We headed toward Mack Point, where the shore is crowded with white steel storage tanks and a pair of piers jutting 800 feet into the bay. A tanker pointed out into the bay, leaving as we approached, and a tugboat headed back. It was good timing; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a ship like that as it embarked.
Mack Point is deceptively large. Giant warehouses and a massive crane line the shore, and behind them, scores of fifty-foot high tanks. It felt like we moved slowly, but, we realized, we were just very small.
As we approached the piers, my instinct was to paddle beneath along the shore -- just like we do at home. Fortunately, Rebecca pointed out the sign stating that trespassers were considered a security breach. So we went around, past the tugboats, past all the guys in hardhats, past the ship fenders a dozen feet across lined with scarred spruce trunks. We followed the shore into Long Cove, passing Sea-Truks and cranes and the railyard with long lines of tank cars.
We paddled toward the head of the cove. It was high tide, and chunks of ice floated here and there. And then, a creek. I turned-in, pushing through thickening ice. I made my way into the forest, and Rebecca followed. We made it a few hundred feet before the creek narrowed and came to an end- at least for us. At the end, water trickled over some rocks from a snowy ravine. It was quiet here -- a little traffic noise from Route One, probably only a hundred yards away. Amazing though, considering the industrial netherland not far off.
But not for long -- depending on how things play-out. We floated in Mack Point Forest, very close to the proposed site for the new liquid propane “super tank” that has been at the core of controversy here lately. A company called DCP Midstream has been trying to clear the way to build a 22.7 million gallon tank: 138 feet high, 202 feet across. It would be the largest such tank on the US east coast, and be visible far down Penobscot Bay... and of course from much of Searsport. If you drive through Searsport, you would see it right behind The Anglers restaurant (and Baits Motel), both of which will be dwarfed by the tank. Opposition to the tank is strong and fervent. It is in the news every day.
Of course, Mack Point has been an industrial hub for many years. Back in WWII, a pipeline ran from there all the way to Loring Air Force Base in northern Maine. Every year, about 160 ships bring liquid cargoes- mostly petroleum products- to the port, in addition to a few dozen dry cargo ships. This is nothing new. Liquid propane is. It’s tough to wade through the information put out there by the liquid propane proponents, who of course claim that they are very regulated and safe. And they like to point-out the taxes they will pay, and the twelve jobs they will create. The opposition has a “not in my backyard” slant. But why not? Would anybody really want this in their backyard? There are so many compelling reasons to not have this in your backyard, that I will include a few links to them. And as much as I might like to use my JetBoil stove, they seem to be filling those little propane canisters just fine somewhere else.
But we just enjoyed what a nice place it was to be floating in our kayaks. We paddled on to Sears Island where we carried over the causeway and ate lunch. Sears Island is another place that could have been developed and industrialized, but thanks to the Friends of Sears Island, much of it is preserved. People were there walking their dogs. We paddled around it - some four or five miles, all wild, and paused at the old jetty, where the view is dominated by Mack Point.
And as we paddled back to the launch, the old part of the town came into view: the 1800s ship’s captains’ houses, the churches. Two very different worlds, side by side, both close enough to my backyard that I'd like to see them unchanged, and return some day to that creek and find it as peaceful as it was on this day.
For more info:
Thanks But No Tank
Bangor Daily News Editorial
Mack Point Watch
Penobscot Bay Blog
NY Times article
Waterlines - a kayaker's point of view