Summer People

Posted July 26, 2009, at 6:27 p.m.

Summer visitors are thronging to Maine again with their tools of play — kayaks and bicycles strapped to their cars or cars hitched behind their RVs. It’s a good time to ponder their relations with the natives.

A musical written and performed in the town of North Haven a few years ago summed it all up and is worth recalling:

“Summer people, summer people, busy, busy summer people. Sailing, swimming, biking, golfing, having parties all the time. Island people, island people, busy, busy island people. Cooking, cleaning, mowing, running, making summer people fine.”

In between, there’s a third group that figures in the relationship: transplants, sometimes known as year-round summer people. They regard themselves as Mainers, although some folks think a real Mainer must have been born here or even sprung from parents who were born here.

Still another segment comprises people whose Florida license plates show that they escape Maine’s income tax by living here slightly less than six months of the year.

Naturally, there arise certain frictions: There’s the increased traffic, especially those lumbering RVs. But balancing the traffic is the fact that tourism is Maine’s top industry, adding enormously to the Maine economy.

At the worst, there is some tension. Some summer residents resent paying property taxes on their “cottages” while being unable to vote on the tax level or on how the money is spent. Natives, on the other hand, watch their taxes go up as summer residents buy up houses and lots at (until recently) constantly rising prices.

When a Mainer rents his home to a summer visitor and moves into a camp or maybe a fixed-up garage on the premises, the welcome money income may be offset by a bit of resentment. The same goes for Mainers who find it necessary to sell their homes to summer people at inflated prices and move into more modest quarters. And when a summer family buys a Mainer’s house to use it only as a summer guest house, it hurts to see the gradual depopulation of a Maine village.

Aside from all that, the visitors and the natives seem to get along together remarkably well, enjoying the brief Maine summer that they both have been waiting for. It varies. In some communities, the summer people keep to themselves and class distinctions lead to an almost feudalistic relationship.

In others, summer activities centered in a neighborhood house or Grange Hall draw the visitors and natives together for fairs, dances, variety shows, movie nights, lectures and potluck suppers.

Integration in some resort communities has reached the point of ongoing social relationships and even intermarriage between natives and summer visitors. It seems we’ve all learned to get along.

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