It may seem that the world is a little grim these days. But in Boothbay Harbor, fishermen and town residents are seeing a bright spot on their horizon. The Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation is closing in on the required permits to revamp the east side of the harbor into a complex designed to preserve the town’s working waterfront and reconnect its citizens to their maritime history.
In 2018 a group of local fishermen, businessmen, and teachers formed the nonprofit Foundation in the face of increasing development pressures. The group felt it was important to ensure that viable, commercial properties on the harbor were preserved, not converted to restaurants, hotels and other non-marine uses. In 2019, the Foundation signed an agreement to purchase Doug Carter’s Sea Pier, one of four lobster buying stations on the east side of the harbor. Businessman Paul Coulombe already had purchased numerous properties in town, including the former Rocktide Restaurant and Inn on the east side, which he turned into the Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Country Club. Coulombe had purchased The Lobster Dock in 2018 and planned to buy another east side property in 2019.
Ultimately, the Foundation was able to buy the Sea Pier in November 2019. Carter, who had owned the property since 1996, wanted to keep it in marine use, in support of the 30 lobstermen who used his wharf. Boothbay Harbor residents Susan and George Craig donated first $1 million to purchase the adjacent Cap’n Fish’s property, also used by commercial fishermen. Contributions totaled $3.22 million, including $500,000 set aside for future maintenance. The Sea Pier, now called Carter’s Wharf, was soon leased by Luke’s Lobster, which continued operating the lobster buying station in 2020.
Carter’s Wharf is in need of extensive renovation as is the adjacent dock, leased from the Catholic Church. The Foundation has plans to rebuild the wharf and ancillary buildings, as well as construct a park along the waterfront for public access. The design calls for housing, a grocery market and an expanded marina with free short-term docking.
The Boothbay harbor planning board reviewed the Foundation’s plans for a new building, pier and series of floats on November 12, noting that it was the most complete application they had seen in a long time. The project has obtained permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a letter of no objection from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood zone changes. The plan will raise the height of the pier and building to match flood plain requirements by FEMA. Renovations are scheduled to begin in 2022.
A happy tale from a small Maine harbor!