Category Archives: July 6

Herring Gut: Working to protect its ‘heart and soul’ through fresh and creative growth

Herring Gut students with Executive Director Sam Belknap in the greenhouse

“I’m much happier with the kid I am this year than the kid I was last year.” That, according to board chair Peter Harris, was the repeated refrain from the Herring Gut Learning Center’s most recent crop of middle school students during an end-of-school-year graduation event for family and friends.

“Student after student spoke about the pride they have developed in themselves by being successful in doing the job they were assigned to do above and beyond learning how to do math better, learning how to write better and, in some cases, how to read better—and in all cases by learning how to look someone in the eye and tell them what they are doing and understanding that they can find an adult who cares.”

The “jobs” to which Harris is referring are those involved with the businesses and activities in which Herring Gut’s students participate as part of the center’s year-round experiential science curriculum—raising and harvesting fish, growing and marketing lettuces and other greens, farming kelp, hatching lobsters.

“It’s knowing that one of them is president, one of them is in charge of water quality, one is in charge of the greenhouse,” Harris explains. “They actually see the result of growing up in something external to themselves. The other thing is that they see themselves growing up in something internal and that is a function of both the experiential thing and the fact that the faculty really stays tight with them and in some respects is all over them—talking with them, having them explain and share what they are doing.”

At the graduation, Harris notes, the students’ parents also took time to offer their perspective on the impact of Herring Gut on their sons and daughters. “They told us, ‘You make a difference in my kid’s self confidence—it helps them in school, it helps them in the friends they make and in their ability to resist adverse social pressure.’”

Harris says the Herring Gut board has begun the work of ensuring that its core mission of providing what he calls “life-changing educational opportunities for our kids” can be sustained for years to come. Doing this, he explains, is requiring fresh, creative growth.

While the core program now serves about 20 students a year, it is an expensive program to run because of the infrastructure involved—the fish tanks, greenhouse, lobster hatchery, kelp pool and laboratory. But by capitalizing on that very infrastructure, Herring Gut has already figured out a way to expand its offerings to about a thousand additional students through short-term “investigations,” an increasingly popular summer camp and new partnerships with entities ranging from the Island Institute and Hurricane Island to Colby College and other educational organizations with similar missions.

“The investigations are six- to eight-week programs that schools pay us to do. We have a summer camp which is now serving 60 kids with a waiting list and we have added an additional week this year. And with the partnerships we believe we will likely do better working together than separately, working at a bigger scope and scale.”

Harris says that the new Colby College partnership, in particular, brings an added benefit to the learning center’s core program that may seem intangible, but is invaluable. “Colby is expanding out their work in environmental science and policy and they really want to be doing work on the coast. They also are interested in our model of alternative education. And we have the infrastructure they don’t yet have. So their students have come here to do research or to learn how to become environmental science educators. Seeing these college students so engaged, our kids get to see possibilities for themselves.”

For Sam Belknap, the center’s new executive director who joined the staff this past January, the expanding programming for middle school and high school students is an exciting new frontier and challenge—but he also is enthusiastic about developing new professional development offerings for teachers through enhancing Herring Gut’s own programs in such areas as classroom aquaponics, but also by working in concert with Hurricane Island, the Island Institute and the Aquaculture Research Institute at the University of Maine. “These programs increase access to curricula for educators—and students, in turn, benefit from educators who are more plugged in to things like aquaculture.”

Belknap, who grew up in a lobstering family out of Round Pond on the Pemaquid peninsula, has run his family’s lobster dock, but also has a PhD from the University of Maine in anthropology and environmental policy. “My research focused on how fisherman leaders have been engaging in policy and management to make Maine’s lobster fishery one of the few sustainably managed fisheries in the world.”

Besides bringing a sensitivity to the big-picture aspects of marine education and fisheries management, Belknap says he also brings something else to his new job—a heartfelt conviction that kids who might not thrive in purely academic settings or who have other difficulties should not be written off. “I come from a coastal community not too different from this. It’s the understanding of what Herring Gut means to our core group of students that I bring—they are the heart and soul of this enterprise. That’s why I am excited to come into work every day and see the kids in our core program and in our kelp growers program and in our River School from SAD 40 make small break-throughs, see the moments of accomplishment, the moments of personal growth.”

Harris, who has been a member of the Herring Gut board for nearly three years, credits Herring Gut founder Phyllis Wyeth with an important insight about what a learning center like Herring Gut could offer the St. George community. “At the beginning she didn’t know what this was going to look like, but she knew that this fishing community was changing for the worse if it didn’t figure out how to adapt to climate change and to the movement of the fishing industry. Eventually, she realized that maybe the thing would be to educate the next generation. The educational philosophy has been about the belief in the importance of these working waterfront communities, but also about the belief that the kids have something worthwhile to contribute to them. If we were in Idaho this would be about farming. You take the thing that is critical to where you live and build around that.”—JW

PHOTO: Courtesy Herring Gut Learning Center

A keeper of the light

Lewis Carmichael communicating via CB radio in the lighthouse keeper’s pantry

A recent communication from Mrs. Roberta Carmichael excited the volunteer staff at the Marshall Point Lighthouse. Roberta’s husband, Lewis Carmichael, Jr., served as the keeper at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde from 1968 through 1970. He and Roberta moved into the lighthouse with their young son, Thomas. Their daughter, Elaine, was born during the time they were living there.

Lewis joined the Coast Guard right out of high school. He served out of Rockland on a 65-foot ice breaker and search-and-rescue vessel where one of his duties was cooking. He was transferred to Whitehead Light in Penobscot Bay. During their service on Whitehead Island, the Carmichaels lived with two other families, traveling to and from the light station from Spruce Head in a small boat. Roberta took her cabinet sewing machine in the boat. The boat landed at the far end of the island from the lighthouse and all supplies had to be carried to the lighthouse residences. Roberta recalls that they had a large cistern in the basement to supply water.

When Lewis and his family moved to Marshall Point Light station he was 22 years old. Lewis asked to be assigned to the Marshall Point Light because his extended family lived in Rockland. The Marshall Point station consisted of the light tower, keeper’s house, summer kitchen, barn, stone oil house, bell tower and a storm signal tower where weather flags were flown.

During the Carmichaels’ tenancy, a fog horn replaced the bell, sounding every ten seconds during bad weather. Complaints were made by some of the neighbors, who thought the horn was too loud and preferred the bell, but most of them understood that the fog horn’s sound could be heard much farther, and made it safer for boaters coming in or out of the harbor in foggy conditions. An interesting article on the change is available in the resource books in the Dana Smith room at the lighthouse.

As keeper, Lewis kept the light working, brass polished, proper warning flags flying, the house and grounds maintained and ready for inspection at any time. Everyday work clothing consisted of bell bottom jeans and a blue work shirt.

Roberta remembers the keeper’s house fondly. “The summer kitchen was mainly used for storage because it was too cold to use as living space most of the year,” Roberta says. “It snowed a lot that winter. The kitchen stayed so cold, we moved the table into Lewis’ office.” The kitchen was located where the gift shop is now. The round room served as Lewis’ office and the living room looked out toward the light tower. Bedrooms were upstairs. At the time they lived there, the upstairs balcony didn’t exist. They had a car and were able to get supplies more easily than on Whitehead. Milk was delivered in glass bottles. The lighthouse attracted many visitors, including a pair of moose who once strolled the grounds.

In his spare time Lewis enjoyed communicating with fishermen and others via a CB radio that resided in the pantry. He also made lobster traps for local fishermen in the barn and put his training as a cook to work, hosting barbecues for family and friends.

Lewis served four years with the Coast Guard. At the end of his service he had several jobs before taking a position with Pine State Trading, were he remained until retirement. He passed away a couple of years ago.

Roberta Carmichael has donated a number of interesting articles to the museum, including a Coast Guard dress uniform and hat which belonged to Lewis. We are grateful to Mrs. Carmichael for sharing her memories and treasures with us.

The Marshall Point Lighthouse grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. The museum and gift shop are open Sunday through Friday, 1-5pm, Saturday, 10am-5pm, Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

—Laura Bettancourt (Bettancourt is publicity coordinator for the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum.)

PHOTO: Courtesy Roberta Carmichael

22 acres of land conserved at Meadow Brook in St. George

The St. George Conservation Commission announces the conservation of 22 acres of the Meadow Brook estuary, including forested wetlands along Turkey Cove Road in the Otis Cove section of town.  The property contains high value bird and wildlife habitat, open space beauty, and future recreational potential.  “This project represents a milestone in local efforts to conserve lands in St. George, as it delivers on the goals set forth in the voter approved Comprehensive Plan,” said Conservation Commission Chair, Ken Oelberger.   “The plan directs the town to protect St. George’s natural resources including wetlands, wildlife and fisheries habitat, shore-lands, scenic vistas, and unique natural areas.  We are carrying out the will of the voters.”

The parcel came on the market in 2015, and the St. George Conservation Commission contacted Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), a statewide land conservation organization, seeking their support in protecting the land from development.  MCHT worked to secure funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program and then negotiated a conservation-minded sale with the landowner.  The 22-acre property abuts existing town-owned lands and is part of the largest undeveloped habitat block in the town—totaling 1873 acres.   It will be managed as a preserve that is free and open to the public.

Other publicly owned lands along Meadow Brook include transfer station property, the Tenants Harbor Water District and St. George Scouting.  This block of publicly owned land sets up the possibility of a network of recreational footpaths.  In the coming months MCHT will work with local partners including the Georges River Land Trust to complete a long-term stewardship and management plan for the property, and will continue to assist the town of St. George in identifying future conservation opportunities.

—Maine Coast Heritage Trust  

St. George Days Events 2017


5-7pm Eastern Star Public Dinner & Raffle Masonic Hall, Watts Ave. Meat or Vegetable
lasagna, adults $10, children $6


6:30-8:30pm Dance party at Town Office parking lot. DJ Dan Miller and Malia Dell will be
entertaining us, Mike Mayo will have his food booth with hamburgers, hot dogs and
other goodies available for purchase. Attendance is free and fun for the whole family!


7-9am Pancake breakfast at the Town Office to benefit St. George Youth and Scouting.
8:15am Half Mile Fun Run for kids. Meet at Drift Inn Beach, Port Clyde.
8:30am Marshall Point 5K Lighthouse Loop. Meet at Drift Inn Beach, Port Clyde.
9am-4pm Jackson Memorial Library Book Fair. Raffle drawings at 1pm, Art Auction
closes at 2pm. 71 Main Street, Tenants Harbor.
9am-5pm Meet your local fisherman. Sponsored by the Midcoast Maine Fishing Heritage
Alliance, a non-profit educational foundation. Midcoast maine fishermen will have their
boats at  the Miller’s dock float all day to meet the public and talk about fishing.
10am Local crafters’ tables at Town Office parking lot.
11am Main Street parade and float contest.
1st place prize: $100, 2nd place prize $50
Entrants may pick up a number in the parade line before the parade. To enter, contact
Becky at 542-4749.
Maine St. Andrews Pipes & Drums Band in the parade and concert afterwards.
Playin’ Possum band after the parade.
Post parade children’s activities sponsored by Harmony Bible Church.
Visit the Historical Society School House Museum after the parade.
11am-7 pm Annual Firemen’s Association lobster dinner fundraiser.
12-2pm Dunk tank. Sponsored by St. George Recreation Department to benefit
St. George Fire and Ambulance.
At Dusk: Spectacular fireworks over Tenants Harbor!


12-1:00pm Home Run Derby at the big ball field, $10 per person
1pm Third Annual Tim Holmes Memorial slow pitch softball game for ages 18 and older.
$10 per person, with all proceeds donated to the St. George Fire and Ambulance in
memory of Tim Holmes.

A gallery co-op that offers fine art at a reasonable cost

Present members, from left, Marianne Swittlinger, Carmella Yager, DiTa, Rick Bernard, Gayle Bedigian, Gillian Sloat, Lydia Kaeyer, Gena Neilson, Bill Swittlinger, Angela Anderson.

The Port Clyde Art Gallery (PCAG) is an artists’ collaborative located on the second floor of “The Barn” next to the Seaside Inn. Remarkably, this thriving co-op of 12 artist members has endured for 16 years, beginning in 2001 when seven local women, known as “The Girl Ain’t Right,” (see below) jointly exhibited their fine art and crafts at the Sea Studio in Tenants Harbor. By 2003 their membership had expanded and they relocated to a more permanent home in their present location. There, they had to make the best of a tough situation. The downstairs area was used for commercial storage of items that often emitted unpleasant odors. Additionally, they occupied just half of the second story while the other half, separated only by curtains, was used for commercial storage as well. The walls were unfinished, the floor unpainted and there was no lighting. The entrance and stairs were unsightly. Undaunted by these challenges, the group worked diligently to sell fine arts and crafts, proving the old adage that “perseverance generates success.” As Marianne Swittlinger, the general manager, remarks, “It’s been a good run.”

Today, the gallery is known for its mission to bring fine art to the general public at a reasonable cost. Making improvements to their space every year, the gallery now has installed finished gallery walls, good lighting and a painted floor. The Barn Café downstairs adds to the enjoyment of their patrons and enhances the entrance to the building and gallery.

The enduring success of this jointly-owned and democratically-controlled gallery may be attributed to its careful selection of members who share its philosophy and bring expertise. According to member Gayle Bedigian, “All of us come with assorted talents besides art. We are blessed with bankers, marketing experts, web designers, graphic designers, college art teachers, K-12 art teachers, a guidance instructor, a math teacher, business owners and a corporate leader.”

Artist members include a wide variety of painters, sculptors, potters, jewelry makers, collage and assemblage artists. Present artist members are Gillian Sloat, Gena Neilson, Carmella Yager, Marianne Swittlinger, Bill Swittlinger, DiTa, Lydia Kaeyer, Gayle Bedigian, Jan Dearborn, Rick Bernard, Doug Anderson and Angela Anderson. Neilson reflects that “One of the biggest challenges of being in a co-op gallery where where each member shares responsibility for its day-to-day operation, is learning to moderate ego. Instead of always thinking, ‘What’s good for me?’ each one of us has to consider what’s good for the gallery.”  To accomplish this, the gallery enforces only three simple rules: “Be polite.” “The customer comes first.” “Don’t make a mess!” As member DiTa reflects, “Artists come and go, but the core founders are dedicated artists who are the glue to maintaining a quality gallery with professional art.”

Attracting patrons from around the world, the PCAG also features guest artists each year. This year’s lineup included noted artists such as Carol Wiley in June and will feature Geoff Bladon in August. Of significant importance, this summer the gallery is honored to feature the works of noted influential modernist painter, Robert Hamilton, who resided in Port Clyde with his wife, Nancy, until his death in 2004.

Additionally, a 10”x10” exhibition, now in its third year, is scheduled for August 25 into September. Artists of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to participate. All entrees are accepted.

Port Clyde Art Gallery is open 80 days a year, beginning the third week in June and closing after Labor Day. The calendar for exhibitions, receptions, and artist members is located on their website at:

—Katharine A. Cartwright

Founders, from left, Cindi McIntyre, Anne Cox, Marianne Swittlinger, Kim Libby, (front) Gail Kingsbury, Carol Cox

Watershed history and habitat explorations

A newly installed Conservation Commission kiosk features “Watershed History and Habitat Explorations” by the 6th grade science class at the St George School. Under the guidance of teacher Allison England, the students produced GIS maps along with stories and images relating to community changes in the landscape around the marsh. These include reference to a home fuel oil leak that led to the Tenants Harbor Water District and information about the historic roads running through the watershed.   Come see their descriptions of travel in the upper parts of the marsh, their beautiful artwork and poetry and learn about alewives and elvers.  The kiosk is located at the entrance to the marsh and was built with the support of Blueberry Cove 4-H Camp. —Les Hyde

PHOTO: Courtesy Conservation Commission

Tom Armitage celebration of life

Tom Armitage, a partner of Harbor Builders Associates, died June 14 after a long struggle with cancer. A potluck celebration of Tom’s life will be held July 8, at 1 p.m. in St. George at the home of his friends and neighbors, Suzanne and Sherm Hoyt, on Caven Lane off Clark Island Road. Look for parking signs. Parking will be offsite and will require a short shuttle ride, so please time your arrival accordingly.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the “Thomas B. Armitage Scholarship Fund,” which will support a scholarship to be given annually to a student from St. George who shares the sense of generosity and community service that imbued Tom’s life. Checks can be written to The Thomas B. Armitage Scholarship and sent to Elizabeth Curtis, Finance Director for St. George, P.O. Box 131, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Gardens in the Watershed Tour on July 16

The eagerly awaited 26th annual Georges River Land Trust “Gardens in the Watershed” tour will take place on Sunday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. rain or shine, in the middle reaches of the Georges River watershed. This year’s tour promises to be one of the best yet—five gardens in Appleton, Hope, and Union will delight the senses with lake views and spectacular plantings.

Along with the opportunity to enjoy the diversity of the area and the individual homeowners’ horticultural creativity, gardening experts will speak at two of the gardens offering helpful information for your own garden. Amy Campbell, a Maine Master Gardener and nature photographer, will present “The Importance of Pollinators.” Rebecca Jacobs of the Knox-Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District will speak on “Creating Buffers in Shoreline Zones.”

Advance tickets  and brochures are available at local merchants, including Hedgerow, 8 Ridge Road in Martinsville, and also through the land trust at