Protecting Water Quality is Core to Conservation

August is National Water Quality Month — one month out of the year that highlights the importance in which water plays in our lives every day. We all depend on access to clean drinking water, but water quality also impacts nearly every other facet of life, from the health of the ecosystems that we live within and share with wildlife, to the success of working farms and fisheries that we depend on for food, recreation, and so much more. The Cathance, Androscoggin, and Muddy Rivers flow through Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin and are three of the six rivers that empty into Merrymeeting Bay. The Lower Kennebec River and Merrymeeting Bay together comprise the Kennebec Estuary, one of Maine’s most significant natural areas. The Kennebec Estuary is the second largest estuary on the East coast, containing 20 percent of Maine’s tidal marshes and providing critical habitat for a range of fish, waterfowl, and other species.

Conservation plays a significant role in protecting and maintaining water quality by buffering rivers and bays from runoff and pollution, as well as conserving critical habitat and protecting water access.

9 Things You Can Do at Home to Protect Your Water

  1. Wash your car at a car wash: Even though it might cost more than washing your car at home, taking your car to a car wash saves water and prevents toxic chemicals from being flushed down your storm drains that eventually empty into our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans Professional car washes are legally required to drain into sewer systems so that the water can be treated before being re-used.
  2. Pick up after your pet: Animal waste is full of nitrogen which can remove oxygen from the water leaving it completely unusable for aquatic life.
  3. Don’t hose down your driveway, use a broom.
  4. Don’t use fertilizer made with phosphorus: After heavy rainfall or watering, these chemicals can leak into nearby groundwater sources. Try using organic materials or waiting for drier weather if you absolutely need to use lawn care products.
  5. Do not flush expired or unwanted medication down the toilet: These products have toxic chemicals that should not be flushed down the drain.
  6. Take used oil or antifreeze to a service station or recycling center.
  7. Avoid using antibacterial soaps or cleaning products in your drain as they are also toxic to marine life.
  8. Use a rain barrel to collect rainwater: Installing a rain barrel will not only save you money, but can also be used for watering your lawn or washing your car.
  9. Help BTLT continue to conserve and protect our local shorelines by donating today!

To learn more about National Water Quality Month, click here.





Woodward Cove Trail Improvements

By Lily McVetty, 2019 Summer Intern

June 20, 2019

This past week, land stewards from the Regional Field Team helped Margaret and I complete various projects at several properties in Brunswick and in Topsham. It is true that a little help goes a long way. With the assistance from the Regional Field Team, we were able to accomplish a lot of important tasks that would otherwise be daunting. Thanks to their hard work and upbeat demeanors, the trails at Woodward Cove are in better condition and are waiting to be explored and enjoyed!

We dedicated a significant part of the week to working on improvements at Woodward Cove, a property located on Gurnet Road in Brunswick. The water access trail was re-routed to create a direct path to the water and to protect and conserve the marshes. In the near future, BTLT anticipates installing stone steps to ensure its users a safer transition from the land to the water. Additionally, this will aid in protecting the shore from further erosion. On the loop trail, invasive plant species were removed and bog bridges were installed.

These projects presented us with the opportunity to learn and fine-tune valuable stewardship skills and techniques. We learned how to properly use a chain saw to cut down hazardous trees. I learned how to identify and remove several invasives. Woodward Cove is home to a non-native plant called Bittersweet. It is characterized by its bright orange roots, which should be hung off the ground in nearby trees to prevent further spreading. The Regional Field Team and I had a fun time testing each other’s invasive plant knowledge. How many invasives can you identify on the Woodward Cove trails?

BTLT in the News, “Brunswick trail has wormers, clammers, hikers in mind”

Brunswick trail has wormers, clammers, hikers in mind

September 26, 2018

The new trail at Woodward Cove received some press recently, courtesy of Elizabeth Clemente at The Forecaster.

Woodward Cove, a property the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust purchased two years ago to preserve mud-flat access for wormers and clammers, has a new walking trail.

The new trail runs through the organization’s property on Gurnet Road.

Stewards from both BTLT  and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust were responsible for creating the new path and cut the winding, lollipop-shaped route. It is just under a half-mile long and gives hikers views of hills and apple trees.

Margaret Gerber, stewardship manager for BTLT, said the trail was completed at the end of July, and is open, but her organization will not likely have a formal opening celebration for the property at this time because it does not yet have signs or a kiosk.

Gerber said in addition to giving visitors views of local scenery, the new path will also maintain a space for fishermen to work.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Woodward Cove Trail Opens Up

By Connor Rockett

A little over two weeks ago, the land stewards from BTLT and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust completed a new trail for public use at the Woodward Cove property, located on Gurnet Road in Brunswick. After multiple scouting visits and a surprise discovery of some (very large) poison ivy patches, we cut a winding, lollipop-shaped route just under a mile long. A relatively short trail featuring gentle hills, an upturned rootmass, and apple trees, it is a wonderful spot to spend a few moments in peaceful reflection or to stretch the legs and get some fresh air after a long day.  All of us at the Land Trust are glad to see this trail open to the community and we hope you will enjoy it!

As I mentioned earlier, the unexpected appearance of poison ivy posed some problems. After having scouted and flagged an initial route, Margaret and I returned a week before the planned start of trail cutting only to find that an expansive patch had sprung up. It was unclear whether we would be able to build the trail. In what ended up being a great example of the creative problem solving involved in stewardship work, we devised a new route that included the interesting features of the property, all while avoiding sensitive wetland areas and the poison ivy.

The problem solving process was simple but effective: people observing, thinking, and communicating to find a better route. All that it entailed was 5 of us working on the ground, weighing options, relying on past experiences, and envisioning alternatives. That collaborative creativity allowed us to avoid the poison ivy, without having to resort to using costly and disruptive herbicides. It was place-based problem solving for community wellness in action (wooh!). So that being said, the next time you’re out on the Woodward Cove trail, hopefully you’ll be reminded of just how much can be accomplished by a small group of ordinary people with a common goal in mind!

Solving Problems

By Connor Rockett

I spent this past week working with the four members of the Regional Field Team – a group of land stewards based out of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust who spend a week at a time helping different land trusts in the area tackle projects. In just four days together, we built a new trail at Woodward Cove (which you should go visit!) and mapped invasive plants at Crystal Spring Farm. These two projects were significant tasks but the RFT had an incredible work ethic and we completely finished both of them.

Working as a team provided the opportunity to discuss different viewpoints and problem-solving approaches. It was important for me to see how the RFT stewards work and to learn from their experience with trail-building. All in all, the exchange of ideas and the insights they brought to our daily tasks made for a rich learning experience in stewardship and problem-solving generally. It was inspiring to be working with such a dedicated, thoughtful crew. I’m sure they will go on to make important contributions in environmental protection.

Speaking of problem-solving, last week I asked “what would a land-friendly economy look like?” One way to begin answering this question might be to think about which structural, systemic features it would not have. Working from the lessons we’ve learned about the negative effects of our industrial economy on the environment (and, therefore, our health) and tracing those effects back to their causes, we should be better able to define a land-friendly economy. From this negative, exclusionary start to our definition, the positive, creative process of defining a land-friendly economy will be more manageable. Having determined which aspects it could not have, we will have a place to start thinking about the institutions and forms of economic life that will replace the environmentally destructive ones.

What’s more, that positive process can also be informed by our past. Using the environmental ideas that have been transmitted throughout our cultural history as well as those that come from elsewhere, we can reflect on and re-learn the attitudes that helped our ancestors to have a closer relationship with nature. In connection with those attitudes, we should also think about the economies and societies that fostered them to see aspects of past ways of life that might be included or, more likely, modified in our way of living in the future. Without romanticizing our past or elevating one culture over another, we can still learn from the thoughts and practices of our ancestors to be better prepared to come closer to nature. Implicit in this approach is a critical attitude towards the notion of “progress.”

Finally, the ingenuity and problem solving of people like you, me, and the members of the RFT – people who seek an attentive understanding of the land and how we relate to it – will be another crucial element in constructing a land-friendly economy. Going out and building a trail or mapping invasive plants or tending a plot at the community garden, getting hands-on experience with the environment teaches us how to solve problems related to it and, ultimately, what our relationship should be with it. By doing this kind of work, we understand the land, where we fit in the pattern of it all, and what a healthy degree of give and take looks like between us and our surroundings. These were the types of experiences that, when they were shared across the community, helped our ancestors to develop complex, subtle theories of our place within nature. While studying and relating to those ideas in a second-hand way, whether they are contained in sutras or parables or oral traditions, is useful, it should also push us to acquire that wisdom through our own experiential learning. With that wisdom, we can better determine how our economy should be structured and how we should live.