English people began to settle permanently in the lower Kennebec in 1649, with the purchase of land from Chief Mowhotiwormet by John Parker, although European fishermen had been in the area prior to this time. This land became known as Georgetown, which then encompassed all of the communities represented by AFCLK. Settlers farmed a little, fished, and set up mills along the suitable rivers and streams, such as Nequasset in Woolwich, and tide mills in Phippsburg and Arrowsic.
Near continuous conflict between indigenous peoples and European settlers, which began with King Philip’s War in 1676 ensured that these communities were not permanent until the fall of the French in 1759. At this time, parts of Georgetown petitioned the Massachusetts government to form independent communities, which was permitted if the community had sufficient population and a church. Woolwich was incorporated in 1759, Bath in 1781, and Phippsburg in 1814. Arrowsic separated from Georgetown in 1841. And West Bath, which had been part of Bath since 1781, became a separate community in 1844.
Shipbuilding along the Kennebec constituted the major industry following independence from Great Britain and has continued until today. Bath Iron Works is Maine’s largest private employer, and has workers from every county in the state, although most hail from the region covered by AFCLK.
Our age-friendly efforts evolved within the framework of our deeply connected communities. They differ in size and geographic location, access to local services and resources, population size, population density, and residents' ages. Each municipality has a fire department with all but Bath a volunteer department, who work together in a mutual aid emergency system. Some communities have general stores, amenities like eating places, community centers, libraries and walking trails, supermarkets, medical services or schools, and others just have a town hall as their only meeting place.
The City of Bath on the Kennebec River is in the center of our region providing many of the resources and services that especially older adults so heavily rely on like medical services, Bath EMS, a police department and the Sagadahoc Sheriff's office, the Patten Free Library, Bath Area Senior Citizens Activity Center, and the Bath Area Family YMCA to name a few.
It is not surprising that in a beautiful old ship-building region more than half of all homes were built before 1940. As a result, the housing supply is often not very energy efficient, has bedrooms on the 2nd floor, and requires significant maintenance expenditures. Many residents are in housing that is too big - 54% of housing units have three or more bedrooms. Both young and older residents often find themselves cost-burdened as rents, utilities and repair costs outstrip their incomes. Older adults looking to downsize from larger homes find a limited selection of potential rental units in a landscape dominated by single family homes. We believe collaboration through AFCLK may help our region generate some new options to maximize the housing resources that exist here.
A total year-round population of about 17222 (census 2010) cover a land area of 111 square miles. In 2016 twenty percent of our residents were over the age of 65 years. (Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Censusdata https://factfinder.census.gov) Two bridged islands and long peninsulas challenge individual transportation, and access to essential services as well as daily needs. The six towns encompass many acres of wooded areas, with storms frequently resulting in power outages, and lack of high-speed Internet challenging residents’ ability to access services.