Traditionally, Maine coastal communities have relied heavily on marine-related industries supported from their working waterfronts. But working waterfronts are increasingly in danger of disappearing, as pressures from outside developers increase. Coastal communities are now searching for ways to manage this pressure so that marine-related industries can continue to thrive.

Towns recognize the need for action, as private wharves are lost, bringing more pressure on public facilities.

The Island Institute has worked closely with town officials in St. George to develop a GIS planning tool to help manage this problem. St. George is home to approximately 250 commercial vessels, and provides transportation to Monhegan Island from Port Clyde, a village within the town. Yet St. George has only two public piers and is reliant on private wharves for the rest of its working waterfront access. Town officials are looking for ways to resolve this problem, either by expanding existing access or identifying new areas that could provide it.

Shey Veditz and Rob Snyder, the GIS Specialist and Programs Director for the Island Institute, have worked with St. George officials to identify key questions and gather information essential to planning for future working waterfront access. Existing access data points were created with supplemental information such as accessibility from land and sea (parking and tidal access, for example), services currently available (such as fuel), as well as any riparian-rights issues for each point. Information including shoreland zoning and critical habitat were also organized for the area, because such limits affect the ability to provide access.

The final product is a comprehensive map showing the current working waterfront access situation for the town of St. George. Town officials plan to use the information to identify, review and justify areas for potential access expansion.

Interest is growing for similar efforts to be completed in towns along the coast, and plans are in process to complete similar surveys on Islesboro and Chebeague. The Island Institute is now organizing a working group made up of community members and nonprofit and state organizations to identify the role for this information as a tool for sustaining Maine’s working waterfronts, as well as ways to bring this planning tool to interested communities throughout the state.