Taunton River landmark may get new owner

Posted July 07, 2009, at 7:38 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

SULLIVAN, Maine — A privately owned stone wharf on the tidal Taunton River that has served as an access point to the water for more than a century could end up being owned by the town if voters and town officials have their way.

With the approval of voters, the town is looking into ways it might be able to buy the wharf, which is just north of the Route 1 bridge that connects Hancock and Sullivan.

The idea, according to Selectman Gary Edwards, is to provide residents and perhaps fishermen with a way to access Taunton Bay above the nearby tidal falls, which are just south of the Route 1 bridge. The price voters approved last month as an offer to the wharf’s current owners, brothers Eric and William White, is $385,000, Edwards said Tuesday.

“It has great historical significance, because it was built as part of the granite industry,” Edwards said of the wharf. Granite that was mined in local quarries in the late 1800s and early 1900s was brought down to the wharf where it was loaded onto ships for transport, he said.

The granite industry has since faded away, but the wharf has had limited use over the past decades by some fishermen. Because the wharf is not really considered an active working waterfront property, the use envisioned by the town is mainly as a public access point and as a recreational site, he said.

If the town acquires the wharf, it most likely would put in a boat launch and “pretty it up” a little, Edwards said, perhaps by putting in some picnic tables. The wharf is known locally as Gordon’s Wharf, after former owners Tom and Helen Gordon.

“There is no public access above [the] tidal falls,” Edwards said. “There is no launch there now.”

The town is applying for roughly $200,000 from the state’s Land for Maine’s Future program to put toward the purchase price, the selectman said. LMF funds cannot go toward the purchase of a house that is on the property, he said. Frenchman Bay Conservancy also has pledged to help contribute money toward the purchase effort.

Edwards acknowledged the town would miss out on tax revenue from the property if it buys the wharf and house, but said it could make up for that lost tax revenue by leasing the house out as a commercial property. Possible uses for the house could be as a kayak rental business or as a seafood dealer, he said.

Exactly what kind of uses or improvements the property would benefit from would be determined later, if the town succeeds in buying the wharf, Edwards said. He said he hopes money can be raised and the wharf then can be purchased by the end of the year.

“We don’t have a lot of preconceived notions,” he said. “Once we know we’re going to buy it for sure, then we’ll put together a committee.”

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