Bucksport: Life After The Mill
by Jim Baumer
Maine has endured a litany of paper mill closures in recent years. These have been devastating to the communities that leaned heavily on the jobs and tax base these mills provided. But only one town moving into the state’s post-paper era can leverage its rich coastal assets.
When Bucksport’s Verso paper mill closed in 2014, eliminating 500 jobs, the community was already at work embracing a future that includes new uses of its waterfront, while leaning on an outside nonprofit to help the community find its new heart and soul.
Still, the demise of a mill whose history dates back to the 1930s, isn’t easily glossed over. Some of the pain and loss has been captured powerfully by the town’s “poet laureate for life,” Pat Ranzoni, in her collection STILL MILL: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport Maine 1930 – 2014.
In her introduction to STILL MILL Ranzoni wrote,
“…what was happening in the Bucksport area was part of a larger, state and country-wide loss of industry just as the coming of our paper mill had, in the first place, contributed to the industrialization of the Penobscot River, of the State of Maine and of the United States.”
Losing a legacy industry can cause people to “get stuck.” Moving on often becomes difficult, but Bucksport’s response seems different. It may be because Bucksport hasn’t seen itself as a traditional mill town for a while, but rather, a town with a mill.
Andy Lacher, owner of BookStacks on Main Street, and a downtown retail fixture since 1997, has seen downtown hold its own, even as the fortunes of the mill have declined.
“While it might seem counter-intuitive, I’m seeing more business now, then when the mill was open,” said Lacher.
When Lacher launched BookStacks, he was one of just three retail stores along Main Street.
“Now there is a tanning salon, a wine bar, a gift and card shop, the Alamo (theater) is showing films regularly—downtown hasn’t dried up without the mill,” he added. Continue reading