by Julie A. Wortman, Editor
We here at The Dragon have reached a bittersweet moment. This edition marks the last of what has been a successful seven-year run of issues aimed at promoting “the good things about St. George: its natural beauty, its heritage, its hardworking and creative people, its cultural and recreational life, its community organizations, its attractive and often unique enterprises.” We’ve enjoyed pursuing that mission and have been grateful for the advertisers who have made it possible for us to do so. But the time has come to move on to other pursuits.
The founding idea behind The Dragon was a simple one: to create a “Free Press for St. George” that would provide local business owners (such as myself, for one) with a publication in which to advertise that people living in or visiting St. George would find interesting to read.
At first, graphic designer and advertising/business manager Betsy Welch and I characterized The Dragon as providing “FREE Business and Recreation News for the St. George Peninsula.” At the time we were probably influenced by the fact that the St. George Business Alliance was getting established and thought focusing on St. George’s businesses and recreational offerings made sense for a publication dependent on local advertising. But by the spring of 2017, a chance remark by then harbormaster Dave Schmanska made us realize that the content we had been developing was something broader and more interesting than that. “A journal of community life,” seemed a more fitting description of what a reader would find in The Dragon’s pages.
The good things about this town’s community life is something we will miss celebrating. But we hope that in our seven years of publication we have managed to give visibility to the surprisingly diverse and rich range of people and enterprises to be found in this rambling collection of villages and crossroads. We have sought not only the color but also the texture of this town, not only its idiosyncratic qualities but also its dependable constants.
We highlighted an example of the latter in the cover story of our initial issue on May 9, 2013, “Newly renovated Laura B soon back at work,” which gave tribute not only to the Laura B’s historical importance but also to the skills of local boat builders Jim Parker, Jeff Delaney, Jeff Sparks, Nick Thompson and Andy Barstow and to the persistent commitment of the Barstow family to making Monhegan Boat Line one of the hallmarks of the town’s marine landscape and economy. In terms of that economy, the shift to aquaculture that traditional fishermen have been exploring seemed an especially important sign of resilience on which to report. In this regard, longtime lobsterman and tuna fisherman John Cotton spoke with us in 2017 of his and wife Toni Small’s hope that raising oysters near Deep Cove could prove to be a new and sustainable marine venture—two years later Cotton celebrated the first signs that that hope was turning into a reality (“Ready to go full-time—with Ice House Oysters”). Likewise, in our April 12, 2018 issue, an interview with Merritt Carey and Peter Miller laid out the positive potential of “farming” scallops as a way to diversify local fisheries while keeping profits ‘at the shore.’”
Another dependable constant that The Dragon touched into frequently was our town’s diligent efforts to be prepared for emergencies—both immediate and long-term. What comes to mind first, of course, is the work of our first responders. Headlines speak for themselves: “Ambulance Association receives Service of the Year award” (Nov. 21, 2013), “Training hard to overcome the problem of water supply” (Oct. 23, 2014), “‘Burn building’ to be valuable asset for St. George firefighters” (June 4, 2015), “Planning for taking shelter in a storm” (December 21, 2017), “Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George” (Nov. 7, 2019).
But another aspect of emergency preparedness has been the work of the town’s Conservation Commission to protect this peninsula’s celebrated and cherished environmental quality from the threats of overdevelopment, loss of native habitat and changing climate. A story about the late Les Hyde’s conservation work in our June 20, 2013 issue (“Hiking Frye Mountain to Port Clyde: Working to fulfill a dream”) articulated Hyde’s philosophy that creating a trail system for public use is the best way to ensure that safeguarding the town’s environmental quality remains a high priority. Since then a number of Dragon stories have continued to highlight this aspect of the Commission’s good work.
Finally, St. George’s consistent commitment to its youth was another theme lifted up over and over in these pages—“Mike Felton: Bringing focus and creativity to St. George’s new community school,” “Launching a new school fund aimed at ‘Gee, we wish we could do that!’”, “Blueberry Cove Camp: a vital philosophy in action,” “Herring Gut: Where business stimulates learning,” “An award-winning—and lifelong—focus on kids’ well-being [at Ponderosa Playland].”
But during these past seven years we have also believed that these “big” topics—the texture, if you will, of St. George—needed to be balanced by the color provided by the town’s so-called ordinary citizens through stories about their passions, creativity, and down-to-earth practicality. Contrasting with the Laura B story in that May 9, 2013 inaugural issue, for example, was a piece about the seldom-seen “bagel lady,” Jan McCoy, quietly working at providing her loyal customers with artisan bagels from her little certified Bagel Shack kitchen on the River Road. Since then we’ve written about people making
things from high-quality cabinetry, to forged iron work, Nantucket baskets and intricately knitted mittens; about people with a passion for helping others, for researching Maine’s medical history, or for collecting stamps. And we’ve written about what’s involved in doing the work that people go about doing without fanfare, such as snowplowing, cleaning, delivering the mail, construction and caretaking.
Lastly, for me, personally, one of the most satisfying aspects of producing The Dragon in recent years has been the incremental addition of a wider range of writers contributing to this publication, each in their own way expanding our ability to probe the depths of St. George’s community life. In the early years, Anne Cox delighted many readers with her short pieces on the gardening life. Then, after he retired as town manager, John Falla wrote columns that gave deeper insight into our town’s history. Likewise, Katherine Cartwright gave increased visibility to the work and motivations of some of the artists living among us. Sonja Schmanska funneled into our pages the voices of the youth attending the St. George School and Kirk Gentalen provided a naturalist’s perspective on the abundance and curious aspects of the life to be found in our woods and marshes, along our roadsides and flying overhead. More recently, at our pleading, Jan Getgood shared her extensive knowledge of native plants in a feature she called “Native plant corner.” And we can’t fail to mention the fun that ensued when we took up Sarah Holbrook’s suggestion that we try a photographic feature called “Where in St. George?” and Susan Bate’s idea of highlighting local vanity plates.
We can’t thank these contributors enough for making The Dragon a better read than we could have managed alone. And we are very, very grateful to the people of St. George for their support of this publication. We give our sincerest thanks for the very good run we’ve had.
A note from Betsy Welch, Advertising and Business Manager
The St. George Dragon would like to thank the over 100 different businesses and individuals who have advertised in our pages over the past seven years of publication. Without advertisements to cover the costs of printing and production we wouldn’t have been able to stay in print and remain online. We encourage our readers to continue to patronize these businesses and organizations.
We would particularly like to thank those loyal sponsors who have been with us for all seven years:
East Wind Inn
Green Bean Catering
J.D. Miller Construction
Mill Pond House
Monhegan Boat Line
Ocean View Grange
Port Clyde Art Gallery
Ron Hall Enterprises
Sea Star Shop
St. George Business Alliance
Tenants Harbor Boat Yard
Several of these folks have even appeared in every single one of our 143 issues!
We would also like to acknowledge artist Geoff Bladon who has contributed many drawings; photographers Don Moore, Chris Stump, Steve Cartwright, Rick Betancourt and Anne Cox for iconic images of St. George. And lastly, many thanks to St. George residents Katy and George Tripp of Camden Printing for getting The Dragon on press on time, despite occasional missed deadlines on our end. Thank you one and all!
Please note that the online version of The Dragon will remain online indefinitely. Use the “Search the Archives” tool near the top of the page to search for topics.