I’ve posted a few times about Bucksport, Maine, a small Midcoast town near where our family has a house. I’m a huge fan of Bucksport, but the town has had a rough go of it in recent years. The biggest blow came in 2014 when the local paper mill, a long-time economic anchor, shut down, cutting around 500 jobs (in town with around 5,000 residents). This was a tough blow, but the town has come together in tremendous ways. The biggest news has been the decision from Whole Oceans to construct a $250 salmon farm on the old paper mill site. That’s exciting news, but I’ve been even more excited about how the community came together to deal with the plant closing and to create a strong community spirit. That’s the real heart of this story.
A number of groups have been in on this work, but Bucksport Heart and Soul has been one of the key players. This community initiative uses tools and approaches pioneered by the Orton Foundation that empower local people to take control of their town’s future destinies. This effort has been very successful in Bucksport. If you want to get a flavor of the process, and get ideas for your own community, I encourage you to take a look at a new document from the group that lists 82 community-generated ideas for making Bucksport a better place. While I doubt that they’ll be able to follow up on all 82 ideas, this is yet another sign that local people have good ideas about transforming where they live. You only have to ask them!