The Coast Walk Project

Field Trip with the Community School, Somesville

Postcard with 1911 postmark from Indian Point, Maine.

September 28, 2021: Partly sunny, high 60s, very little wind.

The Community School of Mount Desert Island

The Community School is an independent elementary and middle school housed in a rambling old farmhouse near the mouth of Babson Creek in Somesville (aka Kittredge Brook – more about Babson and Kittredge here and here.) The Alpine class (6th-8th grade) was studying property rights and public access, so they invited me to talk about my experiences around that with this project. I suggested we turn it into a field trip – because why stay indoors when you could mess around on the shore? – and follow up the discussion with making still life photos on the shore.

So we met at the school, scrambled down the road embankment, and settled ourselves on some comfortable rocks. I talked about the process of requesting permission from landowners, and the different laws regulating access to the shoreline, and how they descended from laws put in place in 1641 when Maine was part of Massachusetts (according to the British) and still in the process of being colonized. (Good summary of those laws here.) They had already done some reading about the colonial laws and asked a lot of questions about where and how public access is protected, and about the legal status of the intertidal zone.

They also wanted to know what questions people ask me most often about the project, which are:

‘Why don’t you just go ahead and walk the shore?’ followed by

‘Isn’t the intertidal public land?’ and

‘What do you do in the winter?’ [That last one made them laugh, because it’s a question every islander gets asked during tourist season.]

The answers are: ‘Because I’m kind of a nerd and breaking rules makes me very uncomfortable, but also because a lot of local institutions are enthusiastic about the Coast Walk and help me contact landowners, so if I were to be arrested for trespassing it would reflect poorly on them’;

‘Sometimes, and it depends a lot on what you are doing in the intertidal’; and

‘The same things that I do in the summer, but with warmer clothing.’ [Which also made them laugh because it’s so obvious.]

Then we took a snack break, and did some beachcombing. I talked a little bit about my thought process when making a still life, and then got out of their way and watched them run with it.

After we took iPhone pictures of everyone’s work, we went back up to the school, where I plugged in my portable photo printer, and made 4×6 prints of their photos.

I suspect this was everyone’s favorite part of the whole field trip. The printer lays down each color separately – first yellow, then red, then blue, then black – and it’s pretty cool to watch the image change with each layer.

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