PORT CLYDE, Maine — More than 200 people turned out in the sunshine Saturday afternoon to celebrate the dedication of the restored and expanded historic Port Clyde wharf.
Two open tents were set up on the new 30-by-130-foot concrete wharf jutting into the harbor of Port Clyde, a fishing village at the tip of the St. George peninsula.
A sign spread across two pilings on the side of the wharf summed up the day with the inscription “Working Waterfront Forever.”
The wharf was a culmination of efforts of the Port Clyde Fishermen’s and Lobstermen’s Cooperatives, Island Institute of Rockland, Coastal Enterprise Institute of Portland and the state Department of Marine Resources to preserve an acre of waterfront property for use by commercial fishermen.
Prock Marine of Rockland built the 10-inch-thick concrete wharf for about $500,000. It was designed to last as a commercial dock for generations of groundfishermen and lobstermen.
The concrete is strengthened with an embedded latticework of rebar steel rods, the kind used in bridge construction, said Lobstermen’s Cooperative member Mike Cushman.
“It should last my lifetime, and then some,” he said.
The tents housed 14 picnic tables, and Mark Weaver’s Bakery and Catering of Belfast cooked hamburgers and sausages on a charcoal grill at one side of the wharf. Co-op members Doug Anderson and his wife, Rhonda, and Cindy Hall prepared vats of fresh haddock chowder and lobster stew to serve the crowd. Anderson stirred the chowder with an oar.
The haddock was donated by Port Clyde Fresh Catch, an entrepreneurial arm of the co-op that markets fresh fish directly to local restaurants, stores and individuals. Lobstermen’s co-op members cooked and cleaned meat from the lobsters for the stew, Anderson said. Apple pie, brownies and homemade cake were available, along with beverages galore.
A three-piece combo, Fresh Fish, sang and strummed tirelessly throughout the afternoon.
Artist Jamie Wyeth, a Port Clyde resident and benefactor of the project, came and talked with people in the crowd.
“It’s great,” Wyeth said. “I’m all for it.”
Lobster co-op member Doug Anderson, who is a lay minister at Port Clyde Advent Christian Church, gave a prayer of dedication, expressing thanks for “the opportunity to be here, to live here and to grow up together here.”
Shortly before the service, Anderson’s 12-year-old grandson, Douglas, was out in the harbor hauling a lobster trap into his 16-foot open-hull boat, a sign of another generation of lobstermen on the way.
Funds for the wharf came from the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program of the Department of Marine Resources with the support of the Land for Maine’s Future board and other sources.
The original allocation of $250,000 was increased to $345,000 after the Port Clyde Lobsterman’s Cooperative applied to the LMF board owing to an increased valuation of the co-op’s property.
The Island Institute’s Affordable Coast Fund contributed $130,000 toward the project, and the fishermen gave $40,000.
Soon after construction began, the existing pier collapsed. The unexpected incident added another $70,000 in costs, said Nancy Carter of the Island Institute. Prock Marine donated $15,000 worth of work and continued with construction. The balance of $55,000 was donated by Wyeth’s Up East Foundation.
The Port Clyde Lobstermen’s Cooperative, which owns an acre of waterfront property in the village, sold the development rights to the state so the land would remain working waterfront in perpetuity for future generations.
Gillian Garratt-Reed, marine program coordinator for the Island Institute, said, “They’ve protected the land by selling their development rights to the state, and then the state gets first crack to purchase it if they ever want to sell the property.
“These guys have gone above and beyond to get this done,” she said of the co-op members. “They have inspired us at the institute.
“They can’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said. “Without this kind of working waterfront support, they would have no other option.
“It might seem like just a dock,” she said, “but it’s the key to their lives here.”
The wharf supports 28 lobster boats that land more than 600,000 pounds of lobsters annually with an estimated value of more than $2 million, and nine groundfishing boats that land 1½ million pounds of shrimp and fish each year, according to the institute. The lobstermen’s cooperative will lease wharf space to the draggermen, or groundfishermen. The property also has two bait cooling buildings and an office building.