Monthly Archives: October 2017

Downeaster plans extension of passenger rail service to Rockland | MaineBiz.biz

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the public transportation authority created in 1995 to oversee the Downeaster passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine, is exploring a seasonal and weekend-only extension of service up to Rockland.

NNEPRA announced the initiative at its annual meeting Monday night as one of its goals for 2018.

The “Downeaster Coastal Connection” pilot program would utilize the Rockland Branch rail line previously used by Maine Eastern Raiload’s excursion trains between Brunswick and Rockland — a service that ended in 2015 — and would be an extension of existing schedules, using existing equipment.

The seasonal and weekend-only service would provide Downeaster transportation to Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland, according to NNEPRA’s news release.

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30 years ago, many doubted Maine Island Trail would work. Today, it’s ‘a treasure’ Bangor Daily News

It was a novel idea — a water trail along the Maine coast, with campsites scattered on the state’s many uninhabited islands. In the fall of 1987, Camden native Dave Getchell, Sr., presented this vision, “a waterway foMITA_logo_NoWebsite-300x151r small boats,” in a single-page editorial in the magazine Small Boat Journal, and readers throughout Maine wrote to Getchell, stating their interest in the idea and offering to become involved.

Now 30 years later, the Maine Island Trail weaves through islands and along the rocky coast for 375 miles and features 218 sites, some for day use and some for camping.

“We are very proud to say the mission has not changed by one word since the beginning,” said Doug Welch, executive director of the Maine Island Trail Association for the past 10 years.

In recognition of the trail’s 30-year milestone, longtime members of MITA, including Getchell and Welch, gathered on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the MITA office in Portland. At the event, members reminisced about the trail’s humble beginnings and celebrated of the realization of a unique vision.

In a phone interview just prior to the party, Getchell, now 88 years old and living in Appleton, explained how the Maine Island Trail got started.

“Being an outdoors person and very fond of the water, and having done quite a lot of coastal cruising myself, it occurred to me that it would be great to have something like a water trail,” Getchell said.

At the time, the concept of creating a trail for paddlers, sailboats and small motorized boats, complete with boat launches and individual campsites, was new and controversial. In fact, the Maine Island Trail may very well be the first official “water trail” in America.

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COP students dig into research on George Moscone ’53 — College of the Pacific

This is one of the wonderful projects students at University of the Pacific are working on right now. Please follow the link below for the full story. (By the way, College of the Pacific is the largest school within University of the Pacific. It’s confusing, I know.)

Using a collection of George Moscone ’53 papers and other materials, four University of the Pacific history and communication students are creating a mosaic of his career as one of California’s most important progressive leaders. That research will be the basis for a new film on his life and legacy. “It’s an honor to work […]

via COP students dig into research on George Moscone ’53 — College of the Pacific

Maine at the cutting edge of compost technology | Bangor Daily News

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what happens to waste once it’s been thrown out or flushed away.

But Mark King and the other members of the Maine Compost Team are not like most people. King, an environmental specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, has spent many years learning and teaching the finer points of composting food scraps, dead animals, human waste and other types of waste products. And he is very proud of the Maine Compost School, an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed program that is the longest-running such school in the country. Students from all over have come here for the last 20 years to learn cutting-edge compost technology.

“In 2014 there was an outbreak of avian influenza in the midwest that was getting worse and worse and worse. They didn’t have any experts to help with composting [the dead birds], and three of us from Maine were asked to help,” he said. “I think we’re leading the way. We have a huge abundance of composting expertise in the state of Maine.”

More than 1,000 students have graduated from the Maine Compost School, which is taught twice a year at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, the University of Maine’s apple, small fruit and vegetable research facility. The farm has a state-of-the-art composting facility where students receive classroom instruction, laboratory experience and hands-on project exercises at the school that has received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and a special national award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among other recognitions. Students spend a week digging into the art and science of composting, King said a few days after the fall class had finished, learning everything from how to correctly manage a small backyard bin to a large community compost facility.

“We teach the skill. We talk about the systems. We talk about how to build a pile and how to manage a pile,” King said. “It’s a program that fills up every class. It’s citizens, municipal officials, regulators. We accept anyone. Our philosophy is we’ll train anybody that wants to learn about compost.”

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Maine congressional delegation unites in opposing potential tripling of Acadia entry fee | Portland Press Herald

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition to a proposal by the Department of the Interior that would raise the entrance fee at 17 popular national parks, including Acadia.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, sent a joint letter Thursday asking the Department of the Interior to reconsider the idea because of its potential economic impact.

They wrote that “365 days a year, Acadia National Park – one of the crown jewels of the National Park System – serves as a tremendous resource for the people of Maine and the visitors who come here.

“From May through October, it sustains a vibrant economy in the region, bringing millions of visitors across the country and the world to the coast of Maine.”

The fee increase proposal, announced this week, is meant to help address a maintenance backlogin the park system. As drafted, it would nearly triple the cost of vehicle passes at Acadia, from $25 to $70. In addition to per-vehicle costs, entrance fees for individuals would rise from $12 to $30, while the fee for motorcyclists would jump from $20 to $50 during the peak season.

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A lobster cruise: The luckiest catch in Maine | CNN Travel

cnn travel story
Portland, Maine (CNN) — Captain Tom Martin turns the handle that draws up the lobster trap sitting on the ocean floor 45 feet below the surface to see what he can see.

It’s a guessing game every time: Will it be big enough — but not too big — to keep? Will it be a pregnant female, which he can’t keep?

“It’s easy to get hooked on it,” Martin says. “I’ve been doing this for 33 years, and I still enjoy going out to pick up the traps and seeing what’s inside. It’s like playing a slot machine — you never know what’s going come up in the trap.”

Martin, the owner of Lucky Catch Cruises of out of Portland, Maine, will only catch a few lobsters on this fall day at traps he and his crew have lowered into Casco Bay after passing by the 1890s-era Spring Point Ledge Light and Fort Gorges, a Civil War-era fort. His traps are within view of Portland Head Light, a working lighthouse first lit in 1791.

When many people think of Maine, those iconic lobsters he’s pulling up in traps immediately come to mind.

There are endless ways to enjoy Maine’s favorite crustacean on a visit to the Pine Tree State, whether it’s the Lobster Shack at Two Lights, lobster done fancy at Eventide Oyster Co. or any of the dozens of lobster shacks along the coastline.

But it all comes back to the lobstermen and women who catch lobsters year-round, harvesting a record 130 million pounds of lobster worth $533 million in 2016, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Read the rest of this story and for video and more photos.

Our View: President Trump’s anti-opioid proposal falls far short of need | Portland Press Herald

Easing the grip of opioid addiction on our state and our country will take commitment, time, compassion, science-based policymaking and a lot of new federal money. President Trump’s declaration this week that the crisis is a public health emergency fails to bring these resources to bear against an epidemic that’s taking 142 American lives every day.

Trump has long promised to make the addiction crisis his focus. His pledge to take action is credited with helping put him over the top during the New Hampshire presidential primary, and he pressed the issue in Maine, too, telling a Bangor crowd just weeks before the election that “we will not only stop the drugs from pouring in, but we will help all of those people so seriously addicted get the assistance they need to unchain themselves.”

But although he vowed Thursday “to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” the fine print in his plan doesn’t back up his promises.

The public health emergency is in effect for only 90 days. It unlocks an emergency fund currently worth only $57,000. And it will allow the federal government to waive some regulations, shift some existing grant money from HIV patients to those fighting addiction, and expand the use of telemedicine treatment.

So while the plan to fight an ongoing epidemic that killed over 64,000 Americans last year does take some commendable – if small – steps, it has a built-in expiration date. More importantly, and tellingly, it’s getting no new federal money – and the long-term funding forecast for federal anti-opioid efforts is similarly bleak.

Read the rest of this editorial.

82-year-old man becomes oldest person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail | The Washington Post via the Bangor Daily News

There was a moment back in August when Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders considered giving up.

In the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine, far from help, he was bleeding internally and having heart palpitations – not surprising considering that he was 50 or 60 years older than most of the people he had met on the Appalachian Trail.

Sanders called his wife in Bartlett, Tennessee, and she urged him to keep going. With a go-ahead from his doctors, he did, and on Thursday, Sanders, 82, officially became the oldest person to hike the entire 2,190-mile trail in a year.

He walked much of it alone, but for the last mile, ending at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Sanders was joined by friends, family and hikers – including a pair of dogs – he had met along the trail.

At the end of it, he danced a jig.

“I feel euphoric!” he said. “I keep thinking, is someone going to come out of the woodwork and say, ‘Uh-uh, I hiked it last year . . . and I was 83′ – but no one has stepped up and said that.”

“Someone said to me, ‘You can’t do it, the only way an old person’s going to be able to hike the Appalachian Trail is if they’ve hiked it before.’ That challenged me.”

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Your tiny house dream could be a scratch ticket away thanks to the Maine Lottery | Bangor Daily News

As the phenomena of tiny houses gains popularity, they seem to be popping up everywhere, including on the newest Maine State Lottery’s scratch ticket game.

Now through Dec. 9, for $5 anyone can buy a chance at winning their very own custom-built tiny house prize valued at $87,143 including state and federal taxes as part of the lottery’s “Tiny Homes, Big Wins” game.

Not a bad return on a $5 home investment. If you win, that is.

“The Maine Lottery is always looking for ways to make our games fun and exciting for players,” said Michael Boardman, director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations lottery division. “We were looking for something different that would be fun and relevant in today’s culture and we thought that a tiny home was a perfect fit.”

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Hiking in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

San Joaquin NWR 2.5

I went for a hike last weekend at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge near Vernalis west of Modesto. It’s part of the San Luis NWR Complex, which includes the San Luis NWR, Merced NWR, San Joaquin River NWR, and Grasslands Wildlife Management Area. The “trail” is bit banal – very wide, very flat and appears to also serve as the utility road for refuge maintenance.

The trail is only 4 miles long and not much of a challenge or particularly interesting. Consumnes River Preserve north of Lodi is more interesting. Then again, the track at San Joaquin River NWR is a nature trail built with the average person in mind. Families with children might like it and the terrain won’t stress people who aren’t at peak fitness.

I did see some nature on the nature trail – egrets, herons, wood ducks of some kind (could have been the Aleutian Cackling geese, actually), small birds of various types, potato patch butterflies, dragonflies and other small creatures. I’ll probably return in the spring when things are a bit greener; the fall has made everything brown and dull green.

From the San Joaquin River website:

Established in 1987, the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is 7,000 acres in size and located in California’s Stanislaus County. The Refuge is situated where three major rivers (Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin) join in the San Joaquin Valley, creating a mix of habitats that provide ideal conditions for high wildlife and plant diversity. The Refuge was initially established primarily to protect and manage habitat for the Aleutian cackling goose – a federally listed endangered species at that time. Today, the Refuge is managed with a focus on migratory birds and endangered species. The Refuge is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System which consists of over 500 refuges and forms the largest network of public lands in the world managed principally for fish and wildlife.

#hike #gooutside #getoutdoors #getupandmove #hiking #outdoors#fitnesswalking #fitnessing #SanJoaquinRiverNWR

Here are a few more photos from the hike:

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Susan Collins says Trump’s move to end Obamacare subsidies hurts ‘vulnerable people’ | Bangor Daily News

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that she is “very concerned” about President Donald Trump’s decision to stop payments to health insurers used to hold down insurance costs for low- and middle-income Americans.

“What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive health care right now,” Collins, the senior senator from Maine, said during a Sunday morning appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump announced Friday that he would “immediately” halt payments to insurers, known as “ cost sharing reductions,” under the Affordable Care Act, a move hailed by many conservative groups but criticized by health care and consumer groups.

Before his Friday announcement, Trump took to Twitter to blast the paymentsas “subsidies” to insurers: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

Collins challenged the president’s characterization of the payments as a “windfall” to insurers.

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Our View: Collins’ presence needed to contain Trump’s chaos | Portland Press Herald

Sen. Susan Collins could not have picked a better moment to announce her decision to forgo a race for governor and continue serving in the United States Senate.

Just as she was walking the members of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport through her analysis of the problems in our health care system, President Trump was in Washington trying to make that system fail.

The contrast was stark. Collins was talking about ways to make the system better while Trump was looking for leverage, no matter who gets hurt along the way. It should be obvious to everyone why Maine and the nation need an independent-minded Republican like Collins in Washington to block the administration’s dangerous excesses and, when possible, forge pragmatic deals that keep the country moving forward.

Trump’s moves on health care last week expose his approach to policy-making and a shocking disregard for the millions of people who stand to lose health coverage because of his desire to put pressure on his opponents.

In an executive order signed Thursday, Trump opened the door to insurance companies to sell low-cost plans across state lines. While that might sound good, it’s not. The premiums are less expensive because the plans don’t cover much. A young, healthy person who doesn’t expect to get sick or injured might be willing to take the risk, but these are exactly the people needed in the insurance pool to spread costs. If the only people who buy state-regulated health insurance are the ones who are most likely to make a claim, the premiums will go sky high, and many people will be forced to drop coverage. And to make sure that happens sooner, rather than later, Trump announced with a tweet that he would unilaterally end subsidies that help insurance companies cover out-of-pocket costs for lower-income plan members. That will also drive premiums up, and force people to drop coverage.

Creating chaos in the health insurance markets might deliver some short-term political advantage for Trump, but it won’t get more people covered by decent comprehensive health insurance.

Read the rest of this editorial.

About 70,000 low-income Mainers await crucial state vote on expanding Medicaid | Portland Press Herald

By Joe Lawlor

LEWISTON — Donna Wall sprinted into the night, newspaper in hand and pointy elbows flapping at right angles from her sides. She made her way to the back porch of one of the 160 customers on her delivery route.

It was 2 a.m. on a weekday in October, but it could be any day of the year, as Wall’s only day off is Christmas.

She slipped back into her red Nissan Versa – Sly and the Family Stone playing on the car radio – and laughed ruefully. She wore a blue and white football jersey that said “Meet Me in the Tropics.” Did she get her shirt on a cruise?

“Ha! I wish,” Wall said as she put her car in park, grabbed another Sun Journal and ran into an apartment complex.

Wall is one of about 70,000 Mainers who stand to benefit from Medicaid expansion, which is on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Conservatives like Republican Gov. Paul LePage are steadfastly against Medicaid expansion, while liberals and all major health care groups, such as groups representing hospitals, doctors and nurses, are arguing in favor of expansion.

The vote matters personally for people in Wall’s circumstances.

Wall, 60, is uninsured, and she worries about how long she can keep doing what she’s doing before she falls ill.

“I work nonstop. That’s all I do. I don’t have a life. I don’t hardly even have adult conversations,” said Wall, who lives nearby in a modest apartment.

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Collins says Trump is keeping vulnerable Americans from getting health care | Portland Press Herald

Fresh from her announcement Friday that she intends to stay in the Senate and forgo a run for governor, Sen. Collins went on national television Sunday morning to continue to push her moderate stance on health care reform and advise President Trump to mind his words.

Collins made apperances on CNN’s “State of the Nation” news show  with host Jake Tapper and ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.

Seeming to take new relish in her role as the voice of the Republican moderate, Collins used her appearances to advise President Trump to be careful with his language and lend support for Trump’s decision not to re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement while tip toeing around other questions.

The CNN show focused on Trump’s attempts last week to undo two cornerstone policies of the Obama years, the Affordable Care Act and the Iran nuclear deal. She followed an appearance by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who defended Trump’s decision not to certify the Iran agreement over nuclear arms development and throw the issue to Congress.

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