Last month Steve Ewing learned he would be given the 32nd Creative Living Award, presented each year by the Permanent Endowment Fund. And although he felt honored, Mr. Ewing, 62 and a lifelong resident of Edgartown, wasn’t initially sure why he had been chosen.

At first, he figured it must be because he’d grown up on the Vineyard. “You have to be pretty creative to make a living here,” he said.

“Especially when I was a kid — everybody did a little bit of everything.”

But later someone told him he’d been nominated because of his contributions to poetry — Mr. Ewing was named Edgartown poet laureate in 2011 — and to Island conservation. He has served on numerous boards, from the Edgartown conservation commission to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, always with the same goal in mind: to protect the land that makes the Vineyard special.

But he’s still not a hundred per cent sure how the nomination came to be, so he began researching Ruth Bogan. The Creative Living Award is given in her memory and the rules are simple: the award goes to a person who has made a significant contribution to the quality of life on the Island.

And Steve Ewing’s significant contribution is, in fact, a little bit of everything: a work ethic forged from an ordinary life lived close to the land and sea, an innate love of learning, a bent for conservation, a natural gift for writing.

Somewhere in the Ewing archives there are poems he wrote as a youngster while attending the Edgartown School. Just the childhood ditties that grade-schoolers write, he said, but it was that far back that he first started playing with words. He wrote a little bit while in high school — he received a scholarship to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, which he attended for three years, but he came home and graduated from the regional high school in 1970. The late John Morelli, his English teacher here on the Vineyard, encouraged his writing.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Ewing began working for Grant and Carbon Marine, and he has been building docks ever since. In 1978, the same year he built his own house in Edgartown, he cofounded Aquamarine Dockbuilders and took up commercial scalloping. But in spite of the two income sources, there still wasn’t enough work on the Vineyard in the winter, when the harbors would freeze. So he went to New York city in the off-season. He took classes and poetry workshops at the New School for Social Research. He also met his wife Claudia, who was a student at the time at New York University. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary this month with a trip to Rome.

Mr. Ewing’s poetry is rich with familiarity and evocative with its descriptions. It’s personal, he said, but only as much as anything is — he’s after the universals, and accessibility is crucial.

“I want you to be able to understand what I’m talking about,” he said. Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, was the same way, writing for the everyman. And while Mr. Ewing doesn’t want to compare himself to Burns, he is working for that same reach.

His longtime hobby took on a different resonance in 1985, after his younger brother Scotty died in a car crash. Mr. Ewing wrote a few poems for the funeral. One was a prayer.

“When he died, I don’t know what opened up . . . something opened up, and it’s still opening up, but that was the beginning of it, I think, when Scotty died,” he said. “It just came right to me, those poems.” The words came forth with such immediacy, he said. “I didn’t really write it; I just held the pen, you know what I mean? That’s the only way I could describe it.”

So he kept writing. The hobby had become something necessary, and it was once more when Mr. Ewing’s brother Doug died 10 years later after battling melanoma. Mr. Ewing wrote more poems.

“I kept doing it,” he said. “It’s like anything else.”

Poetry is a way to get at the core of a subject and hone in on meaning, elements that hold particular appeal to him.

“I am one of those people that likes to get right to the heart of the matter, right to the core,” he said. If there’s a puzzle, he wants to solve it. The challenge is part of the appeal. That holds true whether tracing his family’s Scottish roots back to the days of Saint Patrick (Mr. Ewing has had his DNA tested), figuring out what on earth the word Calumet means (it means peace pipe), or building a dock. Nearly all the piers in Edgartown were built by Aquamarine.

It’s been more than 40 years since he first started building them and Mr. Ewing hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the job. “It’s still exciting,” he said. He’s outside, on the water, just like he was asa kid when he and his brothers would go fishing or clamming. He meets people every day, and his “office” includes some of the most beautiful spots on the Island. It was his job that pushed him toward the conservation path. When he served on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, he was part of the board that wrote the district of critical planning concern guidelines for the Edgartown Great Pond watershed — which included a prohibition on piers.

“Even though I’m a dock builder, I’ve been adamant that there are some places where piers should not be built,” he said. “Edgartown Great Pond, Cape Pogue, Sengekontacket — they really should be dedicated to number one, shellfish, and number two, just the aesthetic beauty of these places and the wildlife. That’s the key.” Mr. Ewing went quahaugging this past Saturday, taking the skiff around with Claudia and their dog. He no longer scallops commercially, but his younger son Arno took up the shellfish helm and is a conch fisherman. Older son Niko studied photography in school; Mr. Ewing and Niko have been collaborating on a book of black-and-white photographs and poetry. It’s about halfway done, Mr. Ewing said.

“I’ve been writing these remembrance things for 40 years now, so that’s what this first book I think will be,” he said. Some of those remembrances were presented as part of Mr. Ewing’s annual poem at town meeting, which is his sole responsibility as Edgartown poet laureate. He went through several versions before he was satisfied with the final product.

As a boy, he used to light the candles in the Old Whaling Church, so he knows the space well. But it’s different from the lectern.

“It’s just kind of neat, later in life, to be back up there on that stage reading a poem that I’ve written, and not just arguing a zoning issue,” he said. “To actually have the opportunity to stand in front of the town and express yourself like that is really — it’s a beautiful thing.

“You write best about what you know. And I’ve been here all my life in this little town, so I know the town pretty well. Pretty well.”

Still, he said: “You’re always learning, believe me.”

The Creative Living Award ceremony will be held Thursday, Oct. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. The public is invited, and the evening will include a drawing, with the winner awarded the chance to donate $1,000 to an Island nonprofit of choice.