“Access to the water is slowly disappearing by parked cars, traffic and people. With the four proposed developments on that street, marine industry will come to a standstill,” charged a handwritten letter from an ad hoc coalition of leaders from the industry – The Lobstermen & Fishermen of Portland – to city officials on July 8, 2017.
“Development is taking the commercial out of Commercial Street,” said Bill Coopersmith at the end of an one hour meeting with Portland’s city manager and Bill Needleman, Waterfront Liason for the city’s Economic Development Office. The trio of waterfront leaders were positive when they left having been listened to and heard by Jennings and Needleman.
“It’s called PAT,” said Spears a long-time Portland lobsterman who has previously served as an advocate for an industry that has often had to assert itself in the midst of pressure from real estate development that threatens to push the industry to the side in the pursuit of its own interests.
Spears explained that because of four developments in various stages of development, the fishing industry is loosing parking, access to boats and heavy traffic – all of which are serious impediments to the day-to-day operations of transporting a highly perishable product from the wharves to their final destinations. The four developments sited in the July 8 letter as making it more difficult for the fishing industry to conduct its day-to-day business are: 58 Fore Street, 184 Commercial Street, Proprietors of Union Wharf and the Dasco development of the former Rufus Deering Lumber Yard. Time is crucial to this industry.
The letter also stated that the “wharves provide deep water access for fishing and lobster vessels like no other place in America. The tens of millions of dollars generated by that access cannot be replaced with relocation or cannot be overstated of its importance to Maine’s economy.” Ninety fishermen signed a petition in support of the letter.
A book was published a few years ago about the Charlie Poole family, owners of Union Wharf. The focus of the book was about the Poole family’s ability to be flexible in its business plan and adjust as required to profit handsomely as circumstances require in changing times. The Pooles have owned the Wharf since the 1800s. The book had a limited printing and was available mostly to the family as a record of its financial success.
The three ad hoc representatives from Portland’s fishing and lobstering industry appeared satisfied with the city hall meeting. “It’s an educational process and Jennings listened and heard our concerns. He recognized our needs,” said Spears. “He guaranteed us that our needs will be met.”