A father and son explore South Portland’s Spring Point Light at sunset July 10. Summer evenings don’t last as long in Maine as they do in other Northeast states. “Maine is the first state in the Eastern time zone. We get the sun early, very early, and it doesn’t stay as long,” a reader explains.
By RON BANCROFT
Summer in Maine -- it always seems that it sneaks up on us. A week of rain and wet leaves, the sun bursts forth and settles in. We are treated to lovely early mornings with robins chirping with such enthusiasm that no one could stay in bed.
But, at least for my wife and me, sitting on the porch of our camp on Long Pond in the Belgrades, it is the summer evening hours that are the best and the sweetest. The warmth of the early evening light coming across the lake, usually accompanied by a gentle breeze, the last of the day -- this is what makes summer in Maine so special.
Why, then, must we deal with the fact that as July trends toward August -- the heart of Maine summer -- this precious evening light fades earlier and earlier? By mid-August, the sun is departing over the hill at Long Pond's western shore just after 7 o'clock.
It doesn't have to be this way. The loss of evening light in the summer is a function of the fact that Maine is the first state in the Eastern time zone. We get the sun early, very early, and it doesn't stay as long.
I was reminded of this when I was in Buffalo, N.Y., on business a few weeks ago. Even though Buffalo is only about midway into the Eastern time zone, it was light there well after 9 p.m.
There is a solution for Maine's prematurely dark summer evenings. We can create our own time zone -- joining Atlantic Canada (which is normally an hour behind us) for the months of June, July and August. I suggest we call this "Maine Summer Time Zone."
Maine Summer Time would provide a nice boost for summer tourism -- the lovely extra light providing plenty of opportunity for tourists to get outside in the warm evenings.
This extra light would also be appreciated by scores of Mainers who have but a small window of summer in an otherwise long year -- let us make the most of it.
Moreover, Maine Summer Time would be a unique feature of the state. I can picture the signs on the Turnpike as we cross the border from New Hampshire: "Relax, you are now on Maine Summer Time."
When similar ideas have been floated in the past in the Maine Legislature, they have usually fallen to criticisms such as "It will be unsafe for schoolchildren" or "It will be disruptive to business."
Maine Summer Time would apply only to the months of June, July and August -- months when children are mostly not in school. Even for the couple of weeks that they may be in school, there is so much early morning light that we would have no students waiting for a school bus in the dark.
As for being disruptive to business, most businesses that do have customers and suppliers outside Maine already deal with multiple time zones. Such things are routine.
For those businesses focused in Maine, particularly tourist-oriented businesses like restaurants and hotels, Maine Summer Time will bring out more customers.
All in all, Maine Summer Time is an idea whose time, to coin a phrase, has come. Gov. LePage, here is a practical idea that will boost Maine's economy and will also make many of us natives happier campers. Please call a special session of the Legislature and get Maine Summer Time in place before August rolls around.
Ron Bancroft is an independent strategy consultant located in Portland. He can be contacted at: ron@ bancroftandcompany.comTweet