2014-09-05 / Front Page

Casco Bay Many stories to be told

By Jason Glynn
Contributing Writer

There’s a new website making waves in and around Casco Bay.

The Casco Bay Stories project is a new way to get connected, learn and share what fun can be had in and around one of Maine’s best-known bays.

“Locals and vacationers are encouraged to share their stories and testimonials of what living, working or playing in Casco Bay and its expansive watershed is like,” said Portland resident Galen Koch, the site’s curator.

The project also aims to raise awareness of ecological issues and preservation of the estuary, according to a press release issued by the effort.

The project is sponsored by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, an organization that strives to restore and protect Casco Bay and its inhabitants. The site was the idea of Julia McLeod, communications coordinator for the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Koch is an intern who interviews users and edits submissions sent to the site.

“We’re learning about what people value about Casco Bay, and that helps us set priorities. Sharing these stories with the public encourages others to reflect on what they care about, and reminds us all of the importance of a clean and healthy bay,” said partnership Director Curtis Bohlen.

Situated in southern Maine, the Casco Bay watershed is a naturally deep harbor and a port of call for more than 50 annual cruise ship visits. According to the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership website, the watershed spans an area of 985 miles from coastal Cape Elizabeth to Bethel on the edge of the western mountains. It includes 785 islands, 1,385 miles of rivers, and freshwater reservoirs, including Sebago Lake – the lake that provides many of greater Portland’s residents with water.

The watershed covers a large swath in southern Maine and is home to nearly 20 percent of Maine’s population, according to the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership; and with divergent inhabitants from all walks, crawls and swims of life, the area is abundant with stories to share. Those involved in Casco Bay stories said their goal is to help share them.

The site is a first-person blog that offers multiple media platforms for residents and vacationers alike to disseminate their experiences in the bay and surrounding watershed. Galen Koch said Casco Bay Stories uses other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and more multimedia announcements are to come soon. Users are encouraged to send in stories so Koch can follow up, and maybe feature them.

In fact, following up on stories and learning about what life is like in the bay is what Koch said is one of her favorite parts of the job. Once a story comes in – from diving Kettle Cove with Paul Rollins to lobstering in Chebeague with Mary Todd – Koch suits up, grabs her camera and is ready for anything. Her stated intent is “to make people feel like that if they have a story to tell, then we want to help you tell it.”

Galen recently spent a day with Rollins, a professional diver and South Portland resident. He owns Rollins SCUBA Associates and teaches others how to dive. After 40 years and 20,000 commercial and recreational dives in the bay, Paul Rollins said he has seen its diversity change over time. Now he is a voice that echoes the call for users to be responsible for the bay’s health.

“The ocean is not a dump and sooner or later parts of it … will just literally die,” Rollins said.

To contribute, visit CascoBayStories.org or find them on Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter.

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