Noisy fireworks on ponds upsetting many Lincolnville residents

Posted Aug. 22, 2013, at 3:46 p.m.

LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — Summer on a Maine pond usually brings the timeless sounds of calling loons, laughing children and peeping frogs. But nightly fireworks?

According to some Lincolnville lake-dwellers, that’s what’s happening this year on the ponds they prize for their quiet and beauty. They have asked town elected officials to look into considering an ordinance to curtail the fireworks that are making many — particularly those who live on or near Coleman, Norton and Pitcher ponds — feel hot under the collar.

Whitney Opporsdorff, who lives on Coleman Pond, said she and her husband have been hearing a lot of noisy fireworks this summer. She’s concerned about the loud explosions, which make her dog shake in fear, and also the possibility of pollution from the fireworks affecting the water quality of the town’s ponds. Although the show is usually over by 10 p.m., in accordance with the 2012 state law that legalized consumer fireworks, it’s enough to affect the peacefulness of life on the pond, she said.

“I do say, ‘Oh God, here they go again,’” Opporsdorff, an artist, said this week. “It’s at night, when I’m trying to wind down, read and sleep. The noise is disturbing, and it disturbs our dog. I know that this has been a big issue in Lincolnville.”

Last week, selectmen heard from people who are both fans of fireworks and those who would like them not to be so loud and so constant a presence in their lives. The regular selectmen’s meeting was livened by a debate over what, if anything, the town should do. Many municipalities in Maine, including Belfast and Bangor, have banned the use of consumer fireworks. But in Lincolnville, no one so far has asked for an outright ban, according to town administrator Dave Kinney.

In towns without restrictions, consumer fireworks can typically be set off between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Those hours are expanded for the Fourth of July holiday weekend to 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

“I think the concern was more about being a good neighbor. When it gets to be every night, that’s a little much,” Kinney said Thursday, adding that the fireworks debate has seemed to center on the town’s ponds. “There’s nothing to attenuate the noise. Just big, flat open expanses of water.”

After hearing from residents, the town selectmen voted 3-2 to pursue trying to “find some middle ground” and come up with a committee to draft an ordinance, Kinney said. They will revisit the fireworks question at the next regular selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, at Lincolnville Central School.

Selectmen Rosey Gerry and Julia Libby voted against sending the matter off to committee to look into creating a fireworks ordinance. Gerry this week declined to specify his reasons for the vote, but said that as of now, people who have a noise complaint about fireworks — especially those heard after 10 p.m. — may call Waldo County dispatch and ask for police assistance.

“Citizens don’t want to ban fireworks entirely, but they would like to see it curtailed,” he said.

Some of those who spoke up at the selectmen’s meeting said they believe the fireworks noise might frighten the loons who live on the ponds as well as pets and small children. One man suggested that the noisy nights could also curtail the lucrative summer waterfront property rental businesses.

“We feel that people should respect their neighbors and not have fireworks every night,” said Paul Leeper, executive director of the Megunticook Watershed Association, adding that his group has received many complaints this summer about the fireworks. “We feel a good neighbor policy can go a long way toward covering or calming people’s complaints.”

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