Westport Island, Maine

rocksWelcome to a journal of Westport Island, Maine.  To locals, Westport Island is also known as “The Rock”. At this Rock Blog, you will find tidbits of island history, photographs, and items of interest. Comments, pictures, and personal histories from those with an interest in the Island are welcome.

Westport Island was originally called Jeremisquam and was a part of Edgecomb.  It came to be known as Westport, because it was the west port of Edgecomb.

Toast the New Year

With a Westport Island styled glass of bubbly

wooden glass of bubbly champagneHappy New Year! It’s time to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and toast family, friends and neighbors that make our world a better place.

A holiday, a season, a celebratory occasion or a unique piece of Maine or Americana is marked on Westport Island by a mailbox finial at the home of Ken Shepherd and Cheryl Anderson. Today, as we celebrate the dawn of a new year, our creative Anderson-Shepherd partnership is marking the day with a glass of bubbly.

Ken Shepherd and Cheryl AndersonKen — an electrical engineer by profession and a highly skilled wood turner by passion — designs and crafts the novelty wood mailbox finials, and Cheryl — a multi-talented craftsperson — paints them. Their creations include: the Boon Island Lighthouse, Mickey Mouse; a train, a plane and a motorboat; a Valentine; a football; Uncle Sam’s, a Puritan’s, a witch’s and a leprechaun’s hat; an American flag; a Thanksgiving Day turkey; Santa Claus; a snowman; an angel; a Christmas tree… the list of fun novelties goes on and on… and always turns heads when passing through the 200 block of the Main Road.

Ken’s father was also a wood crafter, and his grandfather was a watchmaker – a skill he has also mastered. His creative engine never stops; he is always thinking of new ways to create with wood, and is always taken with the challenge of wood varieties and aberrations. Ken is a member of the American Association of Woodturners; a member and former president of the Maine Woodturners; a woodturning teacher and a 21-year volunteer at the Maine Maritime Museum where he also uses his wood crafting talents to enhance displays.

A visit to the Anderson-Shepherd house is like going back in time to Santa’s workshop when everything was made of wood and handcrafted with love – Christmas tree decorations, vases, housewares, goblets, candleholders, fire bellows, and more…

Thank you Ken and Cheryl for sharing your talents and giving us a Westport Island icon that makes me smile.

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Spreading Cheer

…Bailey style

In this season of hope, we give thanks for those who give of themselves and put a smile in our day.

Merry Christmas!

the fire department Christmas tree

Bailey & faithful friend Clyde beside the fire department Christmas tree decorated by Bailey with buoys from the Lobster Co-op.

A Time to Plan and a Time to Vote

It’s time to plan to vote to adopt the 2019 Westport Island Comprehensive Plan

chair of the comprehensive planning committee introducing plan at public hearingIn February 2018, a group of fellow islanders agreed to take on the daunting task of updating Westport Island’s 2002 Comprehensive Plan. After 21 months of regular Thursday work sessions; developing, distributing and compiling results of a community survey; an advisory vote on the resulting Vision Statement; public meetings and at least as much time invested in pursuing individual work assignments, our Comprehensive Planning Committee is asking for our support next Tuesday, November 5, with a “yes” vote to adopt its proposed Comprehensive Plan.

Last year’s Vision Statement has guided the development of the Comprehensive Plan now being presented for a vote. The survey which provided the community input to shape the Plan was mailed to 800 island residents and property owners. The Vision Statement was developed by synthesizing comments from a public hearing with the answers and comments collected from 295 survey respondents. The Vision Statement was then ratified by an overwhelming 414 of 467 voters in November 2018.

map of Westport Island with dots showing new dwelling 2007-2018

New dwellings constructed on Westport Island 2007-2018

One might wonder why a Comprehensive Plan is important. It sounds more bureaucratic than relevant to everyday life on the island.

Comprehensive Plans are part of a “growth management” strategy borne of the 1988 “Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act.” This act was passed after concerns that rapid, sprawling development on Maine’s southern coast was threatening the health of local communities by diminishing scenic views, historic villages, traffic flow, wetlands, wildlife preservation, healthy groundwater and the qualities that draw people to Maine. In many instances, Planning Boards had been so busy reacting to requests for individual building permits that they didn’t have time to look at the bigger picture, or the “cumulative impact” of creeping growth on their communities.

Comprehensive Plans are blueprints of “the bigger picture”. They are developed by looking at the past, taking a snapshot of the present and creating a vision for the future with the input of the people who live and work in a community. Our 2002 Comprehensive Plan served us well, but it expired in 2012.

The State rewards communities who invest the effort in a current, community-approved Comprehensive Plan with incentives such as preferred access to a variety of state and federal grants designed to improve communities, including: Community Development Block Grants, Land for Maine’s Future, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and select Department of Environmental Protection grants. We have benefited from these grants in the past when we still had an approved Plan to develop amenities at Clough Point and our public boat launch, the Wright Landing. It would be very beneficial to have access to these monies again for improvements at our public lands, to improve resiliency and safety on our roadways with rising sea levels or for other public services.

Please join your neighbors at the polls on Tuesday, November 5 — or vote absentee through Thursday, October 31 — to adopt the 2019 Comprehensive Plan for Westport Island’s future and to show appreciation for the work done by our Comprehensive Planning Committee: Bob Mooney, Chair; Jerry Bodmer, 2nd Selectman & Plumbing Inspector; Gary Richardson, Code Enforcement Officer; Dick Barker, Planning Board; Dennis Dunbar, Conservation Commission; Jeff Tarbox, History Committee; Jason Kates, Cable Contract Negotiating Committee; Jim Cromwell, Road Committee; Ted Christie, Harbor Master; Richard DeVries, Wright Landing Committee; Joanna Jacobs, Planning Board; and Ron Stoodley, Deputy Code Enforcement Officer.

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The Island Run/Walk Welcomed Both 2- and 4-Footed Participants

And was a great way to start the day

dog with race numberSunday’s 15th Annual Westport Island Shore Run 10K Road Race and 3.5 mile Fun Walk didn’t pull out a crowded field of runners and walkers — but those that came enjoyed themselves, helped support the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and got their blood circulating.

The 10K race winner, William Strachan, Terrebone, OR, outdid the pack of runners with a 6.08 minute pace and a finish time of 38.03. He gave up his well-earned medal to his pint-sized nephew — who took the honor pretty seriously. The 2nd place finisher, Ariel Perry from Portland, ME, conquered the course with a pace of 7:14 and a finish time of 44:54. Andy Smith of Wiscasset rounded out the top three runners with a pace of 7:30 and a finish time of 46.35. All three had great times on a “rolling” course.

Westport Islander Nora Bradford, No. 18, pounded it out into the top 10. She was in 7th place overall, and won a medal for 3rd place among the female runners. Awesome!

The last place 10K runner was first in spirit and “can do”. Judy Phillips from Norwich, VT, in the 60-99 bracket, finished with a smile and then fell into the arms of her waiting husband. She and husband Joseph have come to Westport’s annual Island Run for the last 4 or 5 years because they like the people, the scenery and the lack of traffic on the course. Judy is all about moving and staying active in life, so if all goes as planned, she’ll be back to the island next year.

This year’s walkers brought a record number of canine “four-wheel drive” participants — all of whom finished, met some new friends and made the walk more enjoyable for their “two-wheel drive” companions.

See you next year…

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The Squire Tarbox Inn Reawakens

A new season in the Inn’s life has begun

Inn view from the barnRenovations were completed last year, and the historic Squire Tarbox Inn has begun its newest island life. Tyler, the innkeeper is in residence, the rooms and dining spaces are ready and welcoming, weddings are booked, and a schedule of special events is underway. Today’s Inn is a blend of bed & breakfast; special event site; and venue for community workshops and exhibitions.

To get a flavor of the workshops offered by the Inn, here’s a peek at participants’ fare at this season’s first workshop in June — “Foraged Floral Workshop” with Floral Designer John Sundling of Plant Office in Portland.

John Sundling began his professional life as a set designer and became an accidental floral designer when he moved to Maine. An artist by training, he had worked as a set designer in Chicago, New York and Maine; but discovered his new artistic passion while working in a floral shop in Maine. Now, he John Sundling leads workshopis a floral artist who operates the “Plant Office”, a floral shop offering services that range from blending flowers and art to create “full service florals” for weddings, special events, and theatrical set design — to providing tailored fresh floral decorations for businesses and restaurants or floral design workshops — to creating full-scale floral art installations.

Sundling came to Westport Island to provide a workshop for 14 participants in creating floral arrangements from the trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers around us — with a dash of farm raised flowers for color, because the local variety were not yet in summer prime. His philosophy: nature is beautiful. Be fluid, think balance — it doesn’t have to be perfect, it can look a little weird, because “nature is both beautiful and weird”…

Participants toured the inn, foraged the grounds for raw materials, had fun and were all successful under the tutelage of Sundling in creating beautiful floral arrangements.

Note: The following opening event has been postponed to a date yet to be announced; but the art exhibit will still be open from 12 pm to 6 pm through the month of August. …The Inn’s next event will be a solo exhibit showcasing the artwork of Brien Kliewer on Friday, August 2, from 4 pm to 6 pm. For more information and to view a sampling of his work, see “Brian Kliewer Solo Art Exhibit.” The event is free, open to the public — and a great opportunity to check out the beautiful Squire Tarbox Inn.

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On Miz Mason’s 100th Birthday

A poem by Susie Stedman in celebration of Jerry Day Mason

Jerry Day Mason turned 100 on Saturday, May 4. About 150 friends and family were there to celebrate the magic of Jerry and the magic of Jerry’s corner of Westport Island. Thank you Susie for sharing this tribute to your friend and ours…

Let us raise a glass to our Lady Jerry
Who’s taught each of us much about making merry.
We cherish her life and abiding love
For those gathered here…and those above.
She’s elegant, savvy, smart, still cooks!
And she’s never lost her glam good looks,

She raised many children…sailed a tight ship
With Chris, Sarah, Felicity, Jody, Tory and Trip.
Then countless others hopped on board,
As adopted kids…more than one can record,
Pets also adored her, too many to log
And now there’s Sylvester who thinks he’s a dog.

She’s a rare soul, this dame named Jerry,
She defies every known actuary…
She loves backgammon and good blue cheese,
Always puts visitors’ hearts at ease…
When she takes tea, it’s laced with rum
After that, nothing’s hum drum!

Her 100 years call for candles ablaze
(all thirty-six thousand five hundred days!)
Her recent adventures might have challenged the best…
With bones and vertebrae put to the test
But our Jerry rallied after every skid,
Proving to all she’s the Comeback Kid.

We love you. dear Jerry, for so many reasons,
Not least because you’ve lived many seasons.
Your esprit, your joy bloom like flowers…
Your unquenchable courage gives us ours.
Thank you, dear friend, for all that you do
To enlighten our world and show us what’s true.

With Love Forever
On May 4, 2019
Sooz

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Selected photos courtesy of Susie Stedman

Westport Community Association Pancake Breakfast

Means spring and “the season” is at the gate

The Community Association opened the doors of the Town Hall this past Saturday to welcome friends and neighbors to its 2nd annual Pancake Breakfast. And people came… about 90 of them… to catch up with neighbors, spend time with family and enjoy Art’s buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, Maine maple syrup, sausage, fresh fruit, juice and Westport Island’s own Crossroads Coffee. Yum.

Community Association volunteers served up a great breakfast and a pleasant break from the April showers outside. Thanks to the generosity of residents, they also received many donations for the Community Association and our food pantry, Helping Hands.

Stay tuned, for the upcoming Westport Community Association season of events:

Saturday, May 18, 9-11 am, Town Hall, Plant Swap and Sale
Saturday, June 15, 3-5 pm, Town Hall, Meet & Greet
Saturday, July 13, 5:30-7 pm, Town Hall, To be announced
Sunday, September 22, 4-6 pm, Community Church, Concert
Saturday, October 26, 7-9 pm, Town Hall, Halloween Party
Sunday, December 8, 4-6 pm, Town Hall, Island Christmas

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Westport Island Inspired Playwright Margie Castleman-Evans

Adds her creative legacy to the continuing history of the Sortwell Chandlery

Westport Islanders who sail, motor, kayak or canoe the Sheepscot River have doubtlessly cruised past the Sortwell Chandlery. The Chandlery has been a fixture on the eastern shore of the island since the early 1800’s when it was built as a ship’s store to service vessels sailing up and down river. Later, as McCarty Landing, it served as a steamboat landing. Residents throughout history have been seafarers, farmers, and since the early 1900’s those seeking a summer refuge.

Sortwell ChandleryBeyond its more practical iterations, as a summer refuge the Chandlery has served as inspiration for many who have had the luxury of absorbing its surrounding natural beauty and calm waters from a singular perch at the tip of McCarty Cove.

Cynthia Sortwell Castleman, whose childhood summers were spent at the Chandlery, started her professional life as a writer for Life Magazine. After marrying and raising five children, she taught English and Humanities in Kentucky. While her family was young, she packed the children into the family station wagon every summer to escape the oppressive summers of Louisville, Kentucky. Her stays inspired periodic articles for Downeast Magazine and other local outlets. She called her beloved summer retreat “My Blue Heaven” and wrote a piece titled as such for John and Louise Swanton’s local history book “Westport Island Maine once Jeremysquam.”

Play posterThese days, Cynthia’s daughter, Margie Castleman Evans, the current owner of the Chandlery with her husband, Barry Evans, feels the same love — and derives the same creative inspiration — as her mother from their Westport Island summer refuge. As a lifelong artist in the performing arts, Margie’s passion has turned to the craft of playwrighting. Her first play titled Closing the Chandlery was set in the Sortwell Chandlery. The play was a semi-finalist at the National Playwrights Conference in the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, the country’s premiere institution for new play development.

This summer, in between working with the History Committee on its “Historic Homes Tour,” which included the Chandlery, she was hard at work putting the finishing touches on her new play, We Can Eat Love. Margie’s new play will be included in the Portland Stage Studio Series for eight performances from March 22 – 31. Portland Stage is calling it “a new play with heart, soul, and a little music.”

Fire takes the home of our Westport Island neighbors

And tragically takes three of their pets

When firefighters arrived at 46 Greenleaf Road just before 11 am, they saw clouds of smoke. Black smoke was rising from under the eaves, pushing out the chimney and from roof and plumbing vents. Christopher and Bonnie Wormwood and their children were not home at the time. When notified about the fire, they arrived to find their home a total loss and to learn that the family dog, Joycey, and two of their cats had died in the fire. Another cat was spotted darting through the woods by a firefighter and was retrieved by Chris — the one bright note in a dismal morning.

Wiscasset, Woolwich, Alna, and Edgecomb firefighters joined the Westport Volunteer Fire Department in battling the blaze in temperatures in the low teens. Unfortunately, by the time the fire was reported and responders arrived, flames had destroyed much of the single-story structure. When firefighters water blasted the front door to make entry, the floor had already collapsed.

Many on the island will know the house as the former home of Jeffrey and Debbie Bailey and daughters Erin and Jessica. They, along with the Wormwoods will mourn the loss of a house they called home. After an initial assessment, it is believed that fire ignition may have been electrical in nature.

Thank you to all those agencies who responded to contain the fire and stand by for the good part of a day until the scene was safe. Two of our volunteers responded after working night shifts, the Chief took a vacation day from work to respond and several employers donated their workers. The loss of the pets weighed on those who had to remove them.

Tonight take stock of your blessings and say a prayer for the Wormwood family.

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A Westport Island Christmas Card

from the Island Christmas Program

Outside entry of Town Hall at ChristmasIn a tradition that goes back for more than 100 years, Islanders gathered for a neighborly Christmas celebration with caroling and a tree at the historic “town center” (the Community Church and the Town Hall) on December 9. It’s always nice to visit with neighbors and friends and take pause to appreciate what a nice community we have.

May the young and the young at heart enjoy this Christmas Day and season of giving and forgiving.

Thank you to the Westport Community Association, Pianist Carol Blake, Choir Director Rowan Etzel (who joined us from Bowdoin), the Choir — Brad Adler, Paul Arthur, Newt Blakesley, Maren Cooper, Richard DeVries, Lydia Kitfield, Cyndy Lewis, Deb Lorenson, Virginia Milligan, Marcia Richardson and Maryanne Seredynski — and publicist Laurie Jaramillo for their work in creating a welcoming “Old Fashioned Christmas.”

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