BTLT In the News: “Brunswick is purchasing nearly 300 acres to help protect Maquoit Bay”

Brunswick is purchasing nearly 300 acres to help protect Maquoit Bay

Maine Public | By Robbie Feinberg

Brunswick town councilors have unanimously voted to acquire nearly 300 acres of land near Maquoit Bay as a way to protect the local environment.

The move comes less than a month after the town extended a development moratorium in the Maquoit Bay watershed, following a softshell clam die-off this summer that city staff say that was linked to warmer weather and nutrient runoff.

Staff have warned large-scale development could lead to even more runoff and threaten the local shellfish industry.

The town will pay $3.8 million for the land, where developers had been considering building a 900-unit apartment complex.

Councilor Kathy Wilson says the purchase is an investment in the town’s future.

“The decisions we make are not going to be just for us, but for all future generations that live in Brunswick, and will come to Brunswick,” she said.

Angela Twitchell, with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, said the purchase would offer an opportunity to still potentially build on the land, but also protect the watershed and ecosystem.

“And we also will support targeted development that meets the very real affordable and mid-range housing needs of the community,” Twitchell said.

While the town had no set plans for the area, several councilors raised the possibility of a combination of land conservation and affordable housing development.

Officials expect to complete the deal by the end of the year.

Fisheries in Our Town: A Working Waterfront Panel (RECAP)

Click here to watch the recorded event!

Intertidal: State has a lot to offer in local seafood

By Susan Olcott, Times Record

Whelks, pogies, mackerel, Jonah crabs, razor clams, squid, moon snails, quahogs, soft shell clams, lobster, oysters, bluefish, seaweed — these are just some of the seafood varieties that are harvested off Brunswick’s shores. As Cody Gills, chairperson of Brunswick’s Marine Resource Committee, shellfish harvester and commercial fisherman put it, “There are a lot more fish in the ocean than haddock.” Gillis was one of four panelists that were part of a recent event, “Fisheries in Our Town,” held at the Curtis Memorial Library on Nov. 2. The event was a collaboration between the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association that drew a local in-person audience as well as participants via Zoom.

Elaborating on the point that Maine has a lot to offer in terms of local seafood, panelist Quang Nguyen, owner of the Fishermen’s Net Seafood shop and restaurant, added that in Vietnam, where he grew up, everything is farmed.

“In Maine, it’s amazing how many choices there are,” he said. “It’s just that not everyone knows about them or what to do with them.”

Jaclyn Robidoux, a panelist from Maine Sea Grant added, “If I gave most people a plate of kelp, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.” That’s despite the fact that Maine is the number one state for seaweed aquaculture.

Local food writer and editor of Edible Maine, Christine Rudalevidge, pointed out that there are great resources out there like the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (seafoodnutrition.org) for people who want to learn to cook different types of seafood. Rudalevidge also contributed a recipe to MCFA’s cookbook, “Catch,” which features locally harvested seafood. Value-added products are also on the rise as a way to introduce people to new species. Attendees at the event were able to sample one of these, Maine Coast Monkfish Stew, a product created in collaboration with Hurricane Soups & Premium Chowders in Greene using sustainably harvested monkfish along with Maine produce and dairy. The proceeds from the sale of the stew benefit MCFA’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program that donates fresh seafood to schools, food pantries and community groups statewide.

There was a lively discussion between the panelists as well as members of the audience covering topics like what the working waterfront means to different people and what the challenges are facing those working on the waterfront in Maine. Access was an issue that several panelists pointed out as a significant challenge. Moderator Monique Coombs, MCFA’s director of community programs, pointed out that in the entire state of Maine, there are only 20 miles of working waterfront. Despite having over 6,000 miles of coastline, only a small amount is accessible to those that want to harvest its marine resources. The balmy Wednesday evening also included a discussion of climate change and the shifts in species distribution and seasonality that those working on the water are seeing. Keeping up with the regulations that each fishery must comply with was identified as another significant challenge.

“Make sure your seafood was caught by a Maine fisherman,” Rudalevidge said. “We have to reward them for sticking to such stringent regulations.”

Nguyen echoed this, adding that when he grew up in Vietnam, people used explosives to catch fish and there were virtually no regulations.

“Now there are no fish there unless you go far out into the ocean,” he said.

The panel was a fitting end to October’s National Seafood Month — a celebration of how lucky we are in Maine to have locally harvested seafood that supports not just the harvesters but the entire working waterfront. If you missed the event and are interested in hearing more of the discussion, a recording will be available on the MCFA and BTLT websites: mainecoastfishermen.org and btlt.org.

Watch the full panel event below! 

BTLT In the News: “Intertidal: ‘Fisheries in Our Town’ highlights seafood’s impact on Brunswick”

Intertidal: ‘Fisheries in Our Town’ highlights seafood’s impact on Brunswick
BY SUSAN OLCOTT INTERTIDAL, The Times Record

To read the full article online, click here.

We have a lot of waterfront for what may seem at first to be a fairly inland town. According to the Town of Brunswick website, there are 61 miles of coastline in Casco Bay and 20 miles of waterfront on the Androscoggin River. Fishing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Brunswick, but it is a big part of the town’s culture and economy. From seafood shops to recreational ice fishermen, to local restaurants, to clammers, to those who hold commercial fishing licenses and venture further from shore, there is a lot to learn about fisheries here that is relevant and valuable to those who live here. Whether you love seafood or not, fisheries are an important part of the town’s economy that is not always easy to find accessible information about.

That’s the purpose of an upcoming event co-hosted by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library. The panel presentation, “Fisheries in Our Town” will explore the variety of seafood that is harvested locally and supports our economy, working waterfront and feeds our community. From clamming to pogy fishing, lobstering, aquaculture and even ice fishing, the breadth of our marine resources is impressive. Panelists will include Cody Gillis, chairperson of Brunswick’s Marine Resource Committee, shellfish harvester, commercial fisherman, and registered Maine Guide; Quang Nyguyen, owner of Brunswick’s Fishermen’s Net seafood restaurant and shop; Jaclyn Robidoux, of Maine Sea Grant; and Christine Rudalevidge, editor of Edible Maine, author and food writer. It will be moderated by Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Director of Community Programs Monique Coombs.

Topics to be covered include an introduction of what types of businesses exist on the waterfront and who works there, what challenges these businesses face as well as what successes they are seeing, and what working waterfront means to different people who utilize it in different ways.

………

To read the full article online, click here.

 

BTLT in the News: “Intertidal: Enjoy the transition to autumn with walks along Midcoast trails”

Intertidal: Enjoy the transition to autumn with walks along Midcoast trails

By Susan Olcott – The Times Record

To read the full article online, click here. 

I blame it on seasonal shifts, which is the topic of this column, but I wanted to provide an apology for the incorrect publishing of last week’s column. You may have noticed that it was about spring fish migration and that seemed a bit out of place in September. Perhaps it is appropriate, however, given the column that was intended for last week, which is as follows …

We have officially said goodbye to summer, passing the ominous Sept. 22 — a day and transition I always resist. The end of season’s whipping winds helped a bit, however, as they signaled a shift from the summer’s equilibrium to the imbalance of the air temperature as it cools, and the water hangs on to its summer’s heat a bit longer. I, too, find myself outside in every possible sunny moment, absorbing every bit of solar radiation in an effort to stay fueled by it for the rest of the year. It is the cooling air temperature that whips up the winds common at this time of year, and that also perhaps makes us feel whipped up and out of balance ourselves. The winds also help to accelerate my acceptance that it is … fall.

Once I’m able to shift gears, there is an energy to the fall that I love — the energy of the wind, the energy of kids getting back to school, the energy of people getting boats and docks out of the water. Summer’s more relaxed pace, exacerbated often by the slowing effect of heat, picks up. This is true not only for the activities that we have to do but also true for what we do for fun. Fall is a time when many people come to Maine not to sit on the beach but instead to hike along trails or bike along quiet roads.

While leaf peeping season is not limited to the coast by any means, the waterfront is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place to see the changes in color. Those changes happen not only in the trees but also in the sky and the color and texture of the water. The sensory experience of it is truly overwhelming. It is a perfect time to seek out some of the coastal access points that you might not have yet discovered. And, with cooler temperatures, a walk along a trail is more appealing. We are fortunate in Midcoast Maine to have an array of trails that offer views out onto the water for those willing and able to walk a little way out of their way. Many of these trails exist thanks to Maine’s network of land trusts that aim to preserve access to nature for people to enjoy and to protect those habitats and resources for both recreational and economic benefits to the surrounding towns.

In Brunswick, we have the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust that does an amazing job of continuing to build not only its trails and access points but also its public programming that is aimed at educating people about the environments that BTLT protects. There is specific information about all of the trails on the BTLT website (btlt.org). A few of my specific favorites that offer ocean peeks include the Maquoit Bay Conservation Land trail, the Skolfield Preserve off Harpswell Road and the trails at Woodward Point. Another great resource is the guide that Brunswick’s Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission put together that shows the town’s coastal access points along with helpful information about how to be a responsible member of a coastal community and the importance of taking care of our resources. The guide is available on the RCWC page of the town website (brunswickmaine.org); you can also pick up a copy at the Brunswick Hannaford or at the Town Office. Just across the bridge in Topsham is the Maine Coast Heritage Trust office, a group that also works to protect coastal properties including islands both locally and throughout the state. They operate the Maine Land Trust Network, which is comprised of over 80-member land trusts that coordinate on their efforts and share resources.

So, while I will continue to resist the end of summer each season, I am grateful for nature’s nudge to get out and explore the many properties that are protected for everyone to enjoy.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “State parks on pace for another record year”

Portland Press Herald, State parks on pace for another record year – John Terhune

To read the article online, click here.

Popham Beach had its busiest month on record in July, helping put the Maine State Park system on track to break attendance records for a third consecutive year, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“We’re on pace to beat last year again, and last year beat the previous year, so it’s kind of a multi-year run,” said department spokesperson Jim Britt. “These are big numbers.”

Over 62,705 visitors spent a day at Popham State Park last month, up 110% from July 2021, according to the State Parks Public use report. There were about 1.8 million total visitors to Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites from January through July, 3.9% more than through that same period in 2021.

A lengthy spell of hot weather contributed to the spike in visits to sites like Popham, Scarborough Beach and Range Pond, according to Britt.

“When we have beautiful weather, we have really strong numbers overall,” he said. “That heat wave sent all of us to the beach.”

Yet he added the state park system’s high daily visitation and camping numbers, which are also up 2.6%, are the continuation of a trend sparked by the arrival of COVID-19.

With limited options for socializing indoors, Mainers and visitors from nearby states turned to Maine state parks at record rates in 2020, despite parks closing in the spring. Since then, the flood of visitors hasn’t slowed, even as restrictions have loosened.

“I do believe that we can directly correlate this to the impact of the pandemic on people’s interest and desire to be experiencing the outdoors,” Britt said. “Folks discovered the beauty of Maine state parks as a destination, and they are sticking with it.”

The trend extends beyond the state park system. Compared to pre-pandemic times, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has seen more traffic on its trails, conserved properties and water access points, according to Executive Director Angela Twitchell.

“During the early days of the pandemic when everyone was inside, one of the few things they could do was get outside on public trails,” Twitchell said. “I think that tangible benefit that our work is bringing to people is translating to new members.”

While the influx of visitors is welcome, it can pose challenges and increase costs for those tasked with maintaining public lands, Twitchell said. She hopes the spike in interest in the outdoors will translate to more donations to fund trail maintenance, improved parking and the conservation of more lands.

Money is already set to flow to the State Parks system, thanks to a $50 million initiative launched by Gov. Janet Mills in June.

“Our state parks are treasures that belong in perpetuity to the people of Maine for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Maine,” Mills said during the announcement event. “With this funding, we will undertake the important and long-neglected work of rebuilding our parks as part of our effort to improve the experience they offer and to secure their place as vital economic engines in communities across Maine.”

Besides funding infrastructure upgrades and trail maintenance, the investment will pay for accessibility measures, including a recently installed mobility mat at Popham that allows people in wheelchairs to more easily navigate the beach. Mills is set to visit the site on Thursday.

Britt hopes the upgrades will help bring even more record crowds to Popham and other state parks. Whether adventurers try Quoddy Head, Roque Bluffs or some other spot, he said they’ll likely find themselves hooked.

“It’s a tall order to find a place that you don’t fall in love with,” he said.

To read the article online, click here.

 

BTLT In the News: “Your Land: Blue bounty at Crystal Springs Farm”

By Sandy Stott

“Your Land: Blue bounty at Crystal Spring Farm”

To read the full article online, click here. 

We all noticed it during spring walks. The leafing-out looked vigorous, promising, and then the flowers came. My inner bear keeps instinctive track of the little white bell blossoms that signal blueberries-in-the-making. Walk here waddle there, in the spring wherever I see clustered white, the site goes into my berry-memory. I’ll be back, I say, amusing myself mildly with Arnold-speak.

That was the scene this spring at the north end of Crystal Spring’s sandplain grassland barren, which the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust burned over in April 2021. Everywhere on those 14 acres, tiny fists of white speckled and, in some places, bent, the resurgent blueberry bushes. In a lifetime of blueberry tracking that’s verged on worship, I’d never seen such flower density.

Retired Bowdoin College Ecologist John Lichter helped me understand the gifts of a controlled burn. Bushes, like most of us, seek balance — what’s above the surface should roughly match the root network below. When a burn removes much of the bush and the competing weeds above ground, what remains draws upon a root system that teems with nutrients; growth aiming for balance can then be explosive.

Dial forward to July’s second half: Berry promise has become berry bonanza. I’m back! So too, given the Trust’s invitation to pick on some of those 14 acres, are many of you.

————

What’s also drawn me out on this late July day is something larger than my own berry-mania. It’s the promise of watching part of a blueberry harvest on 35 of 70 leased acres of sandplain that adjoin the acres preserved by the Land Trust. Those acres are cultivated by Crystal Spring farmers Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, and each year, thousands of pounds of blueberries get raked up and sent to Merrill Blueberry Farms, an organic processor in Hancock. There they are cleaned and sorted, and then frozen and shipped back to Crystal Spring and the farm’s freezer.

From there they go out to markets and restaurants throughout southern Maine. These commercial blueberries and products made from them are an important part of what makes Crystal Spring Farm a thriving operation.

Kroeck’s explanation of their berrying brought me to think more fully about the plants offering me (for that’s how it looks as I bend to pick) their berries. As he noted, “These berry plants are likely much older than I am, and they are likely to be here long after I’m gone.” Blueberry plants, Kroeck explained, “grow in circular clones from underground root networks that can be up to 50 feet across. Seen from the air, the barren sometimes looks like a patchwork of different-colored circles.” A sort of large-scale pointillist’s dream, I thought as I imagined this.

“And,” Kroeck added, “in the past, people wondered how these old fields just gave and gave.” Yes, the usual post-harvest mowing or burning added back some nutrients and encouraged regrowth, but the giving surely outweighed the getting. Enter the discovery of mycorrhizal fungi that partner with blueberry plant roots, increasing their reach and breaking down minerals for them. Blueberry plants, in symbiotic return, provide the mycorrhizae with carbohydrates.

So much going on beneath the surface. Another lesson, I reminded myself, in learn from your land.

Crystal Spring Farm’s 10-day blueberry harvest started on July 26. At midday on the 27, I stopped by to watch. Kroeck was driving the tractor with its two harvesting drums attached to the left side; his son Griffin was working a deck on the back of the tractor, where the just picked berries arrived via conveyor belts and dropped into a box that holds roughly 20 pounds of berries. Griffin tended each box as it filled, removing sticks, wads of grass and leaves — and the occasional snake — then stacked the boxes on wooden pallets. Kroeck drove carefully at somewhere under .5 mph. And the harvesting drums, which feature 12 rows of slim tines, raked the berries off efficiently. Following along in their wake, I saw few remaining berries and no evident damage to the plants. “Yes,” said Kroeck appreciatively, “the folks who invented these are pretty remarkable.”

Coda: The Gift: Earlier in July, while looking over the berry-bounty of the recently burned acres, Kroeck and BTLT Stewardship Director Margaret Gerber, thought, they are so many; some of these berries could help nourish those who are hungry. Kroeck volunteered a day’s harvesting, which he estimated could add up to 2000+ pounds. These berries would then need processing and freezing and distributing. In Auburn, they found the Good Shepherd Food Bank, which could oversee the processing and storage and, in Portland, the Preble Street Food pantry, which could distribute the berries. A fitting tribute to Crystal Spring Farm and the land’s stewards, and a berry fine use of a season’s bounty.

To read the full article online, click here. 

 

BTLT In the News: “A quick tide propels your paddle on the Lower Cathance River in Topsham”

A quick tide propels your paddle on the Lower Cathance River in Topsham

by Ron Chase, Outdoors Contributor, Bangor Daily News

To read the full article online, click here.

“The Cathance River in my hometown of Topsham provides a host of recreational opportunities.

The upper sector offers easy flatwater paddling. In the middle is one of the finest coastal whitewater creek runs in Maine, rated Class III/IV in difficulty by the American Whitewater Association. Below a waterfall at head of tide, several miles of forested wetlands follow to Merrymeeting Bay. There are hiking trails along its banks and fishing and bird watching are popular activities.

The Cathance has a rich history. Early Native Americans lived in settlements along the river and used it for transportation. Cathance or “Kathanis” probably meant “crooked” in the Abenaki language. As anyone who has paddled the river can attest, the name is appropriate as it roams circuitously throughout its 16.4-mile course. In 1715, European settlers built the first sawmill in Maine at the waterfall at head of tide, and it continued to operate well into the 20th century. In recent years, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust partnered with the Town of Topsham to purchase and create Head of Tide Park next to the waterfall.

In the almost 30 years that my wife, Nancy, and I have lived in Topsham, we had never paddled the lower tidal sector of the Cathance. Both senior citizens, rectifying that omission was overdue. Only a Facebook message was required to convince our retired friends, Diane and John Stokinger, to join us. Since there are boat launch facilities at Head of Tide Park and Mailly Waterfront Park downriver in Bowdoinham, they were the obvious locations to begin and end our voyage.

Strong tidal currents are a factor when planning a paddle on lower Cathance. The tide was scheduled to rise for most of the day we chose for our excursion. Unlike prehistoric Native Americans, we had the option of selecting our direction of travel. Riding the tide upriver from Bowdoinham and finishing at Head of Tide Park was preferable. Ending at Head of Tide Park did have a disadvantage; a steep carry was required next to the waterfall.

Head of Tide Park is an outstanding facility. There is adequate parking, covered picnic tables and a public toilet. Our inspection of the hand-carry boat launch was encouraging; convenient metal stairs led up from the water.

We left a vehicle at the park and drove to Bowdoinham to launch. Flat water kayaks were our boats of choice; however, canoes or sea kayaks would also be suitable……”

To read the full article online, click here. 

 

BTLT In the News: “Land trust conserves Topsham’s Hideaway Farm property”

“Land trust conserves Topsham’s Hideaway Farm property” – Times Record

On June 30, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust conserved the Hideaway Farm property on the Cathance River in Topsham.

According to the trust, the property — previously owned by John Sczymecki — is significant because it abuts the conserved Robert Williams Preserve and will add an additional 1,000 feet of shorefront and 18 acres to this connected, conserved landscape.

To make this conservation effort possible, $138,000 was raised by June 30 to acquire and manage the property. The trust met its goal just before the closing deadline.

The town of Topsham, Merrymeeting Bay Trust, Davis Conservation Fund, John Sage Foundation and 70 individual donors supported the conservation effort.

“The Town of Topsham has a long history of working with BTLT to conserve natural resources and recreational opportunities along the Cathance River,” Topsham Parks and Recreation Director Pam Leduc said. “We were very happy to be able to help make the conservation of the Hideaway Farm property possible by contributing funds from our Open Space In lieu fund.

“These monies were generated from impacts on open space due to development and are set aside to be used for conservation and recreation purposes. We see the Hideaway Farm project as a great example of leveraging these dollars to conserve important habitat and create an opportunity for additional recreational trails and public access to the Cathance River.”

Over the course of 30 years, the trust has conserved more than 1,100 acres and 43,000 feet of riverfront along the Cathance River.

According to the land trust, the Hideaway Farm will enhance conservation efforts along the rivers that flow through Brunswick and Topsham into Merrymeeting Bay, including the Cathance River, around which the trust is trying to conserve the largely undeveloped area.

To view the article online, click here.

BTLT In the News: “The wonders of Woodward Point Preserve”

“The Wonders of Woodward Point Preserve”

By Jane Olsen, The Bowdoin Orient

After weeks of exploring the natural beauty around Bowdoin’s campus, each location has both astounded me and reminded me of the endless opportunities we have to explore the beauty of Maine. As my last column of the year, Woodward Point Preserve is no exception.

Through winding trails between the trees, this preserve offers secluded access to the coast. With five different pathways—none more than half a mile long—there is something for everyone within these trails. Wooden benches along the way invite the passerby to sit and watch the sea while wildflowers beckon visitors to take a closer look.

The drive to this destination is only ten minutes from Bowdoin. As the road nears the Preserve, signs for quaint side streets like Oyster Ledge and Periwinkle Lane hint towards simple delights within reach.

At the end of the road, between two red barns, you’ll find a parking lot bustling with visitors. These barns are physical remnants of the previous occupants of the land, a farming operation that grew hay and cared for dairy and beef cows.

In an effort to keep the land open to the public, the Cook-Ellis family sold their farm to The Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) in 2019. The MCHT has partnered with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and numerous private contributors to raise funds and manage ownership. This preserve is one of many conservation efforts by the MCHT from Kittery to Lubec, Maine. As articulated on their website, the organization prioritizes access, climate resilience and community support.

The Preserve boasts a 1.5 mile network of trails, 87.5 acres of upland, 38 acres of subtidal wetlands and four acres of fringing salt marsh. As one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land in northern Casco Bay, the intertidal lands include valuable shellfish beds, high-value waterfowl and wading bird habitats. The nearby New Meadows River also supports one of the fastest growing aquaculture industries in the state. Not only is Woodward Point a location rich with conservation efforts, but it is also a collection of gasp-worthy trails and seaside views.

A visit at low tide reveals the stunning geological formations emerging from the turquoise water. At each access point to the water, stone steps provide easy access down to the shoreline for dipping your toes into the refreshing current or leaning into the breeze. If you’re lucky you may spot a blue heron, bald eagle or bobolink.

Back on land, woodpeckers, foxes, porcupines and racoons meander through the trees. Aside from searching for animals, this preserve offers a kayak launching point and in the winter, a short loop for snowshoeing or Nordic skiing. For younger visitors, the MCHT offers maps with themes such as fairies or pirates to foster education of the land.

Encouraging knowledge of the environment around us is vital to protecting the future of Maine’s natural landscapes. I hope that by highlighting a few locations around and beyond campus I have sparked your interest in finding pleasure in the outdoors and aiding efforts to conserve such beauty.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Your Land: What you can see (and what you can’t) – Earth Day ‘22”

Your Land: What you can see (and what you can’t) – Earth Day ‘22

By Sandy Stott

A cool spring morning, with rising wind. It is the season — post-snow and pre-spring-growth — where what’s been thrown and blown away is easy to spot, and I’ve come to this part of Brunswick Landing with 30+ others to clear the area of this hand- and wind-scattered trash.

At my back, a one-story building, its long windows opening out toward a field, houses the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). Often working partners, these two conservation organizations help preserve and manage lands, bring people to those lands, and promote the spirit that adheres to and rises from those lands. Close by the building lie the plots of the New Mainers Garden, where sign of that spirit will poke soon above ground. CREA has organized today’s clean-up, and their executive director, Caroline Eliot, has welcomed our mixed lot, including a number of families (thank you, parents), and, with expansive gestures, she’s turned us loose to clean.

Armed with a picker-upper and an empty bag, I begin to work through the grasses and small pines above a crushed rock berm at the base of a thin pond. Snagged among the grasses: 2 paper coffee cups (company name withheld), plastic lid and straw, two linked post-it notes (task completed, I assume), white chunk of shipping foam, wad of paper towel, bottle cap, ah, the companion plastic bottle, a once-upon-a-pencil, bags 1, 2 and 3, (plastic). And on.

I near the water. I look back upfield, and I can see no remaining trash. Soon, I’ll join the others as they fan out into the woods and along nearby roads to fill their bags further. By morning’s end we’ll have tens of bags full. But first I turn back to the pond. I know this water. The eastern branch of the Mere Brook watershed, it too needs (and is slated for) cleansing work.

Named Pond B, the water before me has been put to work. Not far upstream sibling Pond A pools behind its own dam, and just above that the waters emerge from twin culverts that run beneath Brunswick Landing. Ponds A and B, and downstream relatives, Pond Area C and Picnic Pond receive and process 80% of the stormwater that runs off the Landing. It’s all headed finally south for Mere Brook, and then, Harpswell Cove.

Such water from a heavily-peopled, asphalt-rich site carries within the chemical equivalents of the thrown and blown trash we’re all gathering today. A full catalogue of this water’s trouble would burst the seams of this column. But before I head into the woods in pursuit of more visible trash, I want to describe briefly how the Ponds Stormwater System works, and how, over time, its waters may be redeemed.

When it rains heavily, run-off water rushes throughout the Landing. That hurried water picks up whatever’s available — grit, pollutants, bits of trash; it all courses through the system, swelling, rising. When that water reaches the ponds, it does what we all do in quieter water — it slows down. And, as it slows, it lays down some of its burden, the grit and particulates, the pollutants; that load sinks to the bottom, over time layering it. The now partially-cleansed water flows on seaward. A modicum of success.

But time’s accumulations finally make these pond-bottoms toxic, no-touch sediments that should be cleaned. Such a remediation is at hand for the Ponds system. The Navy, which put the system in place in the mid-90s, has contracted for roughly $5 million to have these sediments removed this summer and fall. A layer of clean sand will then be laid in place. The Ponds will then go back to work slowing and sorting the stormwater, which, given the successful repurposing of the former Navy Base as Brunswick Landing, will be substantial work.

Here, beside this working water, I’m thinking about the dilemma of our presence. We slough off so much, visible and invisible; how we manage our slough, how we minimize our trail of discard is an essential challenge on this Earth Day and every day.

It’s an hour later, and I’ve followed the deliberate course of my trash picking into a little draw. A tiny, transparent stream runs along its bottom toward Pond area C; on its banks, my favorite spring harbinger spirals up, maroon surprise. Before it becomes a green fan of leaf, Skunk Cabbage begins as twisting eruption from the newly soft ground; it is sculpture of the highest quality. Nearby, mid-stream, lies the thin manilla fin of a sandbar shaped by the running water. The sand’s surface is stirred and I bend to it; there, in a two-way script, go the paw prints of fellow travelers — raccoon (I’m sure), fox (I think), and the plush pads of a rogue cat(?). Here, in this little draw, slowed by my work of finding trash, I’m finding also the prints and presence of fellow animals. We are all of this earth. I owe them this effort to clean the seen and unseen litter of my life.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident, chair of the town’s Conservation Commission, and a member of Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Board of Directors. He writes for a variety of publications. He may be reached at fsandystott@gmail.com

To read the full article online, click here.