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Harpswell commercial fishing area is preserved

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Harpswell commercial fishing area is preserved

HARPSWELL — The wharf known as Bibber's Lobster will be protected under the Maine Department of Marine Resources' Working Waterfront Access pilot program.

The wharf, recently purchased by Jim Merryman from Bob and Marolyn Bibber, has been in business for more than 40 years. The property is 0.4 acres of land at the end of Ash Point Road and includes 160 feet of deep-water shore front, according to the DMR.

Merryman said he has been lobstering since the age of 8, when he began with two traps.

"I believe in this industry," he said, adding he has never been employed as anything else. "I wanted to preserve this for other lobstermen and future lobstermen."

Merryman said "it's a way of life" and he plans to continue to operate the wharf as it has been in the past.

He first heard of working waterfront program prior to a referendum vote to approve funding and said when the Bibber property went up for sale, he decided to look into it.

His initial application was approved in June 2009 and Merryman completed the closing on the property this month. He said an easment ensures that future generations can be assured there will be a place for commercial fishing and lobstering.

"I have three small children, whether or not they decide to go into lobstering or commercial fishing, this provides a future for them," Merryman said.

A residential house on the property will be used as a summer rental and will not interfere with lobstering or fishing operations at the wharf, he said.

Coastal Enterprises, which administers the program, has allocated matching funds to Merryman of more than $145,000 toward the purchase of the property, according to the DMR.

Hugh Cowperthwaite of Coastal Enterprises said the progrfam began distributing funds in 2006 following voter approval of $2 million in funding. Since then, an additional $5 million has been approved by voters, including $2 million in November, he said.

To date, 17 projects have been funded at a total cost of $3.8 million, Cowperthwaite said.

The properties protected for commercial fishing are located along the coast from York to Lubec, he said. Money has been awarded to a variety of applicants, including municipalities, businesses and private investors.

Merryman's property is the second in Harpswell to be awarded a program grant. Holbrook Wharf in Cundy's Harbor is also protected.

There are two ways to apply for funding: sell the development rights to the state or use the funds for purchase of land, Cowperthwaite said. In the case of the Bibber's Lobster wharf, Merryman used the money toward purchase of the property.

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or sgrinnell@theforecaster.net.