The old saying is that “all politics is local.” We’ve seen some very tangible evidence of the truth of that saying here in Stonington, Maine.
Last night there was a public hearing at the Stonington Town Hall about food trucks. It’s a hot issue here for the small business owners. There’s a limited “summer season” in Stonington when local businesses hope to sell their wares to tourists and visitors enjoying the sunny but not-too-hot weather, and also a limited amount of four-hour on-street parking in the “downtown” area that those tourists and visitors can use. Business owners are concerned that food trucks can come and use those precious spots for the full four hours, potentially making parking a challenge and causing a visitor to pass their business by. And the restaurants, all of which are locally owned businesses, aren’t happy with the idea of food trucks swooping in and taking away customers.
Stonington doesn’t have an ordinance governing food trucks. Should there be one, and if so what should it say? Last night the town’s Board of Selectmen heard from the public on the issues, and now they’ll decide.
And sometimes the politics is even more local — specifically, about one person with a piece of cardboard and a magic marker. The sign below was posted on a telephone pole just at the eastern entrance to the downtown area. Not knowing anything about the “whale rules” that the sign mentioned, I did a Google search and learned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has promulgated a proposed rule to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale. NOAA believes that the whales are at risk of death or injury from entanglement in the many buoy lines that connect lobster traps on the ocean floor to their buoy markers on the surface, The new proposed rule would require Maine lobstermen to remove half of their vertical buoy lines in the water — which means directly reducing the potential catch. In a town like Stonington, where many people are self-employed in the lobster industry, that’s a federal rule that could potentially have an enormous and direct impact on the town. Public hearings on the rule will begin soon, and Maine’s congressional delegation has appealed to President Trump to quash the proposed rule. They argue that there really isn’t evidence that the lobster buoy lines are responsible for the decline in the right whale population.
That hand-lettered sign just outside of town got my attention, and made me look into an issue that i wasn’t aware of before. It just shows the impact of a little local politicking.
We’re fog-bound this morning. The thick fog crept in like a living thing, blanketing the harbor, oozing up the hillside, and invading every nook and cranny to the point where even our neighbor’s house was rendered distant and indistinct through the foggy wisps.
I like the fog because it’s a tangible reminder that we’re in a seaside community. I also like the cool spritz on the skin that the fog brings. But I can understand why the lobstermen hate it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be out on the water with this grey haze shrouding the normal landmarks, without knowing what rocky outcropping or boat might be lurking nearby. It’s one reason why lobstering is a dangerous, tough business.
There’s a “tall ship” anchored in Stonington’s harbor today. It towers over the other vessels, and gives rise to thoughts of men ‘o war and the old days of wind-powered wooden navies and sailing craft.
All boats are cool, but there’s something especially graceful about sailboats.
I worked for a while today at the Stonington Public Library. It’s a nifty little facility with free wireless, a good reading table, and a really excellent book selection for its size. And, like most small town libraries, it’s at the center of it all. While I was there, numerous people stopped by to pick up a book, chat up the friendly librarian, and talk about what’s going on.
Libraries are one of those civic institutions that hold towns together. Stonington has a really good one.
Route 15 runs right into the Square Deal Garage on the outskirts of town. It’s an iconic, well maintained, throwback building that has a a distinctive Maine feel to it. When you see the red Pegasus, you know you’re almost to Stonington.
Small towns always seem to be filled with interesting characters and interesting stories. Stonington is no different.
One such story lies behind the “mini-village” of tiny houses and buildings found at one end of town. You can get a sense of their scale from the picture with Betty, below.
The buildings are the handiwork of Everette Knowlton, who began building them in 1947 and placed them on his property. By the time he died in 1978, he had constructed an entire village, complete with church, school, grocery store, barns, gas station, and homes. The purchaser of his property after his death donated the village to the town, and every year townspeople store the buildings for the winter and return them in the spring for everyone to enjoy.
I think the last part, about the citizens of Stonington storing the buildings for decades, is the coolest part of the story. It tells you something about the community.