The Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront, spends much of its time working to network Maine’s 15 year-round island communities. Institute staff help islanders share education resources, replicate home weatherization projects from island to island, and create opportunities for island entrepreneurs to sharpen their business plans by working together.

Such togetherness isn’t always appropriate, but if community leaders put their heads together, they usually can find something of value in a joint effort. This is especially true for islands, for which geographic isolation is a constant first hurdle.

Eastport, in Washington County, has many of the assets that suggest a bright future—surrounded by Passamaquoddy Bay, a pretty downtown and a burgeoning creative economy. But when its city council bluntly turned down an offer by neighboring Calais and Baileyville to talk about joint economic development opportunities, it seemed Eastport was embracing a geographic isolation from its past.

Students of Maine history know that Eastport also was known as Moose Island until the 1930s, because it was, literally, an island. The effort to build a huge tidal power system there resulted in a causeway linking the island to the mainland, no doubt bringing economic opportunity to Eastport.

According to a recent story in the Bangor Daily News, Eastport city councilors gave the other towns a cold shoulder because Calais had reached out to investigate collaborations in the past, but later withdrew.

Eastern Washington County faces serious challenges; turning down a chance to talk about possible joint ventures over a perceived snub seems short-sighted. Group marketing for tourism, group buys of materials and equipment and regional planning that could help land state and federal development money are just a few of the possibilities that meetings might launch. The go-it-alone approach could leave Eastport an island again, at least figuratively. Refusing to even consider partnerships with neighbors is the kind of isolationism that can cause any community—island or not—to wither.