2021 was the second year of the pandemic for Midcoast Maine, including the five towns. More than 300 people were vaccinated Jan. 29 at the first clinic held by MaineHealth at the Samoset Resort. Many of us will remember this as the year we got vaccinated, either here or during a trip out of town.

The two big local stories in The Camden Herald were the hotel project in Rockport and the discussion about whether to remove dams in Camden.

Throughout much of 2021, Rockport residents have watched the ongoing construction of at 26-room hotel in the village developed by Stuart, Marianne and Tyler Smith. The project has been appealed first to the town and then in the courts by a group of neighbors.

Justice Bruce Mallonee ruled in Dec. 2 the developers must go back to the town Planning Board on the issue of parking and whether the architectural design is in harmony with the village. He also ruled the two petition-driven ordinance changes approved by voters in August 2020 must apply to the new hotel. One of those two new town laws set a cap of 20 rooms. The other requires an independent study be conducted to approve offsite and shared parking.

The decision is likely to be the subject of another court appeal and ongoing court battle.

In Camden, the Select Board has been studying a potential project to remove some of the dams in the Megunticook, including the Montgomery Dam on the waterfront. The goal of the project would be river restoration to provide fish passage to spawning grounds upstream and to prevent flooding. As with the Rockport issue, the discussion has sparked heated debate in the community and Save the Dam Falls is a group that has formed, seeking to prevent dam removal. Those opposed to the project cite the desire to maintain the beauty of the town and argue the dams are historically significant.

Here are a few other highlights from the year that was 2021:

January

Camden’s Drive-In Town Meeting Susan Mustapich

Drive-in Town Meeting

Camden held a “drive-in” town meeting Jan. 25 at the Snow Bowl and voters approved $2.3 million in energy and capital improvements to municipal buildings. “The drive-in meeting was the first of its kind for Camden’s town government. The Snow Bowl parking lot was filled from one end to the other, with row after row of vehicles. State COVID-19 rules still limit the number of attendees at indoor public gatherings. Since the pandemic began, Camden has not held an indoor town meeting. With over 150 voting, the special town meeting had a high attendance rate.”

Lawnmower racing Ken Waltz

Beating Cabin Fever

People gathered on Norton Pond Jan. 30 for lawn mower racing. Why? Sports Director Ken Waltz offered a somewhat philosophical explanation in his story: “What is a Mainer to do when it is 15 degrees outdoors with a windchill near zero after being stuck inside with cabin fever from an already too long winter and an emotionally-draining, life-altering, nearly-year-long pandemic?

Thunder Valley Lawn Mower Drag Races organized the event, just off the shore of Breezemere Park and Route 52/Norton Pond Road, which saw a handful of drivers bring their souped-up, former grass-cutting machines to slice their way around the ice.

February-March

Rockport throws a parade for its leaving postmaster in 2021. Daniel Dunkle

Parade for Postmaster

Residents in Rockport loved their postmaster so much they threw a parade for him upon his retirement. “A fire truck with sirens and lights going led a procession of vehicles honking their horns as drivers waved and passengers held out signs, all to celebrate the work of Rockport Postmaster Stephen Culpovich on Feb. 25.”

The ballot box is opened March 4 at the Hope Town Office. Pictured, from left, are Select Board Chair Sarah Ann Smith, former Town Clerk Robert Menas, former Interim Town Clerk David Herrick, and Langley Willauer. Daniel Dunkle

Hope Ballot Box Opened

After months of controversy in the town of Hope, the ballot box from the previous summer’s town meeting was opened at the town office March 4. It had previously been announced there were errors in the counting from the July 14, 2020, ballot. Despite the opening of the box, no formal recount was ever conducted and the investigation did not provide much information.

About 15 residents gathered to watch clerks David Herrick and Robert Menas open the box containing the ballots. The clerks copied the tally sheets from the election counters. The Maine Attorney General’s Office announced March 23 that it would not initiate an investigation into the July 14, 2020, election in Hope.

That brought to a conclusion most of the controversy in the town which had centered on concerns about the election process raised by former bookkeeper Langley Willauer after he was fired from the town office.

The town held an election in 2021 seeking to recall Select Board member Bruce Haffner and budget committee member Elinor Goldberg. Haffner had campaigned against the roads budget in the famous July 14 election and raised concerns about the ballot issue. Goldberg had written emails expressing her desire to oust the town administrator. The recall election failed at the polls in June.

April

Jaime Stone File photo

Principal of the Year

The Maine Principals’ Association announced Jaime Stone of Camden-Rockport Middle School had been named Maine’s Principal of the Year for 2021-2022 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Tannery Lot Limbo

Select Board members and Town Manager Audra Caler announced at an April 13 workshop there would be no development proposal for the former tannery lot on the June ballot. Caler explained that since March 23, when the board approved a concept plan to add up to 12 dwelling units to Mike Mullins’ proposal for maker shops, the town was unable to prepare documents in time to place anything on the June ballot. Adding housing to the original proposal had increased the cost of developing the property and contributed to the plan being scrapped.

May

Jon Duke File photo

New Town Manager for Rockport

The Rockport Select Board announced that Jonathan Duke, a Rockport native, had been hired as town manager to start in July. Duke was a familiar face in the community, having grown up in Rockport and even had a first job raising the flag for the town office. He had worked as town administrator in Hope and town manager in Newcastle.

Memorial Day

In memory of veterans who lost their lives at sea, a wreath is cast into Camden Harbor on Memorial Day, May 31. Susan Mustapich

Ceremonies to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military were held in Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Appleton on May 31, led by veterans and members of the local War Memorial Post 30 American Legion.

Business Celebrates

The Leather Bench on Main Street in Camden, a truly unique family-owned store selling a wide range of leather products, celebrated 50 years in business.

June

Graduates March

Camden’s graduates march in the streets. File photo

Family, friends and community members formed cheering sections all along the 1.5-mile route of the Camden Hills Regional High School’s March Through Town June 7, in celebration of the graduating class of 2021. The longstanding event is held by the Camden community for graduating seniors who come from Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville.

New Select Board Members

Sophie Romana and Matthew Siegel were elected to three-year terms on the Camden Select Board from a field of four candidates.

July

Chris Crockett

New Publisher

Longtime Ellsworth American employee Chris Crockett was named publisher of the MaineStay Media group, which includes The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald, The Republican Journal and the VillageSoup sites. He also took leadership of The Free Press, The Ellsworth American and The Mount Desert Islander, as well as two magazines, Maine Women Magazine and Maine Seniors. The Surry resident has worked in the newspaper business since 1995.

Rockport Library Celebrated

Speeches were made, ribbons were cut and the crowd cheered to celebrate the new Rockport Public Library July 31. This was the official event, the opening of the library having been subdued earlier due to the pandemic. Several town officials, library staff members and community volunteers made speeches and participated in the event.

August

First Congregational Church of Camden’s Amy Rollins with the effort to preserve the historic steeple and spire. Susan Mustapich

Steeple Work

It was reported in August that work had begun on the exterior of the steeple and spire of the First Congregational Church of Camden. Taylor-Made Builders took on the project, which was expected to cost $330,000 and take three months to complete. The scaffolding on the downtown building was a site throughout the end of summer and fall.

Astronaut Megan McArthur reads local author Chris Van Dusen’s book “If I built a school” on the International Space Station. Source: Facebook

Reaching New Literary Heights

Astronaut Megan McArthur read a book by a Camden author Wednesday, Aug. 25, on the International Space Station as part of outreach NASA has been doing for kids headed back to school. She read “If I Built a School” by well-known local children’s author Chris Van Dusen.

September

Touring the New Middle School

Tours of the new Camden-Rockport Middle School were offered to the public Friday Sept. 17 and Saturday Sept. 18. While the new middle school opened its doors to students in September 2020 after two years of construction, Covid-19 restrictions left the building closed to the public throughout the 2020-2021 school year. “We are delighted to finally show this beautiful new building to our community, and hope people will appreciate the unique details woven throughout the school,” said Maria Libby, superintendent of Camden Rockport Schools.

October

Route 1 Torn Up

Construction on Route 1 in Rockport continued to grind on. Drivers were forced to weave in and out of makeshift lanes created by orange traffic cones while heavy construction equipment operated uncomfortably close at hand. The work is expected to continue into next year’s spring season, according to Rockport Town Manager Jon Duke. The first phase of the project covered the installation of a new water main for Maine Water on Route 1, and the second is the town’s portion to connect sewer systems in Rockport Village and Glen Cove.

November

Musical Hit

“Spamalot” opened Nov. 5 at Camden Hills Regional High School showcasing the talent of students in the fall musical. In her introduction on opening night Nov. 5, Director Kim Murphy recognized seniors in the production, as she does every year. This year, that recognition has special meaning. The pandemic closed down indoor theater for these students last year, making them all the more excited to be back on stage at the school’s Strom Auditorium again.

Election Night

Following the election on Nov. 2, the relentless ads about the CMP Corridor finally stopped. The Portland Press Herald reported Mainers voted decisively to kill a $1 billion transmission line project in western Maine.

Tux Turkel wrote: “With 450 of 571 precincts reporting, 59% of voters had said ‘yes’ to Question 1, a strong repudiation of Central Maine Power Co., its domestic parent company Avangrid and Canadian energy supplier Hydro-Quebec, as well as plans to finish the New England Clean Energy Connect project and put it into service. The ‘yes’ vote registered a strong showing in nearly every part of the state except Aroostook County as of 12 a.m. [election night].”

Local Knox County and five town voters followed the state trend in supporting Question 1.

Camden Herald Win

The Camden Herald won first place for General Excellence Print and first place for Freedom of Information in the Maine Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, Weekly I division, along with other awards.

December

Daniel Dunkle

A Triumphant Parade

Residents gathered in downtown Camden to enjoy the Christmas by the Sea Parade.