Editor in Chief Paul Doiron on Sears Island and the annual Down East Environmental Award.
- By: Paul Doiron
Checking the calendar recently, I came to the shocking realization that I’ve been at Down East for ten years. These days, that seems like a long time to work for any company. When I was an unseasoned associate editor, one of the first articles I was assigned to write was titled “Sears Island Today.” I’d never previously visited the place, just off Route 1, two miles north of downtown Searsport. But what I found, as I circumambulated the largest undeveloped isle on the U.S. eastern seaboard, astonished me.
If you will permit me to quote myself (circa 1999): “For three decades now [make that four], the uninhabited, 930-acre island at the top of Penobscot Bay has been in the headlines as the proposed site of one controversial scheme after another. A nuclear power plant, an aluminum smelter, an oil refinery, a cargo port: all have been planned for Sears Island, and all have failed to get built, thanks largely to well-organized opposition by environmentalists and to the timely intervention of fate that seems to throw up some new roadblock or another. For thirty [now forty] years controversy has attached itself to the name of Sears Island, and yet, strangely, the place itself remains unknown to the majority of Mainers, unvisited even by longtime residents of Waldo County. It is a place that everybody has heard of and nobody knows. In many ways, a secret.”
Exploring Sears Island for the first time, roaming through fields of hay-scented ferns and poking around old cellar holes, I understood instantly why everyone wanted a piece of the place. And I would have bet my shirt that thirty years hence developers and environmentalists would still be battling over every square acre. If so, I’d now be shirtless.
When the editors of this magazine choose the recipient of the annual Down East Environmental Award, we usually engage in a prolonged period of debate. This year the choice was a no-brainer. As you’ll read on page 40, commercial interests and conservationists have — amazingly — reached an accord over the future use of Sears Island. And so we are giving our 2009 award to Maine Governor John Baldacci and the Sears Island Planning Initiative. It may be years before the island becomes the combined tourist destination and economic engine the committee believes it can be. But from personal experience I will tell you: the years pass very quickly indeed.
Editor in Chief
- By: Paul Doiron