The Island Trail T h e N e w s l e tt e r o f t h e M a i n e I s l a n d T r a i l A s s o c i at i o n w i nt e r 2 0 0 9
Hurricane Island’s Industrial Past B y L i z F i t z s i mm o n s
Perhaps the busiest and most crowded corner in Maine, and will be for some
time, is Hurricane Island. It may be safely assumed that no place in New England
of its size will present a more busy future
than this thriving place. (Vinalhaven Echo, March 1888)
It’s hard to imagine that peaceful spruce-covered Hurricane Island was once a busy multi-ethnic industrial town with streets of family homes, big boardinghouses for scores of workers, a large community building, Catholic church, school, baseball field, and bandstand. A granite quarry, 60 feet high and 200 feet long, and large workshops and warehouses with state-of-the-art equipment provided livelihoods for hundreds of quarrymen, stonecutters, polishers, carvers, teamsters, mechanics, and laborers from the 1870s to 1914. A daily steamer from Rockland that carried passengers, freight and mail, “commuter” boats with workers from nearby islands, and a fleet of sloops that transported Hurricane stone products to Boston or New York made Hurricane’s massive stone wharf a busy place. continued page 15
In This Issue Lnt for Preschoolers.. .................. Page 5 Beach Trash, Transformed ..........Page 6 ‘Ghost gear’ haunts coast...........Page 8 plovers on the brink.. ................. Page 14
Volunteers Bill Mozak and Ken Wise assist MITA staff in dismantling the collapsed tent platform on Strawberry, August 2008. Photo by Brian Marcaurelle.
The Softer Side of Strawberry B y B r i a n M a r c au r e l l e , P r o g r a m D i r e c to r
Site hardening. In the world of natural resource management, it’s a term that describes steps to reduce the effects of human use in sensitive areas. These measures can include constructing bog bridges, assembling rock steps, erecting tent platforms and so on. Site hardening is often employed proactively to direct use in a certain way and sometimes reactively to contain use in places where degradation has already occurred. In some cases it is even used to expand recreational access opportunities, such as boardwalks that span streams or tent platforms that enable camping where the terrain is otherwise unsuitable. MITA utilizes many of these site-hardening techniques on the islands. With the help of volunteers, we’ve bridged streams on Jewell Island, placed tent platforms on Hells Half Acre, and built a rock staircase on John Island—all with an eye toward protecting fragile island ecosystems. On Strawberry Island in Muscongus Bay, however, we’re trying something entirely different: We’re returning a formerly hardened site to a more natural state. This “sitesoftening” project, as we like to call it, has few if any precedents on the Trail. But we think it will be a welcome change for most members who visit the island. continued page 12
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An Eventful Year b y D o u g W e l c h , e x e c u t i v e D i r e c to r
MITA B OARD OF TRUSTEES Peter Adams, Yarmouth, ME Kelly Boden, Portland, ME Scott Camlin, Belmont, MA Nicole Connelly, Falmouth, ME Cyrus Hagge, Portland, ME Lindsay Hancock, Gray, ME Kathryn Henry, Waitsfield, VT Rodger Herrigel, Phippsburg, ME Liz Incze, Cumberland Foreside, ME Tony Jessen, Freeport, ME Melissa Paly, Kittery, ME Joan Smith, Portland, ME Stafford Soule, Freeport, ME Alan Stearns, Augusta, ME Rod Vogel, Cumberland, ME Jeremy Wintersteen, Boston, MA Julie Wormser, Littleton, MA
members new and old included, these trips were a wonderful, celebratory way for me to end the boating season. I hope you have similar memories of your own to recount.
Doug Welch • email@example.com Executive Director
Patricia Dano • firstname.lastname@example.org Business Manager
Tom Franklin • email@example.com Director of Special Programs
Eliza Ginn • firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing & Membership Manager
Cally Green • email@example.com Administrative Associate
Peter Kenlan • firstname.lastname@example.org
Development Officer & Stewardship Manager
Kevin Lomangino • email@example.com Newsletter Editor
Brian Marcaurelle • firstname.lastname@example.org Program Director
Pro-bono newsletter design services by Jillfrances Gray JFG Graphic Design|Art Direction The Maine Island Trail is a 375-mile long waterway extending from the New Hampshire border on the west to Cobscook Bay on the east. Along the route, state-owned and private islands are available to members or the public for overnight stopovers where one can picnic or camp in a wilderness setting. The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) is a nonprofit conservation organization, whose goal is to establish a model of thoughtful use and volunteer stewardship for the Maine islands that will assure their conservation in a natural state while providing an exceptional recreational asset that is maintained and cared for by the people who use it. This goal is achieved by encouraging a philosophy of low-impact use and environmental awareness among MITA’s members and island visitors.
MAINE IS L AND TRAI L ASSOCIATION 58 Fore Street, 30-3 Portland, ME 04101 (207) 761-8225 • email@example.com
Vol. 20 2
M I TA .O R G
I am writing with recent memories of three different overnight trips along the Trail fresh in my mind. With friends, family, and
And to ensure that the Trail never will grow beyond our capacity to look after it, the Board acknowledged for the first time that emphasis should be placed on the stewardship of existing sites over growing the Trail simply for the sake of growth. While we have exciting additions to the Trail in the works for next year, we increasingly recognize the important balance between growth and stewardship. In addition to continued work to enhance the number of Island Adopters (see “Stewardship Call to Arms” from last issue), a more regional approach to stewardship was envisioned. We will keep you posted as the concept develops.
I am also writing during the airing of Ken Burns’ National Parks series on PBS. After visiting Yellowstone for the first time this year, and having previously As the year winds down, I am very worked for a national park, I am finding proud to report that MITA’s membership the program riveting. How fortunate headcount remains perfectly in line we are to have such places—both with recent years—despite the poor national parks and economy and a recordwild coastal islands in breaking wet summer How fortunate we Maine—where we can in Maine. While many are to have such go to remember what of us feel pinched it means for us to be places—both national financially this year, we human on earth: to “go parks and wild coastal joined or renewed our out, to come back in.” commitment to MITA islands in Maine— And how reassuring to in the same numbers as where we can go to hear Teddy Roosevelt before. This is a powerful remember what it bellow to locals at the statement about the rim of the Grand Canyon, means for us to be continued loyalty of “Leave it as it is.” Surely human on earth: to “go MITA members; as an we hear the echo of those organization we should out, to come back in.” words today at MITA all be very proud. I want when we ask people to to thank each of you “Leave No Trace.” for your very direct part in our It has been an eventful year at MITA. The season began with unexpected national recognition of the Trail in short lists of recommended destinations by both National Geographic Adventure and Outside Magazine. The latter listed the Trail as one of the top 25 recreation values in the nation! More new ground was broken at the annual retreat of the MITA Board in July. The trustees recognized that MITA’s stewardship efforts must become ever-more diligent and innovative if they are to keep pace with the Trail’s ongoing expansion.
That said, our revenues fell short of our break-even budget by approximately 3 percent this year. Although these results are favorable compared to many nonprofits’ performance, our projections during the summer had been worse. And with an already lean operation, even a small shortfall is significant and painful at MITA. Many experts project that 2010 will be even more challenging in terms of grant dollars. It was in this context that we made the difficult decision to eliminate the Trail Director position in
2010. For the past four and a half years, that position was occupied by Dave Mention, who contributed a wealth of time, talent, and experience to growing the Maine Island Trail. We thank Dave sincerely for his service at MITA and longstanding commitment to the Trail. We look forward to building on his work as we continue to move the Trail forward. It was wonderful seeing many of you at the Annual Meeting and Stewardship Party. There, I had the great honor to announce the creation of the first ever Dave and Dorrie Getchell Spirit of MITA Award. This annual award will honor the greatest sole contributor to the MITA cause over the previous year (see the adjoining article). The inaugural winner, Trustee Scott Camlin, was an easy pick given his hundreds of hours of invaluable service this year. My sincerest thanks also go out to the many unheralded individuals whose steadfast membership, volunteerism, and support keep the MITA spirit alive.
New Award Honors C0-Founders Dave and Dorrie Getchell MITA celebrated its many volunteers statewide during its annual Stewardship Party and awards ceremony in August. Some 80 guests attended from Maine and beyond to honor a few of the hundreds of volunteers who log thousands of hours each year caring for the wild islands of Maine. Among the guests were three generations of the Swett and Burt families of Round Pond and Bar Island. The families attended to thank the Association for its work to clear 220 derelict lobster traps from Bar Island in a major mobilization last spring. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of a new annual award to honor two of our co-founders. Twenty-one years ago, Dave Getchell Sr. launched the vision that the wild islands of Maine should be open for recreation and the users themselves could be trusted to care for them. He and his wife Dorrie of Appleton worked tirelessly to develop the Maine Island Trail Association. It was in their honor that the Association established The Dave and Dorrie Getchell Spirit of MITA Award.
Individuals who were recognized at the ceremony include:
MITA Trustee Scott Camlin (Belmont, MA / Wells, ME), who became the first Spirit of MITA Award, recipient for his years of immense and invaluable service to MITA as a Trustee, Committee Chair, project leader, strategist, and volunteer. Tom McKinney (Brunswick, ME), who received MITA’s Spirit of Stewardship Award for his vital help in the office, at outreach events and on the islands as a cleanup volunteer and apprentice monitor skipper. Alan Hammersmith (Kittery, ME), who was awarded MITA’s Spirit of the Trail Award for offering geographic information system (GIS) expertise and volunteering hundreds of hours at the computer to enhance the Association’s annual Trail Guide.
Connect with MITA Online
Use the following online media to find out about MITA events and activities, volunteer opportunities, Trail updates, and other information related to your membership.
Lisa Oettinger (Penobscot, ME), who was the winner of the Margaret C. Emerson Spirit of Giving Award for more than a decade of dedicated island stewardship in the Deer Isle region and for her ability to inspire others into service. Each recipient was presented with a framed photograph and an inflatable lifejacket generously donated by Blue Storm (www.bluestorm.us).
• On the Web: Visit our website, www.mita.org.
• Email: Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter by visiting mita.org and clicking the button to sign up.
• Facebook: Become a fan at facebook. com/maineislandtrail. • YouTube: Subscribe to the MITA Channel, youtube.com/ maineislandtrail.
• Twitter: Hear our latest tweets at twitter.com/meislandtrail. • Flickr: Share photos at flickr.com/ groups/maineislandtrail/
• Linkedin: Connect at linkedin.com/ companies/maine-island-trailassociation MITA co-founder Dave Getchell Sr. (left) with Spirit of MITA Award winner Scott Camlin. Photo by Jim Dugan. M I TA .O R G
Salute to Past Trustees It would be difficult to indentify two individuals who have done more to advance the MITA cause over the past decade or so than Greg Barmore and Greg Shute. So it is with tremendous gratitude that we acknowledge their long-standing service as members of the MITA Board of Trustees.
Shute: Guide and Island Owner Rep
Greg Shute, a Registered Maine Guide who has been involved with the Chewonki Foundation for more than 20 years, is an indispensible volunteer and ambassador for MITA. He has been an Island Adopter and participant in numerous MITA cleanups and work crews over the years. And as Wilderness “These are two people who have Programs Director at Chewonki, he contributed in almost every imaginable serves as the island way to the development owner representative of the Trail and the for the seven Chewonki Honoring two who stewardship of Maine’s sites on the Trail (Castle, islands,” said Doug have contributed Black, Hungry, Russ, Welch, MITA Executive Campbell, Huckleberry Director. “We’re very in almost every and Squirrel Point Light). lucky to have had imaginable way to the benefit of their Greg is co-President of expertise, enthusiasm the Maine Wilderness MITA and the islands. and generosity on the Guides Association and has long served Board for so long.” as a liaison between Barmore: Volunteer and Donor MITA and the professional guiding As a long-time Monitor Skipper and community. He has also logged countless hours in MITA-related a Board member since 2001, Greg committee meetings, including Barmore has been a driving force for the the Planning Advisory Committee organization both out in the field and in for the Bureau of Parks and Lands our offices in Portland. He has faithfully Management Plan, Maine’s Leave monitored islands in the Midcoast for No Trace Steering Committee, and over a decade and has helped train at the MITA Trail committee. least three new apprentice skippers. He
The breadth of Greg’s commitment to the islands is reflected in his receipt of several volunteer awards. In 2002, he was recognized with MITA’s “All Around” service award at the Stewardship Party, and in 2005 he received a MITA “Bowline” award for being “strong, reliable, supportive, and versatile” like a bowline knot. Both Gregs have rotated off the Board following the completion of three consecutive three-year terms, but will continue to stay involved with MITA and serve on MITA committees. We are very appreciative of their past service and their ongoing support of the MITA mission.
A Warm Welcome for Newcomers Voting mostly electronically this year, MITA members elected and confirmed four new Trustees. The Board of Trustees welcomes Cyrus Hagge of Portland, ME; Nicole Connelly of Falmouth, ME; Lindsay Hancock of Gray, ME; and Kelly Boden of Portland, ME.
also participates in several cleanups each year and has removed literally hundreds of bags of trash from Maine’s islands. On land, Greg has worked the MITA booth at trade shows and outreach events up and down the coast. And as the retired CEO of a large corporation, he has been very generous in providing MITA with financial support and management expertise. In addition to outfitting the MITA office with new IBM computers and helping to develop a new member database, Greg also bought MITA a brand new Toyota RAV-4 in 2008 to replace two aged tow vehicles. In 2008, Greg was awarded the Margaret C. Emerson Award at MITA’s 20th Anniversary celebration and stirred the crowd with his powerful acceptance speech. 4
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At a recent dinner recognizing their service to MITA, Greg Shute (center left) and Greg Barmore (center right) are honored by Doug Welch (left) and Board Chairman Peter Adams (right)..
P R A C T I C A L L E AV E N O T R A C E
Starting Them Early: Preschool Introduces Students to LNT Concepts Many people believe, as the minister Robert Fulghum famously wrote, that everything you really need to know can be learned in a kindergarten classroom. Helena Brook, a preschool teacher and island steward in Cape Porpoise Harbor, isn’t so sure. In her class at Creative Learning Center in Arundel, Maine, Brook covers some subjects that she says you’d be hard-pressed to find in the typical kindergartener’s curriculum. An example would be low-impact techniques for observing marine life in a tidal pool. Another lesson is on the different methods for removing human waste from the backcountry. “I demonstrated the ‘crap-wrapper’ method using a candy bar and some newspaper,” she commented. “Everyone seemed to get a really big hoot out of that one.” It’s all part of an effort to get kids more connected to the outdoors and learning about stewardship. “Why not get them thinking about Leave No Trace (LNT) when they’re as young as possible?” she says. “So that way, maybe they’ll feel it deeply enough to pass it on to their children and so on and help make the planet a better place.” The training culminates in a fun-filled field trip out to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust’s (KCT) Vaughan Island. But first the children (and their parents) must learn how to minimize their impact on the island’s fragile intertidal landscape. Brook starts off with a series of children’s books which introduce the students to basic environmental concepts. She also brings in a “touch pool” that contains seaweed, shells, starfish, and other marine objects for the children to observe in the classroom. “The idea is to do our learning in the classroom so that we don’t hurt anything while we’re out in that environment,” she says.
Credit: Eliza Ginn
On the day of the field trip, children and parents file over the sand spit that connects Vaughan to the mainland at low tide. They break up into groups to explore the island’s tide pools, beaches, and forest. They meet up at an island campsite for lunch and to discuss the wildlife they have observed. Then it’s back across the bar to the mainland before the rising tide cuts off their escape. Brook says they’ve experienced “nothing but success” in the three years that she and her business partner, Jacqueline Peters, have been running the program. And some of the most rewarding aspects of the program have sprung from sources that were completely unexpected, she adds. A case in point is the time their group stumbled upon an illegal long-term camp that had been set up on the island. Brook recalls how she had been expecting to dazzle the children and parents (many of whom were setting foot on the island for the first time) with Vaughan’s “pristine” environment. But instead they found a garbage-littered campsite that contradicted everything she had taught the children during the previous two weeks.
What initially felt like an embarrassment ended up being a remarkable “teachable moment,” however. “You couldn’t imagine some of the comments the kids had and how upset they were to see this beautiful place looking that way,” Brook said. “Some of the kids thought [the camper] should be arrested and thrown in jail, and someone else said he should have to clean it up and have to go clean up other places as a punishment too.” Brook says she is gratified to see that the LNT message seems to stick with her students as they grow older. “Parents will tell me, ‘When I go to the beach now, the kids don’t just build sand castles anymore, they’re looking for bottle caps and cigarette butts and they want to make sure it all gets disposed of properly.’” Brook credits MITA and KCT’s Bob Haskell with providing her the support she needed to help create her preschool curriculum. And based on her positive experience, she believes MITA would do well to take the low-impact message to other educational environments. “I think there would be a lot of interest in bringing this training to other schools along the coast,” she said. “It’s definitely something to be thinking about.” M I TA .O R G
Beach Trash, Transformed b y k e v i n lo m a n g i n o
Lisa Beneman is one of those creative people who can find treasure where others see only trash. And the shores of the Maine coast have been a veritable gold mine of inspiration for her. This past spring, Beneman combed the beaches of the Portland area for bleach bottles, aluminum cans, bottle caps, and other apparently useless flotsam. But instead of depositing this detritus in a dumpster where it would seemingly belong, she used it as the basis for an unusual sculpture that celebrates the beauty of the marine environment. The installation, titled “Waste from Waves: Recycled Art,” was Beneman’s senior project at Waynflete School in Portland. “The idea was to see if I could make an underwater scene completely out of trash,” Beneman said. So the bottle caps became fish eyes and the aluminum cans were crushed to form a turtle’s body. Lobster trap wire and rope formed a seabed reminiscent of a tropical coral reef. On one level the scene functions merely as a colorful and eccentric depiction of sea life. But the materials used in the construction also remind us of the threat these creatures face from pollution, according to Beneman.
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A close-up of a turtle Lisa Beneman constructed entirely of beach trash for the Waste from Waves: Recycled Art sculpture.
This message is reinforced by a children’s book that Beneman wrote and illustrated to accompany the sculpture. The book concludes with a list of facts about the effects of trash on the marine environment. Sadly, one of these truths is that trash kills an estimated one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year.
Beneman hopes her work will help lead to an improvement in these grim statistics. “The best time to educate people about the environment is when they are young and receptive to new ideas,” she said. Lisa Beneman is now pursuing a major in environmental studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Fundraiser in the Fog By Ch ris Mabon
The North Shore Paddler’s Network (NSPN. org) brings together Boston-area sea kayakers for group paddling trips, skills and safety instruction, and other activities that foster community interaction and learning. This summer, NSPN paddlers teamed up with a Mount Desert Island guide to organize a fundraising group paddle for MITA’s benefit. Here is an account of the memorable trip from NSPN’s Chris Mabon.
NSPN worked with Mark Schoon of Carpe Diem Kayaking Company (carpediemkayaking.com) to provide an overnight camping trip to a MITA island as a fundraiser to benefit MITA. Mark generously donated his time to act as a guide on the trip with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to MITA. I was one of the lucky ones who were able to paddle with Mark, along with Peter Brady and Judy Whipple.
Leaving Mount Desert
We left the southwestern coast of Mount Desert Island to visit some MITA islands that Mark wanted to check out on our way to the campsite. It was a bright sunny day with light wind, calm waters, and beautiful views. After paddling amongst small islands and visiting a MITA campsite on Pond Island, we made our way south of Swans Island to Big Baker, the island that we camped on. We found the campsite and set up our tents for the night, then made our way through the woods to the opposite shore of the island to have dinner while watching the sunset. We were all quite full after dinner, where Mark kept us entertained with stories of his expedition to Norway. Darkness came and so did the mosquitoes, so we retired to our tents where we were serenaded by an owl perched in a tree above our heads. We awoke to a misty morning and had breakfast on the rocks near our kayaks. The fog seemed light and we thought it would burn away—we were wrong.
After breakfast, we broke camp, repacked the kayaks, and headed out into the fog. We decided to head west and circumnavigated Swans Island. The fog seemed to thicken as we paddled off, relying on our charts and compasses to find our way. The fog lifted and closed back in throughout the day. I was really impressed by Mark’s navigation skills. On each crossing we found the island we were aiming for right on. During our paddle we saw several seals and porpoises in the distance along with an eagle and other various birds. We made our last 2.5 nautical mile crossing without incident as Seal Cove slowly loomed out of the fog.
Overall I believe everyone had a good time—I know I sure did! It was a wonderful way to raise money for a worthwhile organization while experiencing a beautiful area that I had never been to before. I really want to thank Mark for donating his time and showing us around this wonderful area. I also would like to thank the other participants for their good spirits and camaraderie.
MITA will gladly consider donations of anything from boats and vehicles to office equipment. Please call us at 207-761-8225 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to donate these or other items.
FOR THE BOATS
• Honda 30 HP four-stroke outboard with power trim/tilt • Handheld chart plotter/GPS • Dash mount boat compass
• Throwable buoyant cushions
• Foul weather gear (adult sizes) • Covered winter storage space • Tarps (all sizes)
• Tall rubber boots
FOR THE ISLANDS • Flathead rakes • Spade shovels • Log hooks
FOR THE OFFICE • Digital camera
• Digital video camera with pelican case • Binoculars • Plants
Peering through the fog at Hockamock Head Lighthouse on Swans Island. Photo by Chris Mabon. M I TA .O R G
Washed Up Traps Are Tip of a “Ghost Gear” Iceberg B y K e v i n Lo m a n g i n o
A ribbon of pristine beach littered with mangled metal lobster traps and abandoned plastic fishing buoys—it is a typical Maine coast scene that some hope will one day be a thing of the past.
harmed,” said Ginny Broadhurst, marine program coordinator for Northwest Straits Initiative, in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. “We’re just scratching the surface at this point.”
Ghost gear is almost certainly inflicting For decades, derelict lobster gear has similar damage in the waters off the been viewed by many as a necessary coast of Maine. But a and even charming lack of research on the aspect of the Maine State officials problem means the landscape—a reminder estimate conservatively effects are difficult to of the vital industry that that some 160,000 quantify. State officials drives the economies of estimate conservatively coastal communities. traps were lost during that some 160,000 traps But for others, the 2007 alone, according were lost during 2007 accumulating debris to a report in the alone, according to a on the shoreline Bangor Daily News. report in the Bangor increasingly seems like Daily News. And as an unsightly smudge on much as 50,000 pounds an otherwise unspoiled of lobster—and an unknown number canvas. And more and more people of other marine creatures—could be are starting to wonder: Why doesn’t trapped and killed each year by ghost anybody clean up the mess? traps which keep on fishing, they say. The question is taking on increased Cash-strapped state agencies have been urgency in light of disturbing new looking to Washington, D.C. for help to research regarding the effects of study the problem. However, a $2.3 million abandoned fishing gear on the proposal to fund a large research and environment. Studies suggest that recovery project with federal stimulus traps on the beach represent just a tiny money was recently turned down by fraction of the derelict gear that covers officials at the National Oceanic and the ocean floor. And this “ghost gear” Atmospheric Administration. continues to fish effectively, researchers say, posing a mortal threat to many different species of marine life.
“There are a lot of demands on our time and our staff,” the Department of Marine Resources’ John Sowles told the Boothbay Register. “If you rank ghost gear against, say, keeping the clam flats open, the flats are the priority.”
Still, smaller efforts to research the issue are poised to move forward in the months ahead. According to the Portland Press Herald, the Lobster Foundation recently was awarded $200,000 to study the effects of ghost traps on lobster populations. The money was part of a $1.9 million fine levied against an oil tanker company for dumping waste oil in the Gulf of Maine. Similarly, Stellwagen Alive, a Massachusetts based non-profit created to support the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off of Cape Cod, is leading a regional coalition of groups attempting to map the location of derelict gear throughout the Northeast. A workshop they hosted last year attracted 30 organizations, including Maine Department of Marine Resources, the State Planning Office, the Lobster Foundation, and the Maine Coastal Program.
Assessing the Damage
In Washington State, the Northwest Straits Initiative has been running a program to recover derelict fishing nets, lines, and pots in Puget Sound since 2002. To date, they have recovered more than 1,000 abandoned crab and shrimp pots and found that about 40% were still actively fishing. They have also removed some 461 derelict nets containing more than a dozen dead marine mammals, more than 100 dead seabirds, and more than 5,000 live and dead fish and invertebrates. “The animals we find are just a snapshot in time of the species being 8
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Volunteers unload some of the derelict lobster gear removed from Bar Island in Muscongus Bay. Photo by Eliza Ginn.
The hope is that these emerging partnerships will eventually lead to large-scale gear recovery efforts like those taking place in Washington State. But such projects face daunting challenges that many say will be difficult to surmount in the short term. In addition to the financial and logistical hurdles that any recovery effort would have to clear, there is a fog of bureaucratic and legal issues surrounding the retrieval and disposal of derelict fishing gear. According to Maine state law, for example, abandoned fishing gear is considered the property of the fisherman and cannot be removed without special permits. This is why even obviously unusable lobster traps and buoys are left to accumulate above the tide line during island cleanups, says Brian Marcaurelle, MITA Program Director. “Lobster gear is expensive and can easily get lost when it’s sitting in a public waterway,” Marcaurelle says. “The law is designed to allow lobstermen a chance to recover gear that may still be usable.” In practice, however, most of the gear that washes up on islands is mangled beyond repair and is never recovered, Marcaurelle adds. So he says MITA and other groups have been developing a protocol for removing these traps while remaining within the law.
Bar Island Cleanup: A Model for the Future?
A shakedown cruise for the new system came last spring when MITA teamed up with a diverse coalition of groups to remove derelict traps from Bar Island in Muscongus Bay. The groundwork was laid when members of the Southern Maine Sea Kayaking Network (SMSKN. org) paddled out to the island to record tag numbers for the abandoned traps. Working in conjunction with staff members from the Maine Coastal Program, the State Marine Patrol posted the tag numbers at local lobster co-ops so that fishermen could retrieve any traps they wanted to salvage. That left MITA clear to orchestrate the removal of the traps from the island.
Atlantic croaker trapped in a ghost crab pot pulled from the York River in Virginia. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
On the day of the cleanup, MITA volunteers, local lobstermen, and members of the Round Pound business community all came together to pitch in. The result was some 220 traps being collected from the island and ferried back to Round Pound for compaction and recycling. (See a video of the cleanup at youtube.com/ maineislandtrail.)
Marcaurelle says MITA is looking to recreate this success on a small number of derelict trap “hot spots” in the future. But he acknowledges that the recovery process is far too labor intensive to be rolled out on a wide scale across the Trail. “It’s takes a lot of staff time and resources to coordinate the collection of the tag numbers and to put in place all the volunteers and equipment to remove the traps and dispose of them,” he says. Marcaurelle is hopeful that in the future, strategies can be developed to make the gear recovery process more flexible. “Ultimately, given our positive experience on Bar Island and the strong support of Marine Patrol and local fishermen in Muscongus Bay, we think there may be opportunities down the line to streamline the system and make it more manageable,” he says.
“For now, we’ll continue to gather information about areas in need of cleanup work and look for opportunities to bring together landowners, Marine Patrol, local fishermen and volunteers to get the work done.”
Derelict Gear: How Can Members Help? Although it remains more
difficult than we might wish to clean abandoned fishing gear from island shores, MITA is
working to identify some of the
most common “hot spots” along the Trail. Members can help us address the problem by:
•A lerting us to sites where lobster gear is known to accumulate. •P roviding an estimate of the extent of the problem (e.g. number of traps in a particular cove or on a particular island). •P articipating in island cleanups and sanctioned trap removal projects. •A voiding the temptation to remove abandoned traps or buoys without permission.
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PA R T N E R P R O F I L E
Rippleffect’s Waves Felt on Little Chebeague The partnership grew out of a public planning process involving a number of environmental and community groups with an interest in the Casco Bay area. MITA convened these stakeholders earlier this year to try to forge a new strategic vision for recreational use of Little Chebeague. The stakeholders agreed that Little Chebeague Working a full day represents a unique each week throughout public resource for the months of July the Casco Bay boating and August, the Corps community, and that it was important to was able to clear an develop a new system impressive 4,400 feet for maintaining access of walking trails. to island’s interior.
Armed with little more than hand tools and ample amounts of elbow grease, youth from the greater Portland area battled back invasive bittersweet vines, poison ivy, and other unwanted vegetation on Little Chebeague Island, a 100-acre publicly owned Trail property in Casco Bay, this summer.
The hard-working youth are members of the Cow Island Conservation Corps—a group of about 15 high school-age interns working at Rippleffect, the Portland-based non-profit that provides outdoor leadership and environmental education programming. “The hiking trails on Little Chebeague have become badly overgrown since the island’s long-time volunteer caretaker, Dick Innes, retired a few years ago,” said Doug Welch, MITA Executive Director. “So it’s great to see these kids stepping up and providing a new generation of stewardship for the property.” The Corps spends most of its time on Cow Island, Rippleffect’s 26-acre educational outpost in Casco Bay. There, members learn and apply stewardship skills such as composting, organic gardening, and alternative energy design to bring back to their communities as environmental leaders. When they heard that there was an opportunity to apply the Corps’ energy and skills to neighboring Little Chebeague, the leaders at Rippleffect jumped at the chance to contribute. “This partnership goes to the core of our mission by combining youth leadership development, environmental stewardship and a practical investment in the community,” said Rippleffect’s Executive Director Anna Klein-Christie. “The kids have a great time and are proud to be having an impact.” 10
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“Everyone was very enthusiastic about improving recreational access to the island and keeping it a place where families could come and explore,” said Brian Marcaurelle, MITA’s Program Director. “Basically what they said is, ‘This place is a real gem, and all we have to do is polish it up a little.’” Working a full day each week throughout the months of July and August, the Corps was able to clear an impressive 4,400 feet of walking trails. One of the trails connects the eastern
gravel beach (the main landing area) to an interior loop trail that winds through dozens of ruined structures on the island. Another links the loop trail to the sandbar that connects Little and Great Chebeague Islands at low tide. Marcaurelle says there are plans to continue the trail work on the island next year. “With any luck, we hope to get some machinery out there to reclaim some of the historic fields, save some tree groves from encroaching invasives, widen the existing trails to minimize contact with ticks and blaze a new trail to the northwest corner of the island,” he commented. “We’d also like to install new signage around the island to bring the history to life.” The island has been home to, among other things, a 19th century resort and a World War Two navy base, according to Marcaurelle. “It will be exciting to help people rediscover this rich cultural heritage,” he said.
To learn more about Rippleffect’s outdoor adventure programming and other activities, visit www.rippleffect.net.
Rippleffect’s Cow Island Conservation Corps trek through Little Chebeague on a rainy July morning.
A Summer Sojourn B y K at e a n d C h r i st i n a H a s s e t t
From the light green foliage and moist weather of mid-May, to the deep green hues and heat of August, to the crisp September nights and the first of the changing leaves, Jewell Island granted us an intimate look at its many beautiful faces this summer. The blooming crab apple tree, the farmhouse ruins, and even the old forts echoed tales of the island’s past. These stories seemed to reach through time to our sojourn spent caring for the property. After we introduced ourselves to visitors, few people remarked upon the fact that we were an all-female caretaker team. We found our capabilities well suited to life and work on Jewell. What’s more, we not only survived the summer together, but thrived. We built furniture, had two person dance parties, cooked extravagant meals, collected sea glass, and generally enjoyed the island, its visitors, and each other’s company. We discovered many secrets, in our readings and in our explorations, that veteran Jewell visitors may likely know, but that others will have to find out for themselves. Life on Jewell, however, was not without its complications. Every weekend presented new adventures and challenges. We remember, now with a particular fondness, one weekend in July when we found ourselves donning our rubber boots instead of sneakers to wade through most of the trails on the
Sisters Christina (left) and Kate Hassett – the Casco Bay Caretakers. Photo by Fred Weymouth.
island. (It was after the storm that same weekend that we discovered a washedup deer carcass on Surprise Beach.) Other challenges included (but were certainly not limited to) handling tricky boating conditions, clearing blown down trees across trails, and dealing with campsite shortages. Overcoming these obstacles while keeping the best interests of the island in mind called for clever problem solving, but resulted in the most gratifying rewards. Our similar communication styles worked well in interactions with visitors, and our ease with one another made the job pleasant and fun. Few things remove oneself from society as much as sitting alone on an island in the ocean, surrounded by fog. During the month of June, we spent a
considerable amount of time this way. All in all, despite the sogginess, we developed a certain appreciation for the rain. Out from under the tarp, the rainfall on the woods is quieter, and it brought us a different kind of awareness of our surroundings. It can be pure poetry, as many of you know, watching rain on the water. We are happy to report that the island is generally well-looked after by its visitors, especially those who have a sense for how fragile it is despite its heavy usage. It is our hope that someday Jewell will be taken care of solely by those who use and appreciate it; however, we think it safe to say that another summer spent on one of the most beautiful islands of Casco Bay would be a welcome opportunity.
If you’ve visited MITA’s webpage recently or clicked on the Bar Island cleanup video on YouTube (youtube.com/maineislandtrail), you’ve seen some of the impressive new media work that Drew Trafton is capable of. But make no mistake: creating stewardship montages from video clips and photographs is only one of Drew’s many talents. As a Psi Upsilon Fellow through Bowdoin College, Drew spent 10 (entirely too short!) weeks with MITA this summer helping out with a wide range of projects. When he wasn’t wielding his magic in the editing room, Drew worked tirelessly in the office designing systems to strengthen our Island Adopter program and our Island Monitoring Task Force studies. In the field, he analyzed environmental impact on the islands, organized and led student work projects, and became a one-man wrecking crew for bulky island debris. With his can-do spirit, his quizzical nature and sharp intellect, Drew was a real asset to the MITA team. M I TA .O R G
Softer Side: continued from page 1 Strawberry Island is owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands (BPL) and was added to the Maine Island Trail in 1992. Many years before its inclusion on the Trail, a simple yet sturdy cabin had been erected in the center of the one-acre island, complete with detached outhouse located several yards away and a small cleared meadow. By the time MITA members began arriving on Strawberry’s shores, the abandoned cabin had begun to deteriorate and signs of mistreatment were extensive. To ensure the safety of recreational visitors and to improve the island’s aesthetics, it was determined the cabin would need to be demolished and removed. Volunteers led by steward Bob Wheeler literally brought down the house during a two-day work party in 1995. But since the floor of the cabin was in relatively good shape and the underlying foundation was strong, the crew decided to keep this section of the house intact to serve as a tent platform. The platform was sealed with wood preservative and the debris from the cabin was either hauled off the island or burned in the intertidal zone over the course of the next year. And for the next decade or so, Strawberry Island and its tent platform would prove to be one of the more popular island destinations in Muscongus Bay.
When we discovered the collapsed platform the following spring we were faced with an interesting choice: Do we demolish and rebuild the platform or simply get rid of it completely and try to create a more natural site at this location?
into a campsite by raking and weeding the grounds, planting native grass seed, and trimming back potentially invasive raspberry and Rosa rugosa bushes on the perimeter.
While it was unfortunate for boaters, the wet start to this Strawberry, though past summer gave the popular, is not nearly While the trend new grass planted on as heavily used as some over the years has Strawberry time to other Muscongus Bay been to harden some put down roots before sites which don’t have campers began arriving. platforms. And the Trail sites against And as of this writing at ground beneath the increasing recreational the close of the season, platform was found to usage, MITA’s strong the site is looking great be flat, soft and virtually preference is to and has seen quite a rock-free—a perfect tenting area. In other maintain a wilderness bit of use this summer. Feedback about the site words, the conditions feel on the islands to has been favorable, with seemed to be ideal for us the greatest extent one visitor commenting to remove the platform possible. in the logbook, “How and establish a more about that! A grassy natural-looking tent patch of heaven where once a platform site instead. So with approval from the stood. Love the new campsite!” BPL, a four-person crew began work in August 2008 to dismantle the platform Why Does It Matter? and remove two full boat loads of While the trend over the years has lumber for disposal on the mainland. been to harden some Trail sites against In October, a crew of six Bowdoin increasing recreational usage, MITA’s College students returned to haul the strong preference is to maintain a remaining wood debris from the island. wilderness feel on the islands to the In early April of 2009, volunteers Bob greatest extent possible. This priority and Dan Carr joined staff in turning is reflected in our management the footprint of the former platform
The Softening Starts
Starting around the turn of the century, however, the platform began to succumb to the forces that eventually ravage any exposed structure in Maine. Planks began to get spongy and supports became visibly weaker. MITA work crews were able to stave off the inevitable by resealing the boards and replanking the soft spots. But on a fateful day during the winter of 2007, several of the support boards buckled, causing the entire structure to collapse. Tenting on this raised platform was no longer an option on Strawberry. 12
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The cabin on Strawberry circa 1993. Photo by Sid Quarrier.
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o Please do not exchange my name with other organizations Volunteers Bob and Dan Carr rake in the newly planted grass seed at the campsite in April 2009. Photo by Brian Marcaurelle.
agreement with the State of Maine, which asks us to “protect the relatively wild character of the islands and favor natural processes.” The truth is that many islands are already about as undeveloped as can be, so any activity we undertake on these sites will fall into the “hardening” and not the “softening” category. Nevertheless, we recognize that even small man-made improvements can detract from the experience that members seek out on the islands. We don’t initiate hardening projects lightly, and when we do undertake them, the primary goal is always to protect the island environment. On Strawberry, we were presented with a unique opportunity to restore this hardened site to its natural setting, and we took it. The result, we believe, is a campsite that more closely reflects the values of MITA members and which will improve the recreational experience on the island. We’re interested to know if you agree and invite you to assess the changes for yourself. Consider a Muscongus Bay clean-up next spring and see the softer side of Strawberry! For more information about cleanups or to sign-up, contact Brian Marcaurelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Island Trail welcomes article submissions on boating tips and techniques, island trips, the coastal environment and wildlife, and other topics that are of interest to MITA members. For more information or to submit an article, contact Kevin Lomangino, email@example.com or 207-799-6530.
Gear is here!
Looking for another great way to support MITA? Why not choose one that makes you look great in return? Our new line of MITA apparel includes: • Baseball and Visor caps • Fleece and soft sheet vests and jackets • Denim long-sleeve shirts • Polo shirts • T-shirts • Bags Product and ordering information, at mita.org. M I TA .O R G
On the Brink, Maine Plovers Fight for Survival B y L au r a M i n i c h , M a i n e Au d u b o n
People generally think of beaches as a place to vacation and relax, but a beach can be a harsh environment for the animals which have to live there. Beaches are constantly changing, offer little shelter from predators, and are frequently subject to extreme weather. Despite this, a rare shorebird, the piping plover, is uniquely well-adapted to nesting and feeding on sand shorelines in North America. Their beige coloring makes plovers well camouflaged against the sandy background where they feed and nest. Chicks can start foraging for themselves in the intertidal zone within hours of hatching, and they instinctively freeze in order to blend in with their surroundings when a predator threatens. Within 25 days, chicks that weighed only as much as two pennies and were the size of a golf ball at hatching are adult-sized and are starting to fly. Unfortunately, piping plovers now face growing challenges as new and unpredictable changes are occurring in the beach environment. What has made life dangerous for plovers? Houses on the beach can alter the beach ecosystem that the birds rely on, and animals like raccoons and foxes that benefit from human presence are increasingly found in unnaturally high numbers on the beach, where they prey on adult plovers, chicks, and eggs. Another problem is that the plovers’ excellent camouflage makes them more likely to be stepped on or crushed by vehicles driven on the beach. Moreover, dogs and cats will often injure or kill plovers, or cause stress to the point where adult plovers will abandon their eggs or chicks. These challenges have caused plover numbers to drop considerably, and they are listed as endangered in the State of Maine and threatened throughout the United States. The State of Maine was host to only 27 nesting pairs of piping plovers in 2009. This is an improvement 14
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Credit: Eric Hynes
on the meager 10 pairs present when Maine Audubon starting monitoring plovers in 1981 and greater than last year’s 24 pairs, although it is a marked decline from the state’s high of 66 pairs in 2002. Increased predator pressure in conjunction with large storms is thought to be the source of the recent plover decline in Maine. In spite of these challenges, a total of 45 chicks were fledged from Maine’s beaches in 2009, which means the few birds that nested in Maine this summer were largely successful. Thanks to proper management and education, people and plovers are still able to share the beaches in Maine. Biologists at Maine Audubon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and USFWS’s Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge are working hard to protect the birds through management and collaboration with landowners and beach managers. Hopefully, with continued education, efforts, and interest, piping plovers will return to Maine’s beaches every summer for generations to come. For more information and to learn how you can help, go to Maine Audubon’s piping plover and least tern website: maineaudubon.org/conserve/atrisk/ plover/pplt.shtml.
Maine’s Piping Plovers: How You Can Help • Stay clear of fenced areas marked with “Restricted Area” signs. • Observe the birds from a distance and walk away if you see a bird that appears injured; it likely is trying to distract you from its nest or chicks. • If you see a hole that someone has enjoyed digging but abandoned for the day, fill the hole in so no chicks are inadvertently trapped. • Keep dogs leashed and all pets far away from nesting areas. • Fly kites well away from nesting areas. Plovers and terns mistake them for predators and leave their nests to ward off the “intruders.” • Call your local police department, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, or Maine Audubon to report harassment of birds by people or dogs.
Hurricane Island - continued from page 1.
Hurricane had had a succession of owners for nearly 100 years when Davis Tillotson, a Rockland native, state legislator, ardent Republican, and Civil War general, purchased the island in 1870. The post-war civic building boom in the North required stone for stately edifices and monuments, and Tillotson saw opportunity in Hurricane granite. He founded the Hurricane Island Granite Company, and by 1874 the operation was in full swing. In 1877 the Maine Register reported a Hurricane Island population of 600. The company cut and polished building stone, carved fine monuments and building details, and produced paving stone. Workers came from Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Sweden, and Italy as well as Maine. The company’s products were highly regarded, and Hurricane Island granite was sought for impressive projects: the St. Louis and Pittsburgh post offices, Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Monument, Library of Congress, Boston’s Suffolk County Courthouse, Metropolitan and Chemical Bank buildings in New York, the U.S. Treasury Building, Bar Harbor breakwater, and paving blocks for Havana, Cuba, Chicago, and other cities.
General Tillotson was not so highly regarded by his workers, however. Called “Lord of the Isles” by Scottish workers and “Bombasto Furioso” by Italian quarrymen, he held tight control over the company and the island. He owned all the buildings, required that paychecks be deposited in the company store, banned liquor, and allegedly coerced workers to vote Republican in the 1876 presidential election, even though stoneworkers were nearly universally Democrats. In 1877 workers at Hurricane and three nearby quarries established the first Granite Cutters’ Union, initiating a labor movement that led by the early 1900s to the creation of three stoneworkers’ unions. Labor issues led to occasionally successful strikes on Hurricane, including the “Great Lockout” of 1892 that lasted eight months. Eleanor Motley Richardson’s Hurricane Island: The Town That Disappeared describes an active community life. The Italians especially created a distinct and colorful culture, characterized by bright decoration and dress, a band “of mandolins, guitars and concertinas” who would “don native costumes and march around the island every Saturday evening,” an Italian Dramatic Club, and an Italian Socialist Club. In 1900 the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland built a mission church on the
Hurricane Island: What Does the Future Hold? After serving as a base for Outward Bound activities for some 40 years, Hurricane Island was abandoned yet again following consolidation of Outward Bound programs in 2005. Now, individuals with links to the island are joining together to try to re-establish a sustainable community and protect the island in perpetuity. Learn more about their efforts and how you can help at the Hurricane Island Foundation website, hurricaneisland.net.
island. Interdenominational services were held in the town hall, which also hosted singing and dancing schools, theater troupes, lectures, and other entertainments. The town had a baseball team and a “Yankee” band that traveled around Knox County, a dance pavilion, and a bowling alley. Davis Tillotson died in 1895, but the granite business continued for another two decades. Contracts became sporadic in later years. The company closed in 1914 following the sinking of a scow carrying stone for the Rockport, Massachusetts breakwater and the subsequent death of the company superintendent. Workers abandoned their homes and workplaces almost overnight. The sounds of blasting and the company bell are long stilled, but great blocks of granite, rusty machinery, and the imposing quarry remain to speak of Hurricane Island’s industrial past. Liz Fitzsimmons is a museum and heritage tourism consultant. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Belfast (Maine) Historical Society.
Granite workers on Hurricane Island. Photo courtesy of Vinalhaven Historical Society. M I TA .O R G
It is said that there can be a fine line between visionary art and unusuallooking trash. Perhaps nowhere is the distinction less clear than in an innovative sculpture by student and environmental advocate Lisa Beneman. The sculpture, titled Waste from Waves: Recycled Art, was Beneman’s senior project at the Waynflete School in Portland. It was constructed entirely of discarded bottles, rope, and other trash she collected from local shorelines. See page 6 of this issue for more coverage of Beneman’s imaginative and eco-conscious artwork.
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In this issue discover the softer side of Strawberry Island as well as a very creative way to recycle trash found on the beach.