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Local organizations collaborate to present waterfront conversation series

Susan Olcott
September 1, 2021

Originally published in the Harpswell Anchor

Photo courtesy of the Harpswell Anchor

Harpswell is a vibrant coastal community that is full of waterfront activity, culture and history. There is an amazing breadth of expertise and knowledge in the community that is worthy of being shared. To that end, a group of local organizations have come together to present a series of informal presentations entitled, “Living and Working in a Waterfront Community: A Conversation Series.” These presentations will be given by a suite of community members and representatives from the participating organizations in order to share stories and information about Harpswell’s working waterfront.

The idea began with a series of casual conversations among members of several organizations who realized a common need in the community. What could a local library do to help celebrate the waterfront aspects of Harpswell’s culture? How does that include fisheries? What is the role of conservation? Where does cultural preservation fit in? And how could they get the word out?

The nexus of audiences and skill sets brought together the Cundy’s Harbor Library, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Holbrook Community Foundation and Harpswell Anchor. Representatives from each organization met to outline the topics they would cover and how to structure the presentations in a way that is open and accessible to a variety of people.

The group decided to offer two events in the fall that will include both in-person and webinar options. The presentations will be recorded for those who aren’t able to make the scheduled dates. They will be paired with a series of articles in the Harpswell Anchor that will focus on different aspects of the working waterfront. These articles will be reprinted in the HHLT and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association newsletters.

A 2020 report by the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, “The State of Maine’s Working Waterfront,” identified the need for more communication and education in order to mitigate misunderstandings and instead celebrate a vibrant working waterfront.

The first presentation, “Fishing Through the Seasons,” will focus on the variety of fisheries in Harpswell as well as the methods and timing for harvest. Panelists will share information on what they catch, how and when. Representatives from a variety of fisheries, including shellfish, groundfish, lobstering and aquaculture, will be included. Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association staff will participate in the panel as well as moderate the hourlong conversation and half-hour of questions from the audience. This event will be held at the HHLT office on Oct. 21 from 6-7:30 p.m.

The second event, “Conversations From the Fishing Community,” will be an informal storytelling roundtable where different generations of Harpswell fishing families share what has changed over the years and what they have passed on. This event is meant to be an opportunity for those from the fishing community, young and old, to talk casually with each other while giving audience members a chance to listen in on their conversations. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association will moderate this panel too, along with the question-and-answer session following. The Cundy’s Harbor Community Hall will host the event on Nov. 18 from 6-7:30 p.m.

The partnering organizations plan to offer two more panels in the spring focused on coastal stewardship and how everyone can help to ensure a thriving waterfront in the face of climate change.

This series of presentations and articles is being supported with funding from the Broad Reach Foundation. In addition, the Cundy’s Harbor Library received funding from the American Library Association to support the presentations, along with smaller, informal follow-up gatherings, such as book and discussion groups.