following up on our story we headed for the shipyard on the date in
question, only to find the vessel in question floating at the dock. The yard, it
seems, had moved the launch date up a couple of days at the request of the
tug’s owners — an example of flexibility most shipyards would surely envy. In
any event, the launch had gone forward smoothly without us — and the handful
of loyal readers who showed up on our say-so. Such are the perils of monthly