For a native Mainer in exile, there is something unnerving about living in a single county that contains all of northern New England’s population with room to spare. I am surrounded by endless noise, traffic congestion, urban sprawl, and people. December was time for a break from the frenetic, synthetic environment of the West Coast.
I must admit that I was unpleasantly surprised by the level of urban sprawl that has blossomed in southern Maine since my last visit three years ago. Once-productive farms and beautiful fields, especially in Westbrook and other municipalities, have been converted to cookie-cutter developments. And it seems like fewer mom-and-pop businesses exist.
Mainers are no strangers to traffic congestion and sprawl. They live only a few hours north of heavily overdeveloped, overpopulated, overpriced eastern Massachusetts, and crawl through the dense lanes around the Boston metro region to attend Red Sox and Patriots games. In “summah” the state is inundated with snowbirds returning to their vacation homes and tourists spending good money on Maine businesses. But then, magically, these good folks depart in peace when a chill emerges.
Maine – particularly southern Maine – should emphatically say no to becoming a carbon copy of northeastern Massachusetts. Its profound beauty lies in its wide-open space, dense woodlands, myriad small towns, and a few cities. If Maine fails to preserve its unique ecology, it is not difficult to imagine that it will one day become a region of endless strip malls, plazas anchored by big-box stores, and cookie-cutter communities stretching from Boston to Portland.
I hope southern Mainers take urban sprawl more seriously and focus on preserving the remaining beauty of the region.
San Diego, California