BUCKSPORT — What’s it like moving from Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon or New York City to Bucksport, Maine? Seven newcomers from those places shared their answers to that question over cookies and snacks at a special Bucksport Heart & Soul meeting last Thursday.
“Out of all the places on the map that you might have chosen to live, what was it about Bucksport?” asked Nancy Minott, the leader of Bucksport Heart & Soul, a group that seeks to collect the stories and values of town residents.
Of the seven newcomers gathered, all had arrived in Bucksport within the past year. Several said they were drawn here by the reasonable home prices, or by the town’s proximity to the ocean, or simply because it wasn’t New York City.
“I’m really an artist and New York City is so much about being a businessperson,” said Adrienne Caldwell, who moved to Bucksport with her four dogs and a loud parrot last month. Caldwell said that paying the high rent in New York was stressful.
“I just want to lay back and figure things out for a while and maybe write a book on dog training,” said the experienced dog walker, who made a living doing so in New York.
“The ocean’s definitely in my blood,” said Sara “Beth” Barwise, who visited southern Maine while she was growing up in Massachusetts. Barwise and her partner, Brandy Hari, moved from Pennsylvania to their new house on the Narramissic River last summer.
“We have just amazing wildlife. We’re really surrounded by water on three sides,” Barwise said. “We had ospreys in our yard right down by our house. I didn’t even know what they were because I had only seen them from underneath before.”
Last August, Bucksport Realtors reported a record number of homes sales in town. Newcomers seemed to be attracted to the town’s relatively low real estate prices and by its close proximity to larger cities.
“I wanted to be close to the water, and I saw that Bucksport was close to the bigger areas like Ellsworth and Bangor and Belfast,” said Denise Hall, who moved to the area from Denver with her two grandchildren, her twin sister, and her sister’s boyfriend, Jim Hagan, in February.
“The taxes were not bad, homes were reasonably priced and I read the articles on the paper mill and knew that there are plans for that property,” she said.
While many Bucksport residents feared that the closure of the town’s economic mainstay, the Verso Paper mill, in 2014 would doom Bucksport, it seems to have actually encouraged newcomers.
“My mother said, ‘But Bucksport has all those hills and what are they going to do now that the mill’s closed?’” said Emma Finn, who grew up in Downeast Maine and moved into Bucksport last June with two pigs after spending most of her adult life away. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s the exciting part! Now what?’”
Finn said she was attracted to Bucksport by the community spirit represented in Heart & Soul.
“I am all over any town that cares enough to have a group of people that cares about what people love and what they welcome in,” she said. “I think that’s a precious thing.”
Still, no transition is complete without some friction. After a lifetime in New York City, Caldwell was surprised by the lack of a few municipal services here that she was used to.
“I came here thinking the garbage truck would come around,” she said. “A week passed and I’m thinking ‘Where’s the garbage?’”
Over the next few minutes, the newcomers shared with each other how to get a permit from the Bucksport transfer station. When Caldwell said she has a visual disability and can’t drive, they mentioned a private trash hauling business. Finn also offered to drive Caldwell to the transfer station.
“Going to the transfer station is kind of an adventure,” she said. “Maybe I can come with my car one day and I can take you just so you can have an experience.”
Finn said that, in a small town, it’s important to make connections with your neighbors. More than a few were made between new arrivals at the Heart & Soul meeting.
“There are some small towns that are pretty tight and status quo. For whatever reason it’s hard for newcomers to get involved in a meaningful way,” she said. “I don’t feel that way in Bucksport right now.”