PEOPLE-POWERED RECREATION

The weather could have been better Sunday along Baxter Boulevard, but less-than-picture-perfect conditions didn’t deter hundreds of people from taking over the main thoroughfare around Back Cove. The popularity of the closed road as a venue for outdoor recreation shows that it’s possible for people on foot, on bike and on roller skates to take back the streets from the internal combustion engine.

The idea for closing a section of Baxter Boulevard to motor vehicles once a week from May to Nov. 9 grew out of an anticipated traffic headache that never materialized.

Last year, the boulevard was shut down for eight months in order to accommodate a public works sewer project. City officials expected complaints and traffic jams. What they saw instead was that the closed road was a big draw for those who wanted to socialize and recreate alongside the crowds who already use the walking trail that encircles Back Cove.

The Sunday closure of Baxter Boulevard is in line with Portland’s reputation as a community that encourages sustainable living. Bicycle lanes, farmers markets, reclaimed green space – all have contributed to the livability of Maine’s largest city.

Now Portland is offering another amenity – and one that shows that it’s possible to reduce the size of one’s “footprint” on the Earth and still have fun doing it.

TROUBLING SIGN FOR LOBSTERS

For nearly 100 years, Maine lobstermen have marked egg-bearing female lobsters with a V-notch on their tail and thrown them back into the sea, allowing the marked crustaceans to grow larger and reproduce in future years.

So it doesn’t bode well for the future of the fishery that experts have found that a smaller percentage of female lobsters is being identified for protection.

If lobstermen stopped V-notching lobsters and instead harvested the egg-bearing females, the fishery could collapse within 10 to 20 years, according to state Department of Marine Resources projections.

The DMR observed the decline in V-notching during the sea sampling program, which sends observers to measure the catch on boats from May through November.

Another cause for concern: University of Maine researchers have found that the number of young lobsters has dropped by more than half since 2007.

Of course, as the state’s top lobster biologist pointed out, V-notching is just one factor affecting the fishery. But the DMR’s Carl Wilson also noted that the current boom in lobster stocks follows an era of increasing conservation awareness and widespread participation in V-notching.

Though protecting egg-bearing lobsters involves time, effort and sacrifice on the part of fishermen, the practice has benefits down the road – making the continuation of V-notching key to the survival of Maine’s most lucrative fishery.

BRAINSTORMING SOLUTIONS FOR USM

Members of the University of Southern Maine Faculty Senate have been working on a plan to help save the beleaguered school $14 million and avert the need for controversial faculty layoffs and academic program cuts.

It will be a matter of weeks before USM President Theodora Kalikow reports her decision on the recommendations. Regardless, the Faculty Senate deserves to be acknowledged for its work and for its creative thinking in the face of the current crisis.

The plan was developed after a huge outcry – including faculty and student protests – sparked by the layoff of 12 faculty members and the announcement of a proposal to cut geosciences, American and New England studies and the arts and humanities program at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn campus.

The Faculty Senate’s recommendations largely involve assigning faculty to more than one program, combining each of the targeted programs with another program or department, creating new majors, opening program resources to non-USM students and otherwise reconfiguring the programs to maximize their revenue potential.

These suggestions aren’t new. It’s particularly telling that many of them – some of which reportedly entail minimal spending – had been proposed in past academic reviews but not acted on. USM can no longer afford the luxury of study without further action – and the Faculty Senate analysis gives the university no excuse to delay moving ahead.