About 20 people gathered at Belfast City Park Oct. 3 to paddle 1.5 miles to the mouth of the Little River under gray skies but otherwise calm weather. They came for the second annual Vigil for the Bay.

Some people were dressed up as lobsters, eagles, butterflies, bats and the Little River itself while paddling to Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace’s property next to the river and were met with Celtic music as they paddled to shore. Some of the participants were from as far away as Virginia and California, but most were local residents from Belfast, Northport and Lincolnville.

The event celebrates Belfast Bay and the animals that thrive in its ecosystems, but it also raises awareness about threats to the area, event organizer Ethan Hughes said. One of the threats the group advocated against at the event was Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed land-based fish farm.

The $500 million facility is proposed to be built next to the Little River with intake and outfall pipes to be buried in an intertidal area that Mabee and Grace claim to own.

Hughes said the event is not a response to Nordic alone, but to everything threatening the bay, including human-induced climate change. He thinks the earth cannot sustain the carbon footprints of any more large corporate facilities such as Nordic proposes.

He said he wants to see the bay preserved for fishing, tourism and the enjoyment of future generations like his daughters. “The earth is showing that we will be in trouble if we continue with big projects,” he said.

Ideally, he said, the two Little River dams would be taken down so alewives can return to the river and locals could have the option of sustainably fishing them again.

Jason Rawn of Lincolnville, who helped plan the event, said he was concerned that people would not show up because of the coronavirus. The event is important because waste from human activity is putting the environment at risk, he said.

“There’s not a shortage of industrial complexes and pollution, but there is a shortage of places for good fresh water to common people,” Rawn said.

Mabee and Grace’s neighbors Janet and Richard Eckrote granted Nordic an easement to the legally disputed intertidal property in front of their house and maintain that they own that land.

Mabee and Grace put the entire intertidal area they claim to own, which consists of intertidal land in front of several properties north of theirs, into a conservation easement with Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area.

Hughes said he will continue to organize the event into the future even if Nordic builds its facility, because the threats of pollution and climate change are beyond Nordic’s proposed project alone.

Another benefit of the event is the ability to disconnect from technology and interact with the environment, Rawn said. “It’s important that people are actively getting together to do real things and that they’re not just at home connected to screens.”