WESTPORT ISLAND – One of the joys of spring is watching your hard work last fall come back to life, new sprouts here and blooms there. This year we have discovered an entirely new blooming crop emerging from the slush and mud. Someone has planted royal blue signs, lettered in white, that say “Evacuation Route.”

Westport Island is actually also a small town. “Island” was recently added to our name to avoid confusion with a village in Connecticut. We have a Town Hall, office and a volunteer fire department.

By some strange quirk of geography and economics, mixed with politics, our post office, commercial center, schools, library and dump (recycling center) have for years been called Wiscasset.

Because of historical attempts at ferry services we have a few town roads ending at saltwater. We also have a couple of boat launch sites on opposite sides of a tidal race.

Launching boats at these “ferry landings” is clearly not for the faint-hearted when the tide is running. Suffice it to say that these facilities do not provide a reasonable “Evacuation Route” when the tide is in flux. No blue signs here.

We have a high bridge from Westport Island to Wiscasset. Construction of this bridge improved the circulation of cooling water from the Maine Yankee nuclear power station. This bridge is one of the few concrete benefits we received from Wiscasset’s excursion into the nuclear world. I’ll bet the bridge figured in the approved evacuation plan while licensing that facility. I believe that evacuation plan is still required and in place.

In those nuclear days, “We don’t want to scare people” was the approach. Thus we never before received a blue sign. The present preparedness approach requires scaring everybody nearly to death with blue signs.

Westport Island has Main Road, which runs from the bridge down the island. This route is numbered State Route 144. Those who must drive it immediately realize that years of neglect have provided us with a goat path with hazards and potholes that far exceed the limited number suggested by naming it only “144.”

It is an inescapable fact of island life that the only route on or to Westport Island is by way of Main Road and the bridge.

One of the “Evacuation Route” signs, with an arrow pointing straight ahead, sprouted at the bridge. There is no alternative here to crossing the bridge except driving through the guard rail and dropping 50 feet to the water.

If Westport Island were still served by its ferry, I could see a large blue sign “Evacuation Route” installed with an arrow pointing toward the bow.

At a later T-intersection a sign reads “Wiscasset right, Bath left.” Both routes maintain equal quality with similar potholes and other hazards to navigation.

Our blue sign directs left to Bath toward the area’s highest danger zone, the Maine Yankee spent fuel storage facility.

Our next intersection has no blue sign information. If we go straight, we are on a dead end road. However, a left turn takes us to the guard station of our spent fuel storage site. This might be the last place you would want to go. However, it might be a good place to ask the guards for directions.

The signs are intended for flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes and acts of terrorism. But if terrorists were attacking the fuel storage area, the police would have to quickly change the all of the signs.

As we go right, the road crosses a small stream. This part was closed due to flooding two times this spring. I wonder if this flood evacuation route was reviewed with regarded to flood risk?

Our saga finishes at Route 1, left to Bath, right to Wiscasset. Our last sign’s arrow dictates right to Wiscasset. We could have turned right at the earlier T-intersection and saved five miles, but

There are no farther neat blue signs. As part of Wiscasset Village’s harbor area and the Route 1 bridge are nearly at sea level, I foresee problems. The limited scope of this exercise in evacuation routing has sent refugees into an area equally at risk.

Thankfully, we can solve this problem. We need a blue sign on Route 1. This could direct people to turn right on Birch Point Road.

We would all then loop back to merge with later evacuees at our good old T-intersection.

We can drive our completed evacuation loop in circles until the danger recedes or we run out of gas.

– Special to The Press Herald