Every summer we see many people give Ogunquit a try for their vacation. Recognizing who is making their first trip to Ogunquit is easy – they are always surprised at the traffic and relieved when they find out that Ogunquit Beach, Marginal Way and Perkins Cove are within walking distance of the Meadowmere. Plus a quaint trolley that stops at our back door provides public transportation to every spot in the village. Our new friends visibly sigh with relief.
And we completely understand – in fact, almost everyone with a business in Ogunquit has to make daily trips to the post office in heart of our seaside village. In the summer, in the heat. Often, I make this trip for the Resort and watch our guests walk by as I idle in traffic – sometimes as long as 20 minutes (Ogunquit’s main intersection is legendary – no light, no rotary, no traffic cop, and 4 major roads meeting. It is probably Maine’s most studied intersection for congestion.). My wait gives me time to catch a few clips on public radio and often the timing is when environmental issues are featured. Today, the radio featured the Aspen Idea Festival – an annual gathering of global leaders, scientists, artists, politicians, activists and more. In particular, a segment on Place-Making was discussed.
The topic was fascinating – you can read more about what place making is here or check out a nice post on the Daily Planet’s blog. But basically, how do we plan our cities and towns to create neighborhoods? As the segment continued, I compared the speaker’s points to Ogunquit – and thought I would share. . .
To create a cohesive town, a vibrant community, a place must:
- Have Porches – on houses and by cafes. Cafe Preggo features patio dining, as does Black Sushi House and Julie’s Ristorante. Probably the most famous porch in town is Barnacle Billy’s (There’s even a webcam!). And then in the heart of Ogunquit is the Village Food Market, with outdoor seating right at Ogunquit’s messy intersection. Endless hours can be spent watching people come and go, which is probably why all of the homes downtown have front porches. Better yet, we have park benches everywhere. Ogunquit has porches covered.
- Be Walkable. Well, that’s easy. Ogunquit is known as Maine’s Most Walkable Village. Marginal Way connects Perkins Cove to the Downtown Shops and a stroll up Ogunquit Beach is a beautiful way to reach the Footbridge Beach restaurants. Sidewalks are ample, crosswalks are plenty. And a favorite sight in the evening is the couples of all ages holding hands and strolling the downtown. Ogunquit is walkable.
- Be Able to Shop Main Street – in other words, have small businesses. Independent owners, family run shops – a connection to the place as home. Check. The Meadowmere itself is a family owned and operated business for two generations. In fact, the only chains that exist in town are banks. From Jean and Colleen at Harbor Candy Shop to John and Randy at the Village Food Market to Mark and Clark at MC Perkins Cove to Mark and Rachel at Liquid Dreams, Ogunquit is teeming with individual proprietors. Making Main Street a shopping mecca.
- Have Trains – Hmmm . . . Ogunquit’s kinda small for a train, but the idea is public transportation. Gotcha! The Ogunquit Trolley provides a ride from one end of town to the other. And then, one can pick up a York Trolley or Wells Trolley and continue up and down the Southern Maine coast. Personally, I’ve always liked Molly the Trolley. Probably stems from her being the first trolley I rode as a kid.
- Have Diners – Local restaurants. Places where people can become regulars and while I don’t think the speaker was recommending that we all pony up next to Norm at the Cheers bar, I do think he meant having local cuisine. From Arrows Restaurant with home grown greens and vegetables to Clay Hill Farm’s classic lobster bisque to our own special English Burger at the Meadowmere, the restaurants are unique and colorful and delicious. For a real treat, try Joshua’s just north of Ogunquit in Wells. Homemade ice cream, breads and organic ingredients – you’ll swear off restaurant chains for life. It’s that good to eat local here.
Why have all this? Community. Place-making. The value that we put on our favorite spots and what our favorite spots give to our community. Having the five points above in a place make that place livable – increases public health, provides a better place for employment and increases local contributions for things like preservation. And Ogunquit is a case study in place-making. Everyone in town is active from protecting the beach to restoring Marginal Way to welcoming the Playhouse’s many actors and actresses. I watch those first time guests park their car and walk, taking in all of the above, and know that they will return. Ogunquit is perhaps the best example of Maine’s slogan ‘Worth A Visit, Worth A Lifetime’. So next time you check in, leave the keys in your resort room and take a walk to the beach – just remember to wave when you pass me by.