We take town lines very seriously here in Maine and this seems to be especially true for anyone involved in town government. Those of us who start paying attention to little things like plow truck financing, potholes, public bathrooms, and sidewalk maintenance become exceedingly conscious of all the invisible force fields crisscrossing over the landscape.

We notice that the road is in better condition on one side of the town line than the other and we may even roll our eyes if someone offers an opinion on something that is funded by the taxpayers of a different town. “He doesn’t even live in Camden” is a phrase I’ve heard used more than once to dismiss unwelcome commentary.

Growing up in the Midcoast, I always kind of felt like Camden and Rockport were more or less the same town. Those of us who attended school in Hope, Appleton, or Lincolnville often felt a sort of camaraderie based solely on our status as coming from one of “the outlying towns” as they were then described. Of course, my sister and me, our status was complicated by the fact that our dad lived in Camden. This gave us a leg up in high school where the five towns merge together. I had attended middle school at Appleton Village School and so I entered high school as one of the kids from the outlying towns — that is to say, not from Camden or Rockport.

To me, Camden and Rockport were one and the same for much of my life. Same school building, same sports teams, same proximity to the ocean. Historically, this was true as well. In 1791, when the town of Camden was incorporated, it also included Rockport, but the original Camden lasted only 100 years and when the separation occurred, the official documents make clear that former town of Camden ceased to exist, and two new towns were formed.

Technically then, it is totally inaccurate to say that Camden was incorporated in 1791. We should be using the same date that Rockport uses, which is 1891. But who really cares? The separation was blamed on a bridge funding disagreement, among other things, but maybe there’s a deeper reason.

There’s an old saying that says something to the effect of “one town cannot have two harbors” and maybe there’s something to that. Often, for every harbor, you also have a predominant coastal watershed. A watershed is a geographic area whose rainfall, snowmelt, streams, and rivers all flow or drain into a common body of water. For Camden and Rockport, it’s the Megunticook and Goose River watersheds that converge in our respective harbors. Rockport falls totally outside of the Megunticook Watershed but the headwaters for Rockport’s Goose River reside in Camden at Hosmer Pond.

How many problems have been created in the world by dividing up regions of the world into political boundaries that defy the natural and cultural history of the landscape? Reading the original settlement documents for the area, the glaringly arbitrary nature of the boundaries we live by today is almost comical, and even more so when you take a step back and look at the way nature has divided up the landscape over thousands of years.

When you look at familiar landscapes on Google Earth or from a plane, it can be very difficult to tell what you’re looking at until you learn to recognize some of the geological and hydrological features that no doubt served as the primary signposts for the native people who came before us.

As you zoom in you can see bumps and lines and shapes that all have their unique character, yet our eyes are awkwardly conditioned to look for the straight and permanent lines and labels we are accustomed to. Nature, though, very rarely produces straight lines and everything is in some state of change, albeit changing at various rates of speed.

The only straight lines on a topo map or visible in aerial imagery are almost certainly created by humans, some of them tangible like roads and power lines and others, like town lines and property boundaries, existing only in the legal realm.

Last year I got my 12-year-old son a drone, hoping to stave off the pleas for video games, and I’ve recently been borrowing it to take some photos around my mother’s property in Lincolnville. Having spent the past few years completely enamored with the underwater ecosystems I’ve been filming in Camden Harbor and various streams; it has been equally inspiring to once again remind myself of the bigger picture.

Lincolnville and Camden are a world apart in the imaginary legal sense. We are different towns, different counties, and even different congressional districts, yet every drop of water that falls on my mother’s property — perched atop a hill in between Moody Pond and Megunticook Lake — is on its way toward Camden Harbor. The imaginary line separating our two towns bisects Megunticook Lake almost into two parts, but the water that flows into the lake comes from many little streams in Lincolnville and as far away as Levenseller Pond in Searsmont.

From a few hundred feet up, the interconnectedness of our towns and the natural boundaries that do exist are easy to see. As we approach the end of a dry summer, the lake that we share has receded slightly from its banks, making room for the fall storms and the rush of rainwater that roars down from Wiley, Minnow, and Marriner’s Brook in Lincolnville. The rain will fill up the wetlands that are waiting like sponges to absorb the torrents and then slowly release the clean, filtered water toward Camden.

If only we could start all over again and form the boundaries of the towns along the boundaries of our watersheds. The Snow Bowl and Hosmer Pond would be seen as inseparable from the Goose River and Rockport Harbor. The parts of Camden, Lincolnville, Hope, and Searsmont that form the Megunticook Lake, and River watershed would join together to make decisions, understanding that we impact one another in a way that cannot be erased by political boundaries.

The following photos show the headwaters of Megunticook Lake in Lincolnville where Wiley Brook enters the marshy area on its way toward Camden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alison McKellar is a Camden resident and Vice Chair of the Select Board. Her views are her own and do not reflect those of the Select Board or the editorial position of The Camden Herald. We welcome letters and guest columns reflecting other viewpoints via editor@villagesoup.com.

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