July 3, 2013

Letters to the editor: Maine putting its heritage at risk

I returned to Maine recently to protest the possible loss of Kittery's Wood Island Life Saving Station. The landmark is at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor.

click image to enlarge

A lobster boat motors past the Wood Island Life Saving Station in Kittery in 2012. The station is vulnerable to demolition by neglect, and other historic Maine structures already have been torn down, a reader says.

2012 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

After two days waving our banners in the Kittery traffic circle, our group visited various attractions including a show at the Ogunquit Playhouse. What a pleasant interlude! It had been decades since I was in Maine.

In years past, I had taken jobs in Maine: as a reporter at a Norway newspaper, a cook aboard a Camden schooner and running a sea urchin boat out of Bailey Island. None of these ventures met with much success.

After these trials, I left Maine. The dismantling of the iconic schooners Hesper and Luther Little in Wiscasset followed shortly after. I took jobs in New York and Vermont before returning home to New Hampshire.

But of late, Maine reappears on my radar. I set my Google News search engine to "demolish" and "historic." Maine keeps popping up.

Waterville's St. Francis de Sales church was razed. Lewiston's St. Joseph's church is to fall for a hospital parking lot. (St. Joseph's is the third Lewiston church to be lost.) Maine's iconic Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge was replaced. And the Wood Island Life Saving Station.

With the loss of heritage, Maine loses its identity and its image. Why visit a place that doesn't care about its past? Isn't this what draws us in, as well as the lobster dinners?

Maine's slogan goes "the way life should be" -- not "the way life is." We come to Maine for a way of life replete with culture and heritage, as well as the splendor of nature. We came to appreciate the veneration you once held for the past.

Does Maine want its legacy to disappear into the mists of memory, like the Hesper and Luther Little?

Steven W. Lindsey
Keene, N.H.

Adult ed facility is lacking, but pupils, teachers are tops

I was happy to see that former Portland Mayor Thomas Kane ("Letters to the editor: Cathedral school best place for adult education classes," June 13) agrees with so many staff members at Portland Adult Education: Our program needs a home.

I've taught English as a second language at PAE since 2008. In spite of the modest pay, lack of benefits and my own long commute, it's the best job I've ever had. The immigrants who attend our classes are positive, hardworking, intelligent people; the staff and administration are talented, caring and supportive.

So the roof at 57 Douglass St. leaks, the windows are permanently fogged, and the street out front turns into a lake every time it rains. We teachers have put up with these things and more because we know we're doing important work.

We know, as do members of the school board and City Council, that adult literacy has a direct impact on children's education and well-being. We know that this program -- including work force development classes held at Riverton School -- makes Portland a better place to live. Its loss would be devastating.

We staff members and students aren't asking for much: just a place to continue teaching and learning, supported by an office and by a community that recognize the value of lifelong learning.

Gail Lemley Burnett

Portland Adult Education is a community school that helps immigrants and native English speakers who are trying to get high school diplomas and GEDs. Many people who lost their jobs want to improve their job skills and their education.

At Portland Adult Education, some of the people who never finished high school can get a GED. I have a positive feeling in these classes. Many people are taking classes. For example, some families are working on job skills and trades.

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