Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George

Sea level rise threatens St. George roadways such as this section of Route 131 in Martinsville.

On November 14th members of the St. George community will have an opportunity to hear from representatives from the Island Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the Vinalhaven Sea-Level Rise Committee, and the Midcoast Economic Development District about the possible impact of sea level rise on municipal infrastructure and services. “I hope people will take this threat seriously,” says St. George Town Manager Tim Polky. “The first step is to raise awareness, and then figure out down the road what’s needed to address the issues.”

With its 125 miles of shoreline, sea level rise poses a number of pressing questions for St. George. What are reasonable predictions for how much sea level will rise in the next 20 years? What can we do as a community to protect our municipal infrastructure, ensure first responders can access all residents, and shore up impacted commercial and personal property?

Global sea level has risen by about eight inches since record keeping began in 1880, according to the 2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment. However, local sea level rise is accelerating due to two global factors. The first is the warming ocean, because water takes up more space as it warms. This increased volume of water in the Gulf of Maine is the main factor driving the anticipated higher sea levels in St. George.

The second factor adding to more water in our oceans is melting land-based ice sheets and glaciers. Conservation Commission member Dan Verillo says: “We believe that sea level rise is an aspect of climate change that will have an impact in our immediate future, that is, in less than 20 years. Other aspects of climate change are just as important, but sea level rise is not disputed any more. Data suggests that a rise of two feet cannot be avoided even if the world immediately does everything the Paris Agreement demands. Therefore, St. George should prepare for the inevitable.”

A publication by the Island Institute, “Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding,” states: “On average, sea levels are projected to rise another one to four feet globally by 2100, but sea level change will vary regionally (2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment). The Gulf of Maine is especially susceptible to fluctuations in sea level due to changes in the strength of the Gulf Stream and seasonal wind patterns. Sea levels in the Gulf of Maine are projected to rise faster than the global average.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), higher sea levels also mean more frequent high-tide flooding, especially due to stronger storms that are happening more often. This high-tide flooding, also called “nuisance flooding,” temporarily leads to road closures as well as overwhelmed storm drains and erosion of roadbeds. For this reason, Polky notes, St. George’s road maintenance plan is already taking future flooding into account.

There are predictions that the sea level in St. George will rise one to two feet by 2040. Most experts agree that by 2100, a year today’s kindergartners will see, at least a four-foot sea level rise in St. George is the most likely outcome. Polky and other town officials expect sea level rise could adversely affect the town’s municipal infrastructure, delivery of emergency services, planning ordinances, natural resources, tax base and local economy.

For the town’s Planning Board, for instance, rising sea level calls into question how best to apply the state-mandated shoreland zoning ordinance both in terms of new construction and in terms of existing structures that begin to enter the zone. In addition, says Planning Board chair Anne Cox, the number of shoreline stabilization projects being proposed seems to be increasing.

“As property owners have experienced higher tides, and storm-driven tides, their land has eroded,” she says. “We on the Planning Board have seen quite a few applications to stabilize the shore by adding some sort of rock “armor.” Sometimes these applications have included plans for re-vegetating behind the rock with mat-forming native plants to help hold the shoreline. I want to learn about the efficacy of these different stabilization projects. For example, I have questions about the effect of one section of shore being armored on neighboring unprotected areas. Does the addition of rock in one area increase the erosion of a neighboring area? Also, we have recently seen one stabilization project being proposed to address a stabilization effort that was inadequate after just seven years. So do these stabilization projects even work with rising sea levels?”

The likely impact of sea level rise and more frequent flooding on the local economy and the town’s budget and tax base is also a particularly thorny topic. First, marine-based businesses, which are a significant part of the town’s economy, could experience significant losses and capital costs. Second, sea level rise may seriously impact private property values—homes on the water, in particular, could lose value as the floodplain encroaches and they are forced to carry expensive flood insurance. Richard Cohen, who is on the St. George Budget Committee, asks, “What’s going to happen to the tax base when homes lose value? We have to look forward 30 years right now.”

The community meeting on sea level rise and its potential impact on municipal infrastructure and services that will be held at the town office on November 14 at 7pm, is intended to be a first step in taking that look into the future. The agenda for this meeting includes presentations by Susie Arnold of The Island Institute on the science of sea level rise and Jeremy Bell of The Nature Conservancy on computer tools for predicting how the St. George coastline will be impacted. Highlights and challenges from other communities tackling sea level rise will be presented by Gabe McPhail, Community Development and Engagement Coordinator for the Town of Vinalhaven and Bill Najpauer from the Midcoast Economic Development District. This meeting is supported by the Budget Committee, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Select Board, St. George Municipal School District, St. George Community Development Corporation, St. George Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Association, and the Island Institute and The Nature Conservancy.

Resources:

Quoted paper from Island Institute: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding The Basics for Maine Communities

http://www.islandinstitute.org/sites/default/files/II Pager – Sea Level Rise.pdf

http://www.islandinstitute.org/climate-impacts

Knox County Mitigation Plan

Is Sea Level Rising? https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html

NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nuisance-flooding.html

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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Of coral, tongues, and jellies

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Spindle-shaped Coral mushroom

The rains came early this fall. So early, in fact, that it was technically still summer—August even—when the rains fell that inspire our traditional fall mushroom bloom and that is fine. These early showers, however, were not followed by the September rains we’ve had the last two years. The result was a fall where many “regular” mushroom species were present in the woods, but in significantly lower numbers than the last couple of years. This inconsistency is often referred to in the business as “nature.”

The mycorrhizal fungi that produce many of the ”traditional” mushrooms are surely doing well, still living in the ground and enjoying the sugars of their symbiotic relationships with neighboring trees. For whatever reasons, this fall did not provide the right conditions for these fungi to pump out their spore-dispersing apparati (that is, mushrooms). And yes, King Boletes was one of the many affected species. Makes you appreciate those big years even a little more, as if that was even possible.

To be clear, though, we are not saying that the fall 2019 mid-coast Maine mushroom scene was a dud at all. Just a little different, as the early rains inspired different species to bloom that maybe were under-represented the last few years. On one two-mile hike my family counted over 30 Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa), way more than we’ve come to expect on a simple stroll. Did you see a lot of Destroying Angels this year? And where these angels are pure white, many of the fungal species that took advantage of the earlyish rains added an array of colors to the woods.

“I thought Coral was only found in the ocean” is an actual quote and it is a good one. There is, however, a group of mushrooms (the Coral Mushrooms–family Clavariaceae) whose fruiting bodies over the eons have adapted and developed mushrooms whose structure closely resembles that of some oceanic corals. They are a group of many colors, but their fruiting bodies remain coral-ish, and they had a bomber fall for sure!

Violet-branched Coral

White and tans are common within the Coral family, and the bright whites of Clustered Coral (Ramaria botrytis) and White Coral (Ramariopsis kunzei) seemed to line every trail and path, clumping along roots and debris. Violet-branched Coral (Clavulina amethystine), has added some nice shades of purple in the woods as well. I can go years without seeing the C. amethystine. It’s a “treat year” to see multiples in my experience. And this year certainly has been a treat!

My favorite coral (I will play favorites until the end!) this fall has been the many sightings of Spindle-shaped Yellow Coral—Clavulinopsis fusiformis. Stretching from August into early October, clumps of the Spindle-shaped Coral lit up the forest with yellow like no other mushroom. It was a pleasant arrangement. So wonderful to find!

Towards the end of October things changed and Irregular Earth Tongues (Neolecta irregularis) had taken over the “provide bright yellow along trailside” color niche. Earth Tongues (family Helotiales)—are sometimes thought of as “coral mushroom wannabes,” but these tongues are cool, oddly clubbed-shaped, and tend to be less clumpy than coral mushroom species.

Green-headed Jelly Baby

Earth tongues also happen to be representatives of the large mushroom group Ascomycetes. The kingdom of Fungi is divided in two groups–the Ascomycetes (subdivision Ascomycotina) and Basidiomycetes (subdivision Basidomycotina)—and the difference is in the development of spores. Ascomycetes’ spores develop in round, saclike microscopic structures called “asci.” Basidiomycetes’ spores develop, one source says, “on appendages protruding from variously designed (usually club-shaped) microscopic structures known as basidia.” Neat, huh? Anyway, the mushroom photos and discussion often focus on Basidiomycetes, nice to get some Ascomycetes in the mix!

Another group of Ascomycetes mushrooms representing and adding color in the woods have been the Jelly Clubs, also known as Jelly Babies. Both local flavors—Yellow-headed (Leotia lubrica) and Green-headed (Leotia viscosa)—have been doing their things and adding more fall colors. What a nice alternative to looking at leaves!

My favorite fall color is probably orange, though, and there is no better orange than the Orange Jelly (Dacrymyces palmatus). These jellies are actually Basidiomycete mushrooms and the Orange Jelly variety holds a special place in my mushroom history. There are no poisonous jelly mushrooms, and the Orange Jelly mushroom itself is tasteless and made up of something like 95% water, so they are safe to eat. They also happen to grow everywhere and with that in mind I have had the pleasure of eating this mushroom with thousands of kids all over the country. Since that impressive nor’easter a couple weeks back, the Orange Jelly seems to be lighting up the woods and, needless to say have been poppin’ in our mouths as well!

Oranges, yellows, greens, and purple—just a few of the colors that make each fall in New England so special. Only time will tell if “shroom peepin’” takes the place of “leaf peepin’,” but my guess is when the leaf-heads realize its easier to look down at the shrooms than up at the leaves (what a hassle!) shroom peepin’ will become the tradition. It’s just a guess.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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Schools, St. George and West Bath second graders agree, are important

St. George second graders visit West Bath School as part of their Fall Expedition

by Trinity Delaney and Addison Beal

Second graders in Ms. Babb’s class at the St. George School are in the middle of a learning expedition about schools and community. Students are researching schools in communities around the world—from West Bath, Maine to Port-au-Prince, Haiti—and working hard to understand why schools are important.

The last week in October the St. George second graders traveled to West Bath to spend the day with the second graders at West Bath School. St. George students were each paired with a student from West Bath and spent the day shadowing their buddies. They conducted interviews with their West Bath buddies and learned about why school is important to them!

All the students agreed that schools are important. Iris says, “School is important because you get to learn at school.” Koby said, “You wouldn’t learn without school.”

The students noticed that the West Bath School is different. It’s smaller than ours and it’s only K-5, so there are no big kids. Everyone had lunch together. They have a library that was connected to the school but in a separate section of the building. Most of the second graders loved the playground and recess. They said the West Bath playground had bouncy equipment that was fun to play on. Liam liked attending their CREW meetings because he got to socialize. They all loved meeting their buddies.

On October 29, the West Bath buddies returned the visit and spent the day at the St. George School. Everyone had a great time and now the St. George second graders can think about their new friends learning in their school in their own town and they can think about our second graders learning here.

(Delaney and Beal are 6th grade students at the St. George School. Ms. Babb also contributed to this story.)

PHOTO: Alison Babb-Brott

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Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for two new public trails to be held on Nov. 10

The Bamford Preserve

Join the St. George Conservation Commission and its partners, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Georges River Land Trust, on Sunday November 10 for ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the official opening of two new public trails in town. Festivities will begin at 1pm at Bamford Preserve on Long Cove Road, where we will walk the new trail down to the shore for an apple-cider toast and some treats. The trail is an easy 0.3 miles long and suitable for all ages.

After the Bamford Preserve walk, we will be celebrating the opening of the new Meadow Brook Preserve on Turkey Cove Road at 3pm. This trail is an easy 0.7mi loop and also suitable for all ages.

Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome, and the event will go on light rain or shine!

Due to limited parking at Meadow Brook Preserve, we will car pool from Bamford to Meadow Brook. The Bamford parking area is located at 105 Long Cove Road, where the old Woodcrafter’s building used to stand. For questions, please contact Ken Oelberger at ken.oelberger@gmail.com or (207) 607-9785. Or, just show up!
—Ken Oelberger

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

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‘We’re calling ourselves the ‘new Herring Gut’

Herring Gut students with educator Georgie Burruss

It may sound a little crazy to call an organization that has been around for more than two decades “new,” but at this point in its history the board, staff and students at Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde do seem to have the sense that their organization has undergone a transformation.

“When I joined the board a little more than two years ago, it was really at a point where people were shaking their heads and saying, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?,’” says Kathleen Barker, who became Herring Gut’s executive director in August of 2018.

At that particular moment Herring Gut had completed two decades of working hard at developing a successful program of community-based, hands-on marine science education for St. George students. This was an approach to education that Herring Gut’s founder, Phyllis Wyeth, had hoped would equip local youth with the marine science knowledge and practical know-how that would allow them to earn a livelihood from the sea just as their families had been doing for generations—despite the fact that it was clear that the traditional fisheries were being depleted. But during those early years of bringing students to learn aquaculture at what was first known as Marshall Point Sea Farm, this kind of hands-on learning had been labeled “alternative education,” something only fit for students who were acting out in traditional classrooms out of frustration with trying to learn through academics-as-usual.

Still, over its first two decades of operation, Herring Gut had developed the physical infrastructure and curriculum-development experience to be able to offer meaningful instruction and experiences in aquaculture, aquaponics, marine science and even business to an increasingly wider range of middle-school students, middle- and high-school educators, summer campers and community members.

Executive Director Kathy Barker celebrating HGLC’s kelp farming program

The “aha” moment for that head-shaking Herring Gut Board was prompted, in part, by the fact that the relatively new St. George Municipal School District was embracing the very type of hands-on expeditionary learning model of education that Herring Gut had been pioneering for years. Seeing Herring Gut through that lens made it clear that Herring Gut, in fact, was already “grown up”—that what had been considered merely an “alternative” approach to education in general—and to marine science education in particular—was now being actively celebrated as cutting-edge and beneficial for all types of students. The question, then, was not about having something valuable to offer, but about how to significantly “scale out” what Herring Gut was already offering. And the key to scaling out, it seemed clear, was to not only work directly with as many students as possible, but to also work with many more teachers. Last year Herring Gut reached 499 students from over 28 schools. This year, Barker says, the number of students Herring Gut expects to reach is double that number, thanks to a new teacher-training it was able to provide at Messalonskee Middle School in Belgrade Lakes.

“The way we got into the Belgrade Lakes area was that a Herring Gut friend and donor, Don Borman, came to us and said, ‘We are doing so much in our district about the water but our kids need to be the ones involved.’ So with the aid of a two-year grant from his family foundation and additional grants from the Simmons Foundation, the Onion Foundation and the Sewell Foundation, we wrote a curriculum called “Fresh Water Forever” for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. Then we took all the science teachers from that middle school and did three days of professional training with them. One of the grants also allowed us to go buy all the equipment they each needed in their classroom. So we developed this enthusiastic core of science teachers who are so excited to teach their kids all the different components that lead to healthy watersheds in their community.”

Now, Barker says, the goal is activism, encouraging students to become stewards of their watershed. And promoting healthy inland watersheds, Barker stresses, has everything to do with Herring Gut’s original mission of promoting a sustainable fishing economy in St. George and other coastal communities.

“Our kids here in St. George are hearing about climate change, they’re hearing that the fish are going away, they’re hearing from their families about maybe we should go into kelp farming. So they are living all of this climate change in an economic reality and that can be scary. So we’ve decided let’s embrace that. Phyllis’ focus was always on ocean stewardship and sustainability. And how can we not tag healthy climate onto that? So Herring Gut is really about ocean literacy, which involves inland watersheds as much as coastal communities, and it is about climate literacy. So we’re educating these kids here in the midcoast but also looking at how to educate students in classrooms elsewhere and we can do that by educating teachers.”

The Belgrade Lakes project also involved building new relationships, Barker adds. “This was a collaborative effort with Colby College Environmental Science Department, with the Seven Lakes Alliance as well as with the Borman Family Foundation. We are able now to support the teachers this year with an educator who will travel out there, help in presentations, help with any further development of lessons, build their confidence and knowledge base so they feel really prepared to go forward.”

To Barker, getting the “Fresh Water Forever” curriculum into more Maine schools holds a great deal of promise for having a significant impact on the state’s water quality. “That’s because, as they say, all the water runs down hill. So if we want our water here to be healthy water we need kids inland to know about healthy water. And so as we talk about what does the future hold for Herring Gut, that’s probably a lot of what it is. We’re calling ourselves the ‘new Herring Gut’—we still have a core mission of hands-on, innovative ocean marine science experiences focused on the students and community of St. George, but it is not just for St. George anymore. We’re scaling out our passion for ocean literacy and climate literacy this next decade.”

The only limitation at this point, Barker admits, is staffing. Herring Gut relies on fundraising, grants, and some income from the school districts who benefit from its educational programs. This year a fall fundraising drive in Phyllis Wyeth’s memory hopes to benefit from a Matching Gift Challenge good through October 31. To find out more go to herringgut.org or call 207-372-8677. —JW

PHOTOS: Courtesy Herring Gut Learning Center

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Lessons from the grave

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Ring-necked snake (very alive)

Happy and safe Halloween everybody!

Fall is here and the St. George peninsula is knee deep in it. Colors have changed, leaves have left and “crisp” has become the adjective of choice when describing the days. Loads of life and lessons in the out-of-doors right now, and at this time of the year some of those lessons about life come via death. Heavy, I know. There may be no scarier place for animals, and no better place to look for the remains of critters than the streets. Yes, it’s another road-kill update!

I start by mentioning that I am not a fan of road kill in any way, though I can imagine scenarios where one isn’t completely heartbroken when a “nuisance animal” or an overpopulated deer is sprawled out on the side of a road. But I am not one of those people, at least not currently. I do believe, however, if an animal gets nailed by an automobile and is left in a state of minimal grossness, then there is nothing wrong with taking a closer look. For sure, road-kill lessons are usually flavored bittersweet, but they are there nonetheless, ready to be absorbed.

Some folks prefer to look for road kill from cars, especially larger road kill like porcupine and skunk. But ask anyone who walks, however, and they will tell you “if you want to see dead stuff, walking is the way to go,” as pedestrians move at slower speeds and have a lot of road to inspect. In these regards, biking seems similar to walking (especially at the pace I pedal), but with biking you can cover more ground and, in theory, expand your road-kill observation range!

Watts Avenue road kill in Tenants Harbor is usually of the cold-blooded sort (as in cold-blooded animals) and we all know how hard it is to feel sympathy for them (I mean, come on—they can’t even generate their own heat? Have they no hearts?). Anyway, one could play “connect the dots” down the entire avenue of late, with the dots being the carcasses of grasshoppers and woolly bear and tussock-moth caterpillars. Recent lessons have also reflected an increase in ring-necked and garter snake activity—possibly starting to make their way to winter hideouts—as well as amphibian movements after rainy nights. Red-spotted newts (red eft stage), wood frog, and red-backed salamanders have all met their ends on Watts, even with its seemingly low traffic flow. Heck, I went out to take pictures of road kill for this column and as I was turning my bike around to take a photo I crushed a grasshopper with my bike tire! Just adding another “dot” to the local road-kill lesson plan.

And now for something completely different—we got a cat a little more than a year ago. “Vesspurrs” is the name he came with and the one he purrs to, so that’s his name. We added Vesspurrs to the family knowing he was an indoor cat and he hasn’t shown the slightest interest in going out the front door—and lost interest quickly in our awesome, new back door. He basically searches for the next warm spot to nap, and naps are highly advocated around here. Over time, Vesspurrs has made the basement his own “cat cave”—a feline sanctuary in which to hang, do his business, and escape the human scene when needed. Everyone seems happy and the upstairs smells better.

It wasn’t long before Leif found a tick on the cat. All fingers in the house immediately pointed in my general direction, and honestly, it was a story that made sense. Man gives cat a tick—instant classic. But soon Vesspurrs was turning up with gifts I clearly didn’t give him. Gifts for us, like partially autopsy-ized shrews and mice, dead salamanders, and a slightly alive ring-necked snake (that was the best!). All brought up from the basement. And then a second tick. Fingers were still pointed at me again, but with less passion this time.

Vesspurrs and a basement kill

October has been an active month for our indoor hunter. Cricket pieces have piled up—what a year it’s been for them and grasshoppers—and their increased numbers in the wild have been reflected in the amount of “basement-kills.” Among Vesspurrs’ recent catches have also been red-backed salamanders and spring peepers—“rainy night specialties.” He seemed most proud of the spring peeper he caught though, and even woke me up in the middle of the night to show me. The frog was long dead by the time I caught wind of it, one of many hoppers undoubtedly on the move that night. I was able to release one red-backed salamander outside (mostly alive) but found the remains of another a few inches away from its recently removed tail. It’s the cat in him and it was kind of gross to have dead amphibians on the kitchen floor, but he’s protecting us from the threatening critters invading our basement while giving us a hint about local animal behavior! Thank you Vesspurrs!

We’ve always had a “crossing the line when you cross into my house” policy when it comes to local critters, but I’m not sure if we were thinking of amphibians when developing that policy. It’s funny that getting an indoor cat, doesn’t mean zero animal kills by any means. Or how riding a bike doesn’t necessarily mean no road kill. In fact, if I put my mind to it I could probably come up with a somewhat impressive list of animals I have nailed on my bike. But that’s a column for another time—maybe next Halloween! Have a safe one this year by the way!

As far as Vesspurrs is concerned, I’m happy for him. An indoor cat that gets to hunt. And the prey comes to him, he just goes into his cave and waits. I just wish I would stop giving him ticks, for his sake!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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Apples to applesauce

Rose Reynolds

by Trinity Delaney & Violet Ward

Mrs. Albright’s kindergarten has been learning all about apples, intertwined with science, math and literacy.

They learned about the cycle of an apple tree, from seed to tree. They enjoyed apple poems and apple books.

They looked for rhymes in stories—Apples Up on Top, by Theo LeSieg was the favorite. Then they made their own Apples Up On Top book for the class.

They counted apples, working on1:1 counting skills and made applesauce—and EVERYONE loved it!

Jackson Schwab

They also had a taste test. Will red, green, or yellow apples win? Bayleigh’s and Mila’s favorite apple is red. Alphonse likes yellow, and Ivan’s favorite is green! They made a bar graph to record the outcome. They all agree, apples are the best!

Here is their Apple Song:

I’m a little apple
Short and round
I make a munchy, crunchy sound
If you bite into me
You will see
I am as delicious as can be.

(Delaney and Ward are in the 6th grade at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Courtesy St. George School

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80th St. George Alumni Association banquet

Earlier this year, on May 25, the 80th annual St. George Alumni Banquet was held at the Tenants Harbor Odd Fellows Hall. The mission of the St. George Alumni Association (SGAA) is to foster fellowship of the alumni, assist the St. George School, and help current alumni with post-secondary school scholarships.

If you attended school while living in St. George you qualify for membership in the SGAA. This includes everyone that went to an out-of-town high school and people that only attended for a short while. Current and former teachers and staff are also welcome.

The next banquet will be held on May 23, 2020. Please attend! Bring your spouse, significant other, and children! Contact Sandra Hall (sahcdm@gmail.com) for more information. The SGAA has an active Facebook page.

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Native Plant Corner

Blue wood asters and bergamot seedheads

It is late October and our native plant gardens are still humming with activity. The late asters and some goldenrods still provide nectar and vibrant bloom color as the hues of autumn play out. In the rustle of withered stems and dried seedheads, the gardens will be busy through the winter supporting insects and other critters of all shapes and sizes. So before you choose a lovely autumn day to take the shears and trimmers and rakes into your gardens, consider making two fall and winter garden pledges to dramatically increase the wildlife value of your native garden: “Leave the Leaves” and “Be a Messy Gardener.”

Seedheads left on dried native flowers and grasses are a smorgasbord for resident and migratory birds. Gardens rich in shriveled fruits and abundant seedheads help birds survive in winter, and provide them a healthy start to reproduction success next spring.

October nectaring in goldenrod

The untrimmed garden will also provide habitat to support numerous species of native bees and beneficial insects who use garden spaces to overwinter. Depending on the species, they will take winter refuge under bark or dried leaves, or nest in cavities in hollowed-out stems and decomposing logs. Some will create burrows in the ground to reproduce and ride out the cold winter months. The mourning cloak butterfly will, amazingly, overwinter as an adult butterfly. They find thick piles of leaf litter, a chunk of tree bark, or other cavity to nestle into. Some caterpillars will wrap themselves up in the leaf of their host plant during the winter. These makeshift cocoons are hard to spot in the garden, but the caterpillar stays protected and in a state of deep sleep until the warm days of spring arrive. Other butterflies and moths will overwinter in their pupa cases, suspended under a dried leaf or tucked away under composting leaf litter on the ground. When you resist the urge to clean up your gardens, leaving stalks and stems and withered leaves, you help to encourage a rich population of native bees, butterflies and moths for the following spring and summer.

If birds, moths, bees and butterflies have not convinced you enough, hundreds of other critters can also overwinter in our gardens, including beneficial predatory insects who will be busy controlling other insects in the garden for you next spring. Leaving layers of leaf litter for these animals to burrow under in the winter allows them to get a jump-start on the services they provide next spring and summer.

“Leave the Leaves” provides nourishment at all levels of the food chain.

Delay your garden clean-up until spring, following several 50°F (10°C) days, which will allow overwintering pollinators and other critters to “wake-up” for spring and carry on.

When we allow our gardens to keep their seedheads, shriveled fruits, dried leaves, withered stalks and general “messiness,” we are acknowledging and supporting the importance of biological diversity. We can then observe and celebrate the abundance that resides in and emerges from the overwintered native garden in the spring. —Jan Getgood

PHOTOS: Jan Getgood

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Looking for options and solutions to a school space-crunch—by making decisions as a community

Bryson Mattox, pictured here in 7th grade, built a digital salinity probe in the Makerspace that collected data as part of the St. George School’s 7th grade Learning Expedition to determine the effects of tidal flooding on the freshwater habitat of the marsh and how salinity affects the survival of the alewife eggs and fry. In March, Bryson, along with Alison England (Middle Level Science Teacher) and Paul Meinersmann (Technology/ Makerspace Director), presented their work at the Maine Environmental Education Association’s Annual Conference.

For the past several years, school superintendent Mike Felton and his facilities and programming working group have been wrestling with how to find enough space to serve the growing number of students attending the St. George School.

“We’ve felt increasing pressure each year and we felt it most last year,” Felton says. “We had 25 fourth graders last year and we’d already split the third grade, so we didn’t have the personnel or space to split the fourth grade. So part of the space problem is class size.”

Mike Felton

But an even bigger aspect of the school’s space-crunch, Felton points out, is programs. He rapidly ticks off the list of curricula and services that now require space in the school building: world language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, the Makerspace, the school library, STEAM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), Title 1 reading and math interventions, special ed, life skills (for students with developmental delays or autism) and a program for students with more severe behavioral and emotional needs. In addition, he says, three different social workers need spaces where they can work with students and there are occasions when needs testing (such as speech and hearing) has to be conducted, something that currently most often takes place in Felton’s own office.

Most other school administrations would view the issue of how best to solve their space problems as an internal problem. Guided by the long-term goal of providing students with an education that allows them to succeed and become productive citizens, they would determine what curricula, special programs, staffing and facilities are desirable for meeting that goal and then ask for the financial resources to make that plan a reality. But the St. George School is different than most other schools, Felton emphasizes.

“We are a community school. We have to make decisions about what is needed as a community. There is no other way. As a community we need to ask how is the school going to be part of the community as we move forward?”

This means, Felton explains, in addition to thinking about desirable educational and long-term goals for the students and what resources are needed to meet them, also thinking about the school’s facilities and its students as valuable resources for the community at large.

Already the school’s students are making valuable contributions to the community, Felton says, pointing to such examples as the recommendations about energy choices Jaime MacCaffray’s fourth grade class made to the School Board last year and the “citizen science” work Alison England’s classes have been doing on alewife restoration.

“And we really see the school building as a community building, because there are also a lot of after-school uses for a variety of groups and organizations from Parks and Recreation and an after-school program in coordination with Blueberry Cove to different meetings and community events. When we’re looking at the school space we really want to look at how can whatever we do benefit the entire community.”

Felton also flags that dealing with the school’s space issues is not only about better accommodating all the programs, services and uses currently in place. It is also about possible new opportunities to improve those offerings. For example, in terms of the school’s Makerspace, the Midcoast School of Technology has come forward with an interest in possibly working with the school’s middle-level students. So there is now the possibility that a vocational-technological component could be brought back to the curriculum, this time integrated with the work already being done with 3-D printers, laser cutters and robotics. Access, Felton says, could be for everybody, students and community members alike working to address questions, issues and challenges facing the community.

Another question is whether a public pre-K program would be desirable. “We have a working group right now looking at this and the state is moving in the direction that in the future public pre-K could be required. There are tremendous advantages to students when you get them started in education early, but that requires space.”

So decisions have to be made. Thanks to financial support from a community member, the school has been able to hire a firm of architects, Portland-based Oak Point Associates, to help with a building-use assessment, which the firm began conducting this past summer. “They are basically meeting with different stakeholders, community members, and students to get a sense of what people want and need from the school building. They’ll be at our regular open house for student families on October 10, so they’ll be connecting with those families and trying to get feedback from them,” Felton explains.

Then, on October 29 at 5:30pm in the school gym, Oak Point is going to hold a community meeting, trying to get as many community members together as possible to get their thoughts on the school, the space, historically how it has been used and what they want from the space moving forward.

“Right now everything is on the table,” Felton says. “But given the number of programs we have going on now, it is critical that we come up with options and solutions. For me, the most important part is really the community process. I think as a community we will come up with the right outcome. I look at it first as what programming do we need and want to offer and then what are the space requirements.”

—JW (All members of the St. George Community are invited to the “Community Meeting to Discuss the School Building” on Tuesday, October 29 at 5:30pm in the St. George School Gym.)

PHOTOS: Top and bottom, courtesy St. George School; Mike Felton, Julie Wortman

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The ‘Age of Sail’ in St. George

Early photo of shipwrecks at Tenants Harbor taken from what is now the lawn of the East Wind Inn

The September program of the St. George Historical Society was presented by Dale Pierson and was on “Ships, Shipbuilding, Captains, Crews and Cargoes of St. George.” Dale told us about how he “volunteered” to do the presentation:

“My quest started with an interest in several ancestors who are listed as Captains or Ship Masters in local references and cemetery inscriptions. Somehow, I agreed to do a talk about “Ships, Sea Captains, Shipbuilding and the Age of Sail.” Who were they, what ships did they sail, when did they travel the oceans of the world, where did they sail to and why did it all seem to cease? These are some of the questions I wanted answers to. After re-reading works by local authors, I went to the Penobscot Marine Museum with a list of ancestors, in pursuit of more information. There I realized that much of the information is not cross-referenced and the search was to be a rather tedious affair. Some data was listed in one reference while other data was listed elsewhere. It was then I decided to gather the information of our local sailing history and put it into a document that is searchable by categories. Using a spreadsheet, which helps to keep my scattered thoughts organized, I began entering information from many sources that I will share with you. Trying to limit the presentation to information pertaining to St. George is not easy. The boats, captains (masters), crews, and cargos traveled all over the globe. These local builders and owners moved their chess pieces to different ports of call constantly.”

The time frame of Dale’s talk was from the 1830s to the end of the early 1900s, when so many sailing ships ended up beached on our shores. He spoke of the vast number of sailors, sea captains and sailing vessels that called St. George home. There was mention of the various shipyards and their locations in St. George. Jim Skoglund showed the audience a top hat that belonged to Capt. David Watts and spoke of the fact that sea captains regularly wore a top hat to distinguish themselves from others. Dale mentioned some of the cargo—southern pine brought north, paving stones carried to Boston and New York, and even a shipload of Mormons who were transported from Liverpool, England, in search of a new home in Utah. He also told the story of the Hattie Dunn, a three-masted wooden schooner captained by a St. George native that was sunk by a German U-boat in May 1918 off the coast of Virginia.

There were close to 75 people who packed into the Ocean View Grange that evening, and it appeared that there was interest in having a similar program again next year.
—John Falla

PHOTOS: Top, courtesy of St. George Historical Society; bottom, Betsy Welch

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