Category Archives: News

Westport Island’s February Blizzard

Had both upsides and downsides…

Depending where you live on the island, tree buffering and drifting, Islanders reported from 23.5 inches to 3 feet of snow when the first blizzard of 2017 subsided on February 13. When life was back to normal, historic island landmarks — the Town Hall, the Community Church and the Baptist Church, as well as the Town Office, looked like wintry greeting card images.

fire department's caved in portable garageThe Westport Volunteer Fire Department’s hard-bottom inflatable boat just looked buried, and now it looks homeless.

The boat lost its home in February’s snow deluge. Snow accumulation caved in the boat’s portable garage. Only the frame of the garage still stands, so the boat is now exposed to the elements. Space is too limited inside the fire department bays to move the boat inside, and the plastic tarp has proven to be an inadequate solution.

There would be space inside the garage if it weren’t for “historic” Engine 1, which also needs to be inside. Engine 1 is no longer a regular, functioning member of the fire department; it is used only for parades and ceremonial events. …But, it is a sentimental favorite of many islanders, because it is the first fire truck purchased brand new for the island back in 1963.

Wanted: Covered parking for Engine 1

The fire department is seeking assistance from an island resident who might have unused space in a barn or garage to park Engine 1. The Engine is 23′ long, 7’9″ wide and 8’4″ high. If you can help the fire department by providing a temporary or ongoing shelter, please call Fire Chief Bob Mooney at 460-0367.

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Westport’s WWII Veteran Vera Cleaves’ Last Hurrah

Vera is celebrated in the Maine Historical Society’s Veteran’s Voices exhibit

On February 2, about 160 people turned out for the opening of the Maine Historical Society’s Veterans’ Voices exhibit. The exhibit highlighted first-person stories of 10 Maine veterans from World War II to Afghanistan — one of whom was Westport Island’s 102-year old WWII veteran Vera Cleaves.

Unfortunately, Vera died on January 23, about one and one-half weeks before she was to be honored at the exhibit’s opening. At the opening reception, Vera was also to receive medals from the State of Maine for her service in the armed forces and as a veteran of World War II. Her nephew, Brad Cleaves, and his wife, Patty Latham, received the medals and certificates on Vera’s behalf from Adria Horn, Director of Maine Veterans’ Services. They were sensitive to Vera’s pride in her military service and made attendance at the opening a priority to accept Vera’s honors on behalf of the family.

With an introduction from Brenda Bonyun, Tilly Laskey from the Maine Historical Society visited and interviewed Vera in December. Vera reviewed and edited the narrative from the 2-hour interview. She was honored and grateful to the Maine Historical Society for commemorating her WWII service. My last image of Vera was seeing her smile as she looked at the poster for the upcoming exhibit. Vera was looking forward to attending the opening on February 2 and speaking with fellow veterans. She died knowing her story will be remembered.

Read Vera’s story. The exhibit will run at the Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland through April 29.

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Westport Island Vote 2016

Islanders turned out in record numbers

Voter exits the town hallVoter turnout for state and national elections is generally strong on Westport Island, and this year was no exception. National voter turnout has been estimated at about 58 percent; state voter turnout at last check was about 67 percent.

Westport Island’s voter turnout edged 84 percent. Absentee voting — including mail and in-person — broke Island records at 111 voters, plus 6 out-of-country and military voters for a total of 117 voters. Another 405 headed to the polls on election day.

And if we were nominating Spirit of America volunteers today — the nominees would have to be the poll workers. They maintain the integrity of the process and make election day a pleasant one at the polls. Sandra Crehore, Cheryl Anderson, Pam Soule and Sam Soule put in hours before election day to prepare for the election; and they put in double digit hours on election day. Twelve vote counters worked in teams of two to count and reconcile their ballot counts in the hours after the polls closed. Thank you to all for a great job on a record-setting day.

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How Westport Islanders voted the contested races:

The overall winning candidates and referendum votes are noted in italics. Also, note that Questions 1 and 2 are currently in a recount.

President Hillary Clinton (D) 241
Donald Trump (R) 219
Gary Johnson (L) 29
Jill Stein (G) 12
David McMullin ( ) 1
U.S. House District #1 Mark Holbrook (R) 252
Chellie Pingree (D) 246
Maine Senate District #89 Dana Dow (R) 250
Christopher K. Johnson (D) 249
Maine House District #13 Stephanie Hawke (R) 234
Wendy Wolfe (I) 260
Question 1. Legalize Marijuana Yes 272
No 236
Question 2. Tax for Public Education Yes 251
No 259
Question 3. Gun Background Checks Yes 243
No 269
Question 4. Increase Minimum Wage Yes 288
No 221
Question 5. Ranked-Choice Voting Yes 260
No 239
Question 6. Transportation Bond Yes 332
No 171

Westport’s Wright Landing and Horticulture Committees Recognized

Spirit of America 2016

Committee members receive Spirit of America awardOn October 18, members of the Wright Landing Committee and the Horticulture Committee were honored as the 2016 Westport Island Spirit of America recipients.  Spirit of America awards are given to individuals or groups which exemplify service to community.

The Wright Landing Committee and the Horticulture Committee, which was created to beautify the landing, have worked together to develop and manage the Wright Landing property as a public boat landing and park.  Members devote many volunteer hours throughout the year in various ways to make our public landing accessible and welcoming to residents, fishermen, boaters and visitors.  Their efforts have included:

  • Applying for grants and managing funded improvements that added a walkway and jetty to improve the landing’s facilities as a boat ramp for residents, fishermen and visitors;
  • Managing the overall improvement, development and landscaping of the public landing and park;the landing in fall
  • Overseeing the annual installation and removal of the ramps and floats;
  • Maintaining and advocating for the Wright Landing house and property;
  • Creating and maintaining a landscaping design and perennial garden that has beautified the landing and provided a changing display of blooms and color from Spring into Fall; and
  • Transforming the Wright property into a proud community landmark where town office staff routinely send new residents or prospective property purchasers – to see both its scenic beauty and its facilities for providing public access to the water.

The Wright Landing Committee and the Horticulture Committee have created a community asset which has garnered praise from residents, fishermen and visitors as well as representatives from area town conservation committees.

Not all members could be present at the Lincoln County awards ceremony, but all are recognized by the town in its award of appreciation — Wright Landing Committee: Richard DeVries, Chair; Al Andrews; Robert Morris; Ken Parsons; and Bruce Whittemore as well as past chair, Art Ballard, and John Nelson, in memoriam; and Horticulture Committee:  Donna Curry, Chair; Emily Adler; Brad Adler; Elizabeth Lee; Gretchen McNamara and Debbie Williams.

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Westport Island DockDog Makes a Splash

Casco dives for fun at the Union Fair

Erin and CascoErin Bailey and her “bestie” Casco spent last weekend at a Seacoast DockDogs event at the Union Fair.

Casco, a 3-year old black lab, has taken to dock diving like a fish to water. From Seacoast DockDogs events to the Dock Dog World Championships last year in Dubuque, Iowa, Casco has excelled and earned the title “Master” Dock Dog.

Casco grabs some friesAt Union Fair, it was just about keeping cool and having fun — which is what he did. He was high energy — “pressing the fur” with his canine competitors and shaking paws with his fans. After grabbing some fries, he went on to capture some “big air” in a long jump to fetch his toy and splash the crowd — jumping over 20 feet. What fun. Go Erin and Casco…

Islanders Finish 1st and 2nd

At the 12th Annual Westport Island Shore Run 10K Road Race

Dan Bradford sprinted to the finish line of the Westport Island Shore Run last Sunday with a winning time of 40:53. Then, it was time to recover from the last uphill climb on West Shore Road, high humidity and the beating sun. Chase Hughes, a senior at Maine Maritime Academy and son of a Westport Volunteer Firefighter, finished second. Lisa O’Neill of Boston was the first place female finisher.

There was a light turnout at the race this year — which in the hours before the race start looked like it may be a rainy run — but the rain clouds turned into hot sun and a beautiful day on a beautiful course.

Thanks to the participants and sponsors: Wiscasset Ford; Maine Yankee, Hodgdon Yacht Services; Sheepscot River Marine Services; Ames True Value Supply; Sharon Drake Real Estate; Bath Savings Bank; First Federal Savings; the Westport Island Brewing Company; Newcastle Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge; the Westport Island Community Association; and Norm’s Used Cars, it appears that the race generated over $1,000 for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department coffers.

A second pair of Islanders, Mary Ellen Barnes and Carol Norris, were 1st and 2nd place finishers in the Fun Walk in this year’s field of two — go walkers! …Wait until next year…

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A Summer Week on Westport Island

Passages of a small town…

As the sun smiles and summer beckons, island life awakens. People gathered to vote, the Ferry Landing buzzes with boats and blossoms, summer “improvements” are underway and the season of island weddings began.

Sixty percent of those voting expressed their wish to safeguard Squam Creek for the future by supporting the purchase of 144 acres for a public preserve. Appropriating the $50,000 necessary to fund this wish will be decided at the upcoming Town Meeting on June 25.

The Ferry Landing park and boat launch is showing the love of the Horticulture Committee as its plantings mature — with irises, peonies, catmint, lady’s mantle and more. Thank yous for transforming the landing from a grassy lot to a “garden park” go to Donna Curry, Gretchen McNamara, Elizabeth Lee, Deborah Williams and Brad and Emily Adler.

The chandlery at McCarty’s Cove was put up on “blocks” to shore up its foundation for restoration and renovations…the Town Report was finished and honors WWII veteran Joseph Hoerth and friends for their military service and time as POW’s…and, a young military couple said their “I do’s” facing the Sheepscot from the rocky outcroppings of the historic Woodbury Hodgdon House.

But in the warm welcome of summer, a shadow passed over this week with the sudden passing of Carole Bodmer. As Second Selectman Jerry Bodmer’s wife, she was a partner in serving the town and its people — making town business a priority in family life and being a part of and contributing food,talent and time to the many celebrations and events that sustain a small community. Visiting hours will be 4-6 p.m. Thursday afternoon, June 23, at the David E. Desmond & Son Funeral Home, 638 High Street in Bath. Blessings to Jerry and the Bodmer family as we remember…

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Exclusive Westport Island Property Delisted

The osprey have taken an option…

You may have seen the property listing at the Westport Island Town Office. The iconic osprey “property” was listed for sale after Central Maine Power (CMP) “condemned” and demolished the original nest. In its place, CMP constructed a replacement nest platform — without a “ready-made” nest.
osprey nest platform real estate listing
The property listing was a light take on island-wide concern that Ma and Pa Osprey would return to find a turkey decoy perched on the power lines in place of their home; and a hi-rise fiberglass platform for building a new nest a little too lacking in the comforts of home. The three plus “starter sticks” left on the platform fell considerably short of a nest. So, the waiting and watching began. The First Selectman, the Fire Chief, the Chair of the Planning Board, bird lovers from the island’s north end to the south end…

The usual return date a week or so before tax day came and went. Then, the first sightings of Ma and Pa Osprey came in on Friday. Over the course of the afternoon, they landed, circled, landed, circled, flew away and flew back. They flew south on the island on Friday evening, and were absent from the nest on Saturday. On Sunday, they returned; the decision made; the work underway. Now, a new wait begins…

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“Exclusive property listing” for the nest site courtesy of Fire Chief Bob Mooney

Happy Birthday Althea!

Celebrating 79 years; 61 years on Westport…

Born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and raised down the road in Dresden Mills, Althea Fitch came to Westport when she married Jud Cromwell in 1955. She’s been here ever since.

In that time, Althea has been an active participant in island life. Her proudest achievement was raising three sons — Thomas, Michael and Brian — largely on her own. And, as any one of them would tell you, the three of them were a handful. They have great admiration and love for their mom. To show it, they worked with friends and family to organize a surprise celebration to let her “feel the love” for all she is and has done.

Althea was a charter member of the Wiscasset Ambulance Service — serving Westport as an EMT in the 1970’s. In the 1990’s, she ran the Pumpkin Press with a partner. The Pumpkin Press was an antique letterpress shop on the island. Its published works included a reprint of another islander’s poetry — Henry Swanton’s 1922 “The Coast of Maine and Other Verses” and a historical booklet, The Wiscasset Ships, a remembrance of the Hesper and the Luther Little.

Althea as an EMTWhen oral historian Susan Bowditch interviewed Althea, two things struck her — one expected: “what you see is what you get” — she is firm in her opinions and frank. …Another was less expected: Althea loves to dance… Lessons started as a young child continued until she was 17. Dance is her passion — her favorite is tap dancing. To this day, you might get a glimpse of her dancing to Lawrence Welk on a Saturday night as you pass by her house.

As the wife and mother of lobstermen, Althea is “one” with cruising the island’s waters. She loves sitting in the back of Mike’s lobster boat and feeding the seagulls — not so good for his lobstering business, because the seagulls get more bait than the bait bags. Inside pastimes include sewing, needlepoint, knitting and crocheting — valuable skills when she was a member of Westport Willing Workers. The Willing Workers, active from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, organized fundraising dinners and made crafts and quilts for raffles to benefit the town. They cleaned the Town Hall (including the outhouses), bought the first tables and planted the shrubs at the Town Hall. Later, she was a contributor to the 2011 Westport Island quilt that was designed and assembled by 18 island women to create a traditional fabric narrative of life on Westport. She created “The Lincoln County Flag” square.

If you’ve fallen on hard times and need a hand from Helping Hands’ Island Food Pantry, you’ve likely met or spoken to Althea who is the neighbor with a key and commitment to helping Island families. And, if you are more fortunate and have donated to Helping Hands, the carefully written thank you notes initialed “AC” come from Althea.

Happy Birthday Althea!

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Westport’s “Welcome Osprey” Will Not be Homeless

The osprey nest will return next week if the weather is favorable

For those of you who enjoy watching Ma and Pa Osprey keep house on the Island from spring through summer — they will have a home to return to this spring.

As many of you noticed beginning on Tuesday, the osprey nest at the head of the Island was gone. One of the first alerts came as a text:
“Crisis on Westport…the osprey nest is gone…” Then, there were phone calls and emails — “the nest is gone, will it be back?” “Where has our osprey nest gone?” Two residents offered to sign a petition to Central Maine Power (CMP) Company to bring the nest back. Westport’s osprey are iconic — witness Erin Bailey’s square for the 2011 Town Quilt: “Mr. & Mrs. Osprey” (pictured above).

Based on past discussions with a CMP lineman from the Wiscasset field station, workers are trained on state and federal laws protecting the osprey and work with the the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to protect the birds and their nests where possible. According to a state biologist, nests can be moved as long as there are no eggs or baby chicks in them.

Janet Dyer, from CMP’s Environmental Department, said they are planning on putting up a new platform next week, weather permitting. The nest was replaced because it was in bad shape and rotting — which presents a risk to both the birds and the power lines. The platform will be going on the new pole that was put up last fall, so the nest will no longer be on the transmission pole where falling sticks and debris from the nest pose a potential risk of fire and power outages. Dyer said CMP realizes it has a limited timeline to work within, because the birds are usually here by the first of April; and the mild weather may mean an earlier arrival. So, stay tuned for nest construction activity and a, hopefully, happy housewarming.

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