Interviewee: Wayne Davis

Role: Commercial fisherman and wharf owner

Date of Interview: January 9, 2015

Collection: Preserving the Working Waterfront

Click on the link below to view the interview.

Wayne Davis Interview

Abstract: Wayne Davis, a commercial lobsterman from Tremont Maine, was interviewed about his family's experience using the Maine Working Waterfront Access Protection Plan (WWAPP) to secure the Davis wharf's future as a commercial fishing pier. Davis describes the important history of the Davis wharf to that region of Mount Desert Island and how in the late 2000s, the lobster price collapse created extreme pressure on the family to sell. Davis describes how his family undertook the laborious process of first understanding the legal jargon surrounding a covenant, and then applying for WWAPP funding. In a part of the coast where most working waterfronts have been converted to non-compatible uses, Davis shares the deep gratitude his family and the community feel as a result of this public funding.

Transcript: This is how it all fits together, so we're all of us that worked the sea pretty much live right around here. So we can actually look right from our window and see what's happening in the ocean. It was no more than just a piece of land that was just rough on the ledges and they used to cross over the ledges into these peapods at this time. If you can imagine the rowing and that was the days of the rowing. So I mean this is way back when you know the beginning of time that this has been a fishing port and an important part of the community here, and so it really was a very quaint and very small operation. And then it developed into some––a much larger operation of as many 15 fishermen here.

Well in 2008, we had a beautiful year. Our catches was big. Things went along that year and we got $4.95 for our lobsters from Maine Shellfish in Ellsworth. Now that's that is something and we was told by our lobster buyer there that we have got a wonderful market. It's unlimited; catch what you can catch. We're doing it where this is going to stay and it did and we had a big year.

But as it turned out to being the next year we had the crash and the lobsters dropped 90-cents a pound. In March I went to that meeting in Ellsworth, hear about the Working Waterfront and I couldn't get anything out of it. I couldn't even say the word that, the covenant; I couldn't even--I didn't have no idea and I couldn't hardly say the word honestly. It was like it was green you know and it was hard to comprehend.

In late November, I called Coastal Enterprises and I talked to a girl named Willow. And she came and we sat in that building and we told her a story; Robert and I told her our story. And she said we have not thought of a fisherman and a family that might want to do this. Most families would want to say after 30 years of going–would want to just quit, sell out. And guess what? That was in our future. We got to meet Willow and Willow give us that hope. She said what I see here and how you guys are organized I think you got a shot at this. But it's going to take some work. We can help you through this, you know this work.

So my wife Deanna is very great at office work. We sat down to the kitchen table and we started talking about how we're going to write the grant and answer every question that come up and go through all the hurdles. And––and it was like––like going to school obviously. So it was our biggest thing in my mind that we––us two has ever accomplished and one of the proudest things for our family and you know my father. It means a lot.

That program has been ah, it was, it was fabulous. There was no way you may express it, and the gratitude that we had because we got our debts paid. They paid us in return of putting a covenant on this to protect this property as a future––always be a fishermen. That's what the covenant is about. It's protection against it from being sold to a summer resident or a wealthy tycoon that could come in you know, just, not let anybody come here, you know, no access. That would be a loss to the community; that would be one more piece of the coast of Maine gone that could be used for commercial fisheries or aquaculture, and it's tradition. And in today's time, that's getting a lot less of it. There's a lot less third––fourth generation fishermen coming right from scratch up.

My grandfather passed away of cancer here. He didn't have anything but this land. And at that time that land wasn't worth much when he passed away. But when my father passed away this land could have been worth a lot, but he passed this land onto us and this is what we––Robert and I have done for Matthew. And that's what father did for me, so I want to do it for my nephew Matt.

There's still a few of us family fishermen –– and realized what our fathers did for us and how they went and they went and they enjoyed it and they didn't do it for the money. They did it for the lifestyle. It was what they did. And that's the biggest thing about having pride in the business, yeah.

This collection is part of an effort to document oral histories that focus on the application of specific tools for sustaining working waterfronts across the country. To learn more about the Preserving the Working Waterfront Oral History project, click here.