Carol Morris of Morris Communications (right), Kennebunkport Select Board Member Jon Dykstra (left), and Maggie Bartenhagen of the Kennebunk Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Committee (right) presented to a group of local business professionals. Eloise Goldsmith photo

KENNEBUNKPORT — A Nov. 16 meeting organized by the Climate Action Plan Task Forces in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport solicited business community input for the towns’ draft Climate Action Plans.

A Climate Action Plan guides a municipality in reducing CO2 emissions and becoming more resilient in the face of climate change. Both towns formed task forces last year with the purpose of drafting Climate Action Plans.

Discussion at the meeting focused on loss of revenue from flooding, as well as objections to tourist buses that fill Dock Square and the surrounding area during leaf season. The group also mulled how to convey the economic implications of climate change to the wider community.

The meeting took place at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport.

A variety of businesses were represented, including real estate, retail, and catering. The general manager and treasurer of the Kennebunk Light and Power District — a consumer owned power utility — Anna Henderson, was also there. Roughly 20 people attended in total.

Jon Dykstra, a member of the Kennebunkport Board of Selectman, and Maggie Bartenhagen, chair of Kennebunk’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Committee, presented key findings from emissions research that has informed Climate Action Plan drafting. The research found that transportation constitutes the largest category of CO2 emissions in both towns.


They also shared what they termed a “surprising finding” from a community survey they administered. The survey revealed that 56 percent of respondents saw the threat of climate change as an economic issue — indicating that only slim majority are fully aware of how climate change will impact local businesses and local property values.

“(Climate change) is going to affect everyone in town because it’s going to affect the tax base,” said Carol Morris, another speaker during the presentation, who runs a communications firm and is assisting the task forces with PR. “But people don’t get that yet.”

Morris asked attendees how the towns could do a better job of conveying the economic urgency around climate change. Heather Motes, owner of Sand Dollar Real Estate, suggested an informational campaign that would include handouts like pamphlets. The group also tossed out the idea of creating signs that would alert a reader to the impacts of rising sea levels.

Paul Humphrey of the cafe, Mornings in Paris, suggested that the task forces provide businesses and community members with illustrations that convey the impact of five-year and 10-year climate change predictions.

While the survey revealed some in the community still need convincing, at least one business at the meeting has already been acutely impacted by more frequent extreme weather.

“The economic piece is factoring in: ‘How long do you stay?'” said Tim Good, co-director and owner of the art gallery Wendy Webster Good Fine Art, who talked about the challenges of running a business that sits low to the water in Dock Square in Kennebunkport.


Good said his flood insurance goes up a little bit every year. “It’s not if, it’s when we will be flooded … this winter,” he said, which always means loss of revenue. He said that the gallery had to close during the two days before and after Christmas last December because of a flood. “You can have all the insurance in the world,” he said, but it doesn’t make up for the costs inherent with moving everything in the store and the loss of business from the interruption.

Attendees also identified frustrations with the buses that bring cruise passengers and tourists from cities like Boston to Kennebunkport to enjoy the shops and restaurants.

“I personally have a problem when I drive through Kennebunkport and there’s 36 busses,” said Peggy Liversidge, the owner of Kitchen Chicks Catering and Cape Porpoise Kitchen. Liversidge objected to the buses, saying that they pollute the air and threaten the natural beauty and quaintness of Kennebunkport — the very thing, in her view, that bring tourists to the town in the first place.

“What are those buses even doing for anyone?” she asked the group, saying that she herself couldn’t answer the question because she does not have a store in the downtown. Some attendees chimed in, saying they’re a source of revenue from smaller items, like shot glasses.

Good agreed, adding that the revenue the buses bring in does not in outweigh the negatives of having them around, citing the emissions they produce. “Everybody hates the buses,” echoed Rick Natoli of Kennebunk Beach Realty.

But Ashley Padget, general manager of Alisson’s Restaurant in Kennebunkport, disagreed.

Padget, who was not at the meeting, said that the buses are a lifeline for Alisson’s. “(Those tourists) are a huge business for us from September to October,” she said. The buses primarily come during the fall, bringing people to enjoy the fall foliage. “While December, through Christmas Prelude, is still a good season, January, February, March is not a good season, it’s pretty brutal. So lot of our staff needs that income to get through the winter,” she said, indicating that the economic importance of the buses should not be underestimated.

Work on the Climate Action Plans will continue with this community input in hand. The next public listening session for the Kennebunkport plan will be held at the Graves Memorial Library on Nov. 29 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.  According to Morris, both groups intend to have draft plans complete by the end of the first quarter of 2024.

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