Concert to benefit Sears Island

Posted Aug. 06, 2009, at 11:33 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:14 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — Nashville singer-songwriter Susan Oliver has spent a lot of time on Sears Island over the years — and she doesn’t want to see the largest uninhabited island in Penobscot Bay be partially developed for a new container port.

That’s why the Orono native will perform Saturday at the Rockport Opera House in a concert designed to raise awareness about the changes facing the state-owned island. Proceeds from the event will benefit the environmental advocacy group Penobscot Bay Watch, which is working to prevent development on the 930-acre island.

“What if Percival Baxter had said, ‘Let’s make half of Mount Katahdin forever wild and go ahead and clear-cut the rest’?” she asked. “Would people stand for that? That’s what I equate it to. In my personal opinion, Sears Island does need to be forever wild.”

Right now, that is unlikely to happen. The Legislature’s Transportation Committee approved in January an executive order from Gov. John Baldacci that would divide the island into two parts: 330 acres for a new port and 601 acres that will be protected from development with a conservation easement.

The governor received Down East magazine’s 2009 environmental award for the crafting of this plan, which came after decades of fighting between advocates of development and conservation over use of the island. Many environmentalists, however, including members of Penobscot Bay Watch, are dissatisfied with the plan — which is called the “Deal of Shame” on the group’s Web site.

Oliver’s great-grandfather farmed and logged on the island in the early 1900s, and she has kept that family connection to the island alive in recent years.

“We always go to Sears Island when we come home,” Oliver said. “It’s really beautiful, and it needs to be protected forever.”

The songwriter, who graduated from Orono High School in the 1970s, will play music from her new contemporary Christian album, “Feather in God’s Wing,” at the concert, which also features Robert Skoglund, Maine’s humble Farmer. Oliver said the tunes on her album were arranged by Jimmy Nichols, music director for Nashville stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. One of her earlier songs, a cover of “Tears on My Pillow,” was the most-requested song for a time on The Nashville Network in the late 1980s.

Oliver said funds raised at the Saturday show would go toward paying for an underwater survey at Sears Island.

Industrial development on the island will destroy part of the state’s important fishing industry, Oliver said, as well as damage the ecology of the island.

“Everybody thinks this is a done deal,” she said. “But it’s state-owned. Why can’t we have a say in what’s happening with the island?”

The concert, featuring Susan Oliver and The humble Farmer, will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Rockport Opera House, with a requested donation of $10.

For information, call 615-944-8082. For information about Penobscot Bay Watch and Sears Island, visit the Web site www.penbay.org.

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