This year was certainly an eventful one, with big happenings all along the Midcoast.

This time of year, we like to look back on what, exactly, happened in the past year. With news constantly evolving, it’s easy to get caught up in the future and forget to look back.

Here are some of the stories we covered in 2017.

Brunswick debates a new school

Our Jan. 12, 2017 cover gave an overview of how Brunswick came to need a new elementary school. Designed by Daryl Madore, this cover won first place in the Maine Press Association’s 2017 Better Newspaper Contest. File photo

It feels like only yesterday that Brunswick was deciding whether or not to replace the aging Coffin Elementary School with a new school, to be located at the current site of Jordan Acres Elementary School.

The $28 million price tag for a new school had some residents balking, while many parents of children were tired of their elementary-aged kids coming home with soaking wet clothes after they had to walk to the library, which is, as of today, still located in a “temporary” trailer that’s been in place for decades.

The debate often centered around fixed income residents having trouble affording taxes as it is, and some mis-remembering of facts. Arguments about Jordan Acres being closed permanently due to a ceiling beam cracking – something the Coastal Journal showed isn’t true – continued to surface. The school did have a beam crack, but it was financial pressures caused by the loss of Brunswick Naval Air Station, among other things, that led to the closure, not simply the beam.

Regardless of the debate, residents eventually approved the construction of a new school at a referendum in June, and are actively seeking public input on aspects of the building.

Cedar Beach Access

Our March 9 cover featured the Cedar Beach issue, and also mentioned the Mitchell Field Pier problem which is currently being resolved via demolition. File photo

The issue is settled now, but at the start of 2017, accessing Cedar Beach was still a hotly discussed topic in Harpswell.

For those who don’t remember, the fight over accessing Cedar Beach via Cedar Beach Road started years before, and kicked off with a series of court cases about whether Harpswell residents had the right to use the road to access Cedar Beach.

While the town had, at the time, acquired an easement allowing use of the beach, without the road the only way to get there was by boat.

A Maine Supreme Court ruling definitively shut down any chance of residents getting a prescriptive easement on the road via legal means, a fact we covered extensively in 2016 (Editor’s note: Chris Chase earned first place for a news story in the Maine Press Association’s Better Newspapers Contest for his coverage).

In 2017, the town negotiated, and voters approved, a license agreement with the property owners allowing Cedar Beach Road to stay open, provided the town monitors activity.

Year of beer

The Coastal Journal covered a lot of beer related stories in the Midcoast in 2017, including this March 23 article about Brunswick-based Flight Deck Brewing’s grand opening. File photo

It seems like 2017 was the year of beer at the Coastal Journal, as we covered brewery events many times.

First was the opening of Flight Deck Brewery in Brunswick, which was greeted with great enthusiasm by the public. We also have been following the openings of other breweries in both Brunswick and Bath.

To top that off, we covered collaborations between Oxbow and Allagash, hop harvesting efforts, and more.

Beer has become a grassroots industry that’s rapidly picking up in Maine, and the Midcoast is a part of the trend. The industry represents hundreds of millions of dollars for the state, with Portland being recognized internationally as a beer destination.

Who knows? Maybe instead of lobster, Maine will start being known for beer?

Well, probably not. But beer has definitely arrived in a big way, and we expect we’ll have more stories on how it’s progressing in the Midcoast in 2018.

Bath Viaduct opens at last

Midcoast residents rejoiced when the Route 1 Viaduct in Bath was re-opened early, as our May 11 cover reported. File photo

Can you believe, not that long ago, Bath’s Route 1 viaduct was under construction?

The highly-anticipated project completely demolished the old structure, forcing vehicles into one lane, backing up traffic on the Sagadahoc Bridge, and generally becoming a cause of bad words and pounded steering wheels in the Midcoast.

Back in May, we reported for one of the last times on the viaduct as the structure was reopened well ahead of schedule.

Can we also say the new stoplights at the intersection of Washington Street and Leeman Highway are pretty great, too?

Development, development, development

This development proposal for Summer Street in Bath wasn’t to be, but it was one of several development proposals which occurred in the Midcoast in 2017, File photo

Our June 22 cover of a development that didn’t end up happening in Bath is a part of an overall story in the Midcoast.

Developers are pursuing projects in several communities, the latest of which is the approval of a multi-million dollar, three-building development on Main Street in Damariscotta.

Development plans were also the subject of a recent story on Bath’s consideration of an amendment to a downtown development building of five condominiums on the waterfront.

With skyrocketing real estate prices in Portland, it’s no surprise that developers are taking notice of how many people want to move to Maine. We’ve covered their efforts, both positives and negatives, and other housing issues in the past year and we’ll likely continue to cover them in 2018.

Wiscasset vs. the Maine Department of Transportation

Our June 29 cover highlighted the Wiscasset Select Board’s withdrawal of support for a Maine Department of Transportation project in town. The conflict between the town and state is ongoing. File photo

The ongoing battle over what to do about traffic in Wiscasset is likely our most-covered story of the year.

While the traffic issues have been around for decades, the latest fight is over MDOT’s plans to change downtown Wiscasset in the hopes of alleviating traffic. In June, Wiscasset’s Select Board voted 3 – 2 to withdraw support for the project. Since then, there have been multiple lawsuits and increasing tension between those for and against the project.

No work has been done yet, and there are some lawsuits working their way through the courts.

What 2018 will bring remains to be seen.

Pilings of Popham Beach

The pilings in Popham generated plenty of buzz this past year, and a recent decision by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection has sealed their fate. File photo

This cover (with a fabulous photograph provided by David Spencer) represents our first 2017 story about the proposal to remove a set of pilings along Popham Beach.

The last story we did came out earlier this month, after a Dec. 7 Board of Environmental Protection hearing made the final decision on the pilings’ removal.

Residents of the small village of Popham in Phippsburg were galvanized into action to attempt to save the pilings after a proposal by nearby resident Jack Parker to remove them was sent to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Parker has argued from the very beginning that the pilings present an erosion problem, and his entire motivation for their removal stems from that fact alone.

The language surrounding the removal of the pilings sometimes got ugly, with plenty of less-than-civil comments tossed around.

In the end, Parker was granted rights to remove the pilings, though they’ll likely last for one more summer.

Land trust efforts

The efforts to rehabilitate Florida Lake were just one of many projects undertaken by land trusts in the Midcoast in 2017. File photo

This past year was another big one for land trusts in the Midcoast as they embarked on efforts to protect or preserve large areas of land.

There’s Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s efforts to preserve Woodward Point; Kennebec Estuary Land Trust’s efforts to preserve Squam Creek on Westport Island; Phippsburg Land Trust’s goal of preserving parts of Morse River, and more.

So far, millions of dollars have been raised to protect large areas of the Midcoast, and we bet 2018 will feature similar efforts.

The Great Wind

The windstorm in late October battered the Midcoast and left empty patches of forest that won’t heal for decades. File photo

The windstorm that battered the Midcoast Oct. 30 certainly deserves a mention.

Unprecedented amounts of power outages. Decimated areas of forests. Houses with trees on the roof, cars smashed by wayward branches.

The Coastal Journal was dealing with the power outage along with everyone else, and it took our editor dragging computers to a second location to scrape together a paper at the zero-hour to get to print on time.

Throughout the tales of damage, there were plenty of miraculous events and kindness to go around, too. It might not be news, but neighbors helping neighbors and a genuine spirit of community is a hallmark of Midcoast Maine.