Unfit for fishing – Local fishermen
say Pine Point pier needs to be
By Ken Tatro
SCARBOROUGH (March 23): Used by some 40 fishermen and countless recreational boaters, the outdated Pine Point pier might more likely be found in front of someone's house than serving as a commercial dock, local fishermen say.
“Pine Point is a quaint little community, and we do everything the hard way down here,” fisherman Chris Rule said as he loaded lobster traps from the dock onto his boat.
That's why the town is now considering building a new commercial pier that would replace the outdated one, which many said was never intended for commercial use.
The hard way for Rule and other commercial fishermen involves a lot of lifting. There is a limited time during low tide when fishermen can back their lifting. There is a limited time during low tide when fishermen can back their vehicles to the pier and unload and load items directly onto the float. If that opportunity is missed, fishermen have the chance to unload their gear into a dingy and row out to their boat. Depending on how much stuff they have to bring on their trip, this could be done more than once. Fishermen also can carry items down the dock ramp, climb down the ramp to the float, and then lift the items onto to the boat. Rule estimates he spends one hour in the morning preparing to go out and fish and figures he handles his catch six times before it is brought to a lobster wholesaler.
“It’s just a real pain in the butt,” Rule said, adding that half of the local fishermen do so much lifting they have had back problems.
Plans call for a modern set-up that would allow vehicles to drive down the dock and a crane system that would allow for the easy loading and unloading of cargo and fish. It is a system seen on most commercial fishing ports in Maine, but not Pine Point.
“It’s way behind its time,” Scarborough’s Marine Resource Officer Dave Corbeau said of the pier.
There are some 35 to 40 fishermen in Pine Point, who are primarily lobstermen. However, some also fish for surf clams and shrimp seasonally. Abusy day at the dock might see 100 boats being launched from the dock bothby recreational boaters and fishermen, Corbeau said.
“There’s a lot of people that use the facility, and it would be nice to fix it up,”
Updating the fishing pier has been one of Corbeau’s long-term goals since he took his job, and last year he was awarded a grant to plan and design the new commercial pier.
“I really see this as being something these guys need,” Corbeau said.
The project is estimated to cost between $700,000 and $900,000, and this year's town budget includes $900,000 for the project. However, the town is hoping to spend $400,000 to $450,000 on the project. The remaining money would come from the state and federal government.
In addition, fishermen also could be required to pay a substantial fee – in the thousands of dollars – to use the pier, said Town Manager Ron Owens. The reason why the request is included in the budget is to see if the Town Council is in favor of spending some money on it. This would establish community backing and would make getting state and federal support easier. If the town were going to pay for the entire project up-front and then seek outside sources for financing, which is unlikely, then the issue would have to go to a voter referendum. The Pine Point pier is the only piece of commercial waterfront in town and one
of a handful in the area, and the updated pier would help keep the industry
alive in Scarborough.
“This would be another way to encourage the ongoing fishing industry we have in Scarborough,” Owens said, adding that without pier improvement the town could see the fishing industry here slowly diminish.
Town Councilor Shawn Babine supports the proposal and envisions the project moving forward once some additional sources of money are identified.
“I think it’s probably one of the best ideas Scarborough has had in many years,” he said.
Babine said the pier improvements are a form of economic development that will assist many small businesses – the fishermen – while also helping with the recreational boaters who come to Pine Point.
“It’s a program that combines two worlds and I think is beneficial to Scarborough as a whole,” Babine said.
The request is expected to be discussed when the Town Council review’s Owens’ budget proposal on Wednesday, after The Current’s deadline.