The column I thought I’d never write

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen


When it comes to nature observation, I know I have my biases. I mean, we all do. There are times when we become engrossed and see little beyond what we are looking at. These are not bad moments by any means. When watching birds it can be easy to overlook a fern fiddlehead unrolling, or to miss a population of springtails migrating. I accept this about me (and also about you) and feel comfortable with this understanding. There is simply just too much going on to observe it all.

At the same time, I try keep myself open to just about everything in nature. I like to think that I am never “not into something,” but rather that “I am not into that yet,” if you know what I mean. Just waiting for the hook, but in reality some parts of nature just take longer to get into. An example of this, for me, is flowers.

I have always had a distaste and distrust for things that are revered largely based on socially accepted aesthetic principles and judgments. Probably connected to listening to Frank Zappa at an early age. Anyway, I put flowers in this category. It’s not that I hold “being pretty” against a flower, but there has to be more—a tasty fruit, a cool association—to get my appreciation. (What a flower snob I am!) Learning about a flowering plant through research can be enough to break this perspective and yes, my new macro lens has helped morph my view of flowers.

Take the ubiquitous bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), for example. A member of the dogwood family (Cornaceae), this ground cover adds a delightful mix of green and white through the coniferous woods on the peninsula each spring. Bunchberry plants can be so numerous in an area that at times it may seem like a mini dogwood forest has formed a second canopy under the (relatively) giant spruce and pine trees. Well, these little bunchberry plants grow off a perennial woody rhizome (creeping rootstalk) and a single rhizome can send up clone plants that may cover several yards of the forest floor. When you see a carpet of bunchberry it may represent just a few individual plants! Now that is cool.

As if that weren’t enough, it ends up that bunchberry flowers themselves aren’t white at all. The white you see are four “bracts,” which are structurally similar to leaves. The flowers themselves are tiny, green and clustered in the middle of these bracts. While taking a closer look at these blooms over the last few weeks it’s been impossible to ignore how plentiful ants are on bunchberry. Whatever the attractant may be—odor, nectar, pollen, or those wacky bracts—having ants associated as (potential) pollinators seems like a funky twist on the historical process of creating the next generation. Ants are cool, good to get them involved.

Pink Lady’s Slipper

It’s hard to think of a more aesthetically pleasing, native wildflower than the orchid Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule), or “PLS.” With varying shades of magenta, Lady’s Slippers are fun to search for and a treat to find, scattered along the Town Forest Loop trail off Kinney Woods Road (and along the roadside as well). As a rule orchids are cool, but PLS have a special mystique about them rich with rumors of rarity, endangerment, and even extinction (I was once told by someone that they were extinct, even though we were standing beside a small group of PLS.) Regardless of where the truth lies, its best to leave any PLS you find alone. You see, however “pretty” a PLS flower may be, the plant itself is dependent on a symbiotic, mycorrhizal relationship with a Rhizoctonia fungus. The plant provides sugars for the subterranean fungus in exchange for nutrients. PLS seeds contain no food tissue for its seedling and thus the plant’s success is completely dependent on an early connection with this fungus. This unification is required for the PLS to begin the years-long growth process it takes before the plant even thinks about producing a flower. There is a lot going on with that plant!


And then there is the starflower (Trientalis borealis) of the Myrsine family. An early- season bloomer, this flower can be found abundantly along any trail and seemingly within any woods in St. George. And yet, an internet search turned up a little juicy information on this plant, other than that the genus name refers to the height of the plant (a third of a foot). The starflower doesn’t produce nectar, which itself is pretty cool. Instead it attracts pollen eaters to disperse its pollen, and a macro view shows how the flower is organized. Starflowers have a tall pistil (female part) in the flower’s center, surrounded by eight stamen (male parts). The stamen are arranged to maximize the distance between their pollen-producing tips (anther) and the pistil tip (stigma), thus reducing the chance of self-pollination. A dorsal view of a starflower shows this formation as wheel- or octopus-like. This view itself deserves some respect.

Upon finishing this column I’m starting to recognize that maybe I like flowers more than I knew. I’ve always liked trees, as they are places for birds to nest and for mushrooms to grow underneath, so it’s not like I have been anti-plant or anything. Come to think of it, carnivorous plants have a special place in my heart and those parasitic plants lacking chlorophyll are pretty awesome too. I am starting to understand, though, that maybe flowers have moved out of the “not into yet” column for me. And that if part of this change is inspired by taking closer looks at stamens and stigmas, well then so be it. Of course, there is always something cool going on with each plant and species. But the bottom line is that a flower’s job is be attractive. And there is nothing wrong with appreciating a job well done!

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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Eliza Steele’s legacy: A 90-year-old mission of community nursing

Eliza Steele (1898-1976), founding nurse of the Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA), which this year is celebrating 90 years of community service

This year the Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA) is celebrating the legacy of its founding nurse, Eliza Jane Steele, a proud native of St. George born in 1898 to Scottish immigrants Walter Steele and his wife Janet Creighton of the Clark Island community. By 1920 Steele was a student nurse at the local hospital and a few years later, following her father’s death from TB in 1921, she and her mother moved to Rockland, having sold their 39 acres of land to John Meehan & Son, the company that operated the mainland quarry on the Clark Island Road. In the 1930 census for Rockland, Steele was listed as a nurse for the Red Cross, but by that time she had also been the chief nurse of the newly established RDNA for a year.

Today, ninety years later, says Tenants Harbor resident and RDNA executive director Peta vanVuuren, RDNA is still an independent agency and is still fulfilling its founding mission of community nursing as established under Steele.

“Eliza Steele is really the vision of the RDNA. To me the important thing is the connection to the community and that the community supports the district nurse, that it is a partnership between local government, other community leaders and the nurses that has survived all these years.”

During the nearly 40 years she led the RDNA, Steele worked with a number of other nurses, most memorably among them Owls Head’s Margaret Torfason, going from home to home, handling the health needs of all ages, doing vaccinations, dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases, screening public school students, aiding unwed mothers, helping children get admitted to the Baxter School of the Deaf, working closely with local authorities on a variety of public health problems, holding well-baby and dental clinics. She would even go onto local farms to make sure the animals were vaccinated.

“Eliza Steele was also highly respected by many local physicians,” vanVuuren stresses. “If a doctor needed to know about families, about people who really needed services, she was the one who knew. She was their eyes and ears. The idea was you needed good health care for everybody, that people needed access.”

Steele and her colleagues attempted to address a very wide gamut of public health needs in Rockland and its surrounding communities during the Great Depression, World War II and into the 1950s and 1960s, but today, vanVuuren admits, so much has changed in health care, that the RDNA has also had to change to accommodate new health care roles and administrative structures. “It’s a fluid situation,” vanVuuren says. “Everything is constantly shifting. So the local solutions like the RDNA have to keep looking at what is possible and what is sustainable over the long term.”

Peta vanVuuren, RDNA executive director

These days, vanVuuren explains, the RDNA predominantly serves the elderly, signing on clients when a physician orders the service as part of a plan of care. “That’s the population that needs this type of non-acute nursing service. Primarily we’re doing medication ‘pre-pours’ (pre-measuring medications), foot care—afterall, if you are able to put your shoes on and go about your business, you can stay independent—and health assessments.” The medication service, she notes, is an important safety issue. “If several physicians are involved, some medicines being prescribed might conflict with each other. So we are another set of eyes monitoring the situation. We also work in collaboration with others—in St. George, for example, we work with the town’s para-medicine program. The paramedics can do some things and an RN or LPN can do other things.”

At this point, with financial resources allowing only 50 nursing hours each week, the organization is limited to a maximum of one visit a week to each client. “We’re all part time. We have a clinical care director and she has five nursers working with her. What the nurses do is simply nursing. Most of them are also working elsewhere. We match the client with the nurse. Our nurses have over 235 years of nursing experience combined. They are a seasoned nursing staff and love this kind of nursing.”

When the RDNA takes on a client—in St. George they regularly see 13 to 15 people—the commitment is to that client. There’s no limit to how long a client can be with the RDNA if they need the service. The average duration of client relationship is four years, but the organization has clients who have been receiving services for 17 years. The average client age is 81.

In the early days, the RDNA received funding from Rockland’s Community Chest, a precursor of the United Way. These days, vanVuuren says, 60 percent of the RDNA budget still comes from local sources—from the midcoast towns it serves (Rockland, St. George, Owls Head, Thomaston, So. Thomaston, Cushing and Union) and from local donations. There’s also a small endowment. The average fee for a visit is $25, with financial aid available if needed. These fees cover about 17 percent of the budget. Grants are another occasional source of revenue.

If serving an aging population has become a major RDNA focus, as much as it can, the organization also continues Eliza Steele’s focus on the wider public health needs of the communities it has served for these past 90 years. For example, it provides monthly blood pressure clinics in Rockland and Thomaston and it continues to be involved in a bi-annual medication collection initiative it helped launch in 2010.

“To me the medication collection is one of the most rewarding things we do,” notes vanVuuren. The problem the initiative was created to address is that leftover or expired scheduled medications are a hazardous waste that people don’t know how to dispose of. Flushing them down the toilet, for example, or putting them in the garbage poses an extraordinary environmental hazard.

“Initially there was no easy or legal way to get rid of scheduled medications—pharmacists weren’t allowed to take them back and the only ones legally able to take them was law enforcement,” explains vanVuuren. “So the police chief in Rockland and I talked and there were others interested, so based on a model they were using in Brunswick we figured out a way to do the dance of meeting all the regulations involved. Nine years later we’re still offering this free service to the community twice a year.”

Eliza Steele, vanVuuren is certain, would very much approve. —JW (John Falla contributed to this story.)

PHOTOS: Top, RDNA, below, Julie Wortman

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You can observe just by watching

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

American Redstart

Writing the “nature bummin” column for the Dragon the last couple of years has been great for me in many ways. (Thank you to Julie and Betsy for encouraging these columns). It’s been wonderful to share stories, but just as wonderful to hear the nature stories of others. Once word gets out that you are interested in a topic, people start to share their own experiences with you, and nature observation is no different. With this in mind, I have always appreciated and encouraged people to share their nature observations and sightings with me. In complete disclosure and for purely selfish reasons, having people sharing is a total “win” for me. I am way more interested in learning what others have been seeing than talking about what I see. I mean, I already know what I see, and if I want to learn more I can’t think of a better way than to soak in what others are seeing. And so, yes, I am using you for knowledge. Could be worse…

For the month of May, the talk on the “nature” streets has been about birds. Birds are wonderful year-round of course, but spring is a season that combines the wonder of migration, the energy and anticipation of an upcoming breeding season, and a resurgence of forest life in general to create a lively bird scene. It should be noted—spring songbird migration is often given as a reason, one of many, as to why why my wife Amy and I moved to Maine. We are big fans.

Palm Warbler

Anyway, the stories floating around have been great—a family of woodcocks in a backyard, a photo of a broad-winged hawk shared with me at a baseball game, tales of red breasted grosbeak and indigo buntings at feeders, rumors of a yard that has hosted both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers this season (two tanager yards in these parts are hard to come by in my experience) and conversations at the library that begin with an enthusiastic, “What is up with all the crazy birds around?” I have seen none of these (and so much more), but hearing about them is a way to get a taste of what’s happening!

In this completely biased nature observer’s opinion, however, spring bird migration is all about the warblers. And much to my pleasure, recent strolls along my favorite neighborhood routes have been turning out to be very warblery.

A favorite characteristic of the Wood-warblers (Family Parulidae) of Northeastern North America is their diversity. Over 25 species of warbler migrate through or nest in our area each spring, and with so many species it’s no surprise that warblers fill just about every conceivable niche in the woods. They can be found in almost any habitat—marshes, riparian zones, fields and forests both hardwood or coniferous—with species ranging from being specialists (ie. Palm warbler breeding specifically in bogs) to super adaptable (i.e., the Yellow-rumped warbler and their “whatever, wherever, whenever” nutritional strategy).

Magnolia Warbler

Warbler diversity also extends into feather patterns, making the Parulidae one of the more “aesthetically” pleasing groups of birds. Variations in shades and arrangements of yellows, blues, blacks, greens and oranges result in an array of looks that add color and beauty to any yard, shrub, tree or neighborhood. One of my favorite warblers is the Magnolia, with its brilliant, bright yellow chest that’s only interrupted for a dangling necklace of black. It’s not uncommon to cross paths with Magnolias in coniferous forests, such as along the Town Forest Loop trail off Kinney Woods Road. Years ago I received a yellow shirt painted with the male Magnolia Warbler’s wing and body patterns. One of the coolest presents ever!

Northern Parula

Warblers also bring a cacophony of song upon arrival each spring. The Magnolia’s “weety, weety, weet-eo” being one of a spectrum of sound, pitch, and subtleness that makes up the Eastern North America warbler song chorus. For my biased ears, warblers are what make spring mornings great, as each song is as distinctive as it is beautiful. Take the Northern Parula’s song of “ohhhhhhhhhh, shoot!”—constructed as a rising note followed by an immediate drop. A common song on our peninsula wherever Old Man’s Beard lichen can be found. Or the radiating, yet pleasing “TEACHER, TEACHER, TEACHER!” of the Ovenbird. These are the songs that grab me, and inspire fist pumps and “ohh yeahs” as if hearing the voice of an old friend you haven’t heard from for some time. Like say a year or so.

Spring is a great time for a plethora of reasons, some of which are nature based. And while it’s always a good time to get outside, spring can be an especially exciting time with migration and avian hormones raging. And while keeping an eye on what’s up bird-wise in your ‘hood falls into the “getting to know your neighbor” category, it is also important to share what you learn or what you see, for the greater good, but also for the selfish reasons I mentioned before. I already know what I know, let’s hear what you know. Everyone wins when we share.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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The rewards and challenges of being an artist

Oil painting by Jen Derbyshire, one of the artists included in the new “Directory of Artists of St. George”

The month of June brings a whole new summer season of fine art exhibitions to the St. George peninsula. In preparation, many of us artists pushed the boundaries of our creativity into new territories during the long winter months. Our endeavors come with significant rewards and challenges. Last winter, as I reflected upon my own efforts, I wondered about the experiences of other St. George artists. Is there commonality among our experiences or are we completely different? So, I asked them: What are the greatest rewards and greatest challenges for you as a professional artist? Over a dozen St. George artists responded and it seems that our individual experiences overlap a great deal.

Most of us artists simply enjoy the freedom to create. For botanical painter, Banjie Getsinger Nicholas, “the biggest reward is the spark of an idea and the pleasure and challenge of nourishing it to life.” An anonymous painter added to that sentiment, “As I get older and less ambitious, the element of escape, that total engagement in the work, is a god-send.” It’s no exaggeration that we artists need to create almost as much as we need to breathe air. We thrive on the pleasure of making art because it springs from our core. And, our artistic core often forms during childhood. For instance, like most St. George artists, painter Hannah Nelsbach began making art in her youth. “As a young girl I started drawing with very colorful pencils,” she remarks. “I wanted to see the world as happy with my colors.”

For Jon Mort, “The biggest reward is the job of communicating with people. For me, art is a process based on dialogue and that conversation is the deepest part of my inspiration.” Chris Moses agrees, “I find great value in my work if I feel that I have captured the element that I was trying to convey to the viewer, as in light, emotion, character, etc. of a landscape.” Greg Mort adds that he is “fulfilled with what I love to do and share it with others.” And Sandra Mason Dickson feels rewarded “when others appreciate what my work says to them.” Indeed, we artists hope to communicate with viewers just as the author of a book hopes to communicate with readers. This is what drives authors to publish and artists to exhibit their work.

A third reward identified by many of our artists is validation. For encaustic painter Otty Merrill, it is important to “be acknowledged by your peers and those artists you look up to.” This provides an important sense of accomplishment that encourages us to keep going. Painter Kenneth Schweizer adds that “Finding and following the requisite disciplines necessary to raise the quality of my art is necessary for my creative development. And when a singular work is particularly praised by the public, it greatly enthuses my outlook and makes up for many artist-life tribulations.” Validation also occurs when our work sells. Gayle Bedigian remarks, “I love the act and art of creating, but my happiness springs from bringing joy to my customers.” Rick Bernard feels the same: “Perhaps, the most rewarding aspect of being an artist is the feeling I experience when someone appreciates my work enough to actually purchase it.”

These three types of rewards are the “carrot stick” that often motivate us artists. But, if we are to keep going, they must outweigh the challenges we encounter. Painter Carmella Yager identifies one of our biggest challenges. “The down side,” she reflects, “is when doubt enters and distracts.” This factor, alone, is the greatest inhibitor to creativity that often blocks our efforts to advance our work. We must rely upon our innate ability to ideate and create and no one can help us with that.”

Marketing our work is another big challenge. “For me, the biggest problem is the amount of self-promotion necessary to get the works seen by others,” says Nicholas. Most artists would agree that their talent and expertise is in creating art and not in marketing it. The task is expensive and time-consuming while the path to successful marketing is riddled with landmines. We learn as we go and hope not to make a “fatal” mistake that will cripple our professional standing in the art world.

A final challenge for many is the environment in which we create art. Plein-air painters like Chris Moses work where “bugs, heat, wind, changing light and accessing properties” hamper every effort. As a studio painter, I often need more space than what exists for laying out large paintings and for storage. And then there’s balancing our lives. “The hardship for me is making a living with my work,” says Bedigian, “since I’m also a wife, mom, grand mom, janitor, cook, secretary, dog walker, and gardener.” Anne Cox, a painter and rug-hooker, agrees. “The biggest problem I face? That’s easy. Time. Never enough, given the demands of making a living.”

For all the rewards and challenges we artists must face, I am personally rewarded when I view a work of art that moves me and connects me to the person who made it. I hope that your experience with the artists of the St. George peninsula leads you to the same appreciation this summer. And, if you don’t know all of our local artists, be sure to pick up a free copy of the newly published “Directory of the Artists of St. George” at the town office, the Jackson Memorial Library and other local establishments and get to know them!
—Katharine Cartwright

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The St. George School Fund makes a big difference—as does this year’s $20,000 matching donation

3rd and 4th grade students from the St. George School are shown here with their Educator-in-Residence Ryan Ford in excited anticipation of climbing the 45’ indoor climbing wall at Camp Kieve.

by Mike Felton

The St. George School Fund provides vital resources that help our school-community engage, challenge and meet the needs of all students.  Inspired by Wick Skinner’s gift that launched the St. George School Makerspace Initiative, the School Fund helps fuel innovation, fund educators’ ideas, and ensure that St. George School continues to stretch people’s imagination as to what is possible in public education.  St. George School is a community school and the heart and strength of our school is the community of St. George.  This fund is evidence of that heart and strength—of our shared commitment, as a school and community, to do whatever it takes to ensure that every single student thrives and, in the process, gives back to the town of St. George.

With increasing demands on school budgets, including growing special education costs for federally mandated services, the School Fund has never been more important. I am pleased to announce that an anonymous donor has committed to match the first $20,0000 that we raise this year for the School Fund! If we can “meet and match,” that will provide us with $40,000 to fund projects that innovate, inspire and empower all students through experiences like the Makerspace Initiative and Educator-in-Residence Program; through hands-on environmental education projects where students act as citizen-scientists in their community; and through after-school programs that feed, nurture, and educate our youngest students while providing high-quality, reliable childcare for working parents.

Below are a few examples of projects that were supported by the School Fund this year.

• $7,000 for the Educator-in-Residence Program: The Educator-in-Residence (EIR) program is run by Kieve Wavus—the same organization that operates the Camp Kieve Leadership School.  St. George 8th-grade students go to the Leadership School at Kieve each fall.  At camp, students engage in activities and challenges that allow them to strengthen communication skills, practice positive risk taking, form and maintain healthy relationships, raise aspirations, and create physical and emotionally safer school climates.  This is a key part of our 8th Grade High School Choice Program.  The EIR program places a Kieve staff member from the Leadership School in a public school for 10 weeks. This person has special skills in the areas of social-emotional growth and experiential education.  St. George School staff wanted to bring the EIR program to St. George to work with students on social-emotional learning through experiential education, mentoring, crew activities, after-school programs, and integrated lessons developed with classroom teachers.  Funded entirely by the School Fund, the EIR program allowed us to bring Kieve Leadership School Counselor Ryan Ford to our school community.  Ryan had a tremendous impact on our school through his work with students and staff.  One day he would have the entire middle school circled up in the gym doing activities and the next he was mentoring an individual student.  He taught—by example and through structured activities—leadership, communication, respect, and collaboration.

• $6,000 for an Island Institute Fellow to develop a sustainable, high-quality after-school program: Next school year, an Island Institute Fellow will help St. George School and Blueberry Cove develop and implement an after-school program for students in grades K-5 that (1) provides high-quality, reliable childcare for working parents, (2) feeds students healthy snacks after school addressing issues of food insecurity, (3) offers students physical activity and enrichment opportunities, and (4) supports students’ academic, social, emotional learning needs. As part of this effort, the Fellow will involve 9th–12th grade St. George students who attend local-area high schools. This will capitalize on local talent, provide a service-learning experience for high school students, and help our high school students remain connected and involved members of our school community.

• $1,000 for the Forest School Program:  Working with our School-wide Behavior Interventionist, Amy Hufnagel, EIR Ryan Ford developed and ran an after-school program for 3rd and 4th grade students focused on leadership skills, community engagement, and environmental education.  Students explored the natural environment around the school; engaged in activities that taught them about responsibility, respect, and collaboration; and even had a trip to Camp Kieve to test themselves on the 45-foot climbing wall!

• $710 for the 5th-Grade Worm Composting Expedition:  This winter, Christine Miller, the 5th grade teacher, had an idea that would combine art, science, and environmental education to teach students about sustaining healthy ecosystems in the community.  Fifth-grade students would observe and collect data on the process of decomposition by managing a classroom worm farm.  With an artist-in-residence, the class would create a graphic novel about decomposition, recycling and supporting a healthy ecosystem.

St. George School received the Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) School of the Year Award because of, according to the MEEA, “a demonstrated commitment to creating authentic learning opportunities for your students and engaging them in their environment as well as your clear dedication to reaching into the community to create real-world learning opportunities,” which made “St. George School a clear choice for this award.”

You can make a donation to the St. George School Fund online ( or by making a check out to the “St. George Community Development Corp” Indicate on the memo line that the donation is for the “St. George School Fund.”

Please mail checks to:
St. George Community Development Corp.
PO Box 160
Tenants Harbor, ME 04860

Thank you for your support of the St. George School Fund and—above all—for your support of our students, educators, and school-community!

(Felton is superintendent of the St. George Municipal School Unit.)

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‘Recycling is still working for us’

St. George Solid Waste and Recycling Committee members (l to r) Ray Emerson, Jan Limmen, Ann Marie (Otty) Merrill, Deborah Wheelock, Wendy Carr (chair), Kathryn Johanson (not present, Jane Bracy). The Select Board liaison to the committee is Tammy Willey.

In January 2018, when China enacted its “National Sword” policy banning the import of recycled plastics and other materials, the U.S.’s primary market for recyclables was shut down. Up until then China’s recycling processors had been handling nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste (which included 56 percent of U.S. recyclables along with another 32 percent of U.S. recyclables sent to China via Hong Kong). As a result of the ban, more plastics in the U.S. are now ending up in landfills, incinerators or by the side of the road. As newspaper and magazine headlines report the decline or halting of U.S. community recycling programs, the primary message people may be getting is that recycling is no longer a viable way to minimize solid waste. That has committee chair Wendy Carr and the rest of the St. George Solid Waste and Recycling Committee worried.

“Right now people are reading all these negative articles about recycling and thinking, ‘Why should I recycle?’” Carr says. “Each town has to look at its own situation, but for St. George it is still an important part of our waste management strategy—recycling is still working for us.”

The chief reason this is so, says Carr, is “cost avoidance.”

Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, Me., in 2016. This valley is now filled in with trash.

“When we don’t ship plastics and other materials to recycling facilities, we have to pay the transportation fees and tipping fees to deposit that refuse in the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, northwest of Augusta,” Carr explains. “Because of today’s bad markets for recyclables we aren’t always making much or any money on the materials we send out for repurposing, but we are still saving money by cost avoidance because we are not paying landfill charges.”

Avoiding having trash go into a landfill is key, Carr believes, not only because of the costs involved, but also because of the environmental impact. “From my point of view, landfills always fail, they have a life span, and even though technology is getting better and better about encapsulating waste, the idea that on our planet the waste that we are generating is entombed somewhere, we’re using up our space and eventually those landfills leak the chemicals from that waste.”

Innovative technologies for dealing with trash such as anaerobic digesters where bacteria are used to break down the waste may be able to deliver better environmental outcomes, but for St. George the difficulty is both volume and transportation. “We are treated like an island,” Carr notes. “Innovative trash or waste disposal schemes don’t want us because of the transportation costs. They have something they call route fulfillment and all that means is that if they are going from A to B, they want to stop at a number of towns. But when you go down the peninsula there’s nowhere to stop except for us.” If St. George produced a greater volume of solid waste the transportation cost might be worth the trip, but not otherwise.

The upshot is that for St. George, recycling is the only way to get the cost and environmental benefit of reducing the amount of solid waste the town sends to the Norridgewock landfill. The cost-avoidance benefit alone, Carr estimates based on 2018 numbers, is about $117,000 (1,697.24 tons were landfilled and 1,169.287 tons were recycled). And despite the depressing headlines, there are still markets for recycling. St. George’s agent for finding those markets is the Main Resource Recovery Association. Carr admits that a problem in getting top dollar for the town’s relatively clean, hand-sorted material, however, is that St. George often doesn’t have as much material as a buyer would like. Carr takes the example of PET #2 plastic. “Ours is sorted and clean, but we can only provide so much, say two bales. So if the customer wants six bales, they’ll get the rest from a single-stream source, which is not so clean because in single-stream everything is thrown into one big bucket and stuff gets contaminated. So our clean material also gets contaminated and we get a lower price.”

But Carr sees signs that better markets for recycling will emerge. One of these involves Chinese companies affected by the 2018 “National Sword” ban. That ban was aimed at halting the import of “dirty” materials from single-stream sources that were overwhelming Chinese processing facilities. Several of these companies have now announced plans to open new processing plants in the U.S., notably in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Partnering with local authorities, they plan to produce clean recycled plastic suitable for manufacturing purposes back in China or elsewhere. In addition, there are signs that U.S. recycling operations have also begun expanding their ability to produce cleaner materials for repurposing.

While she says St. George residents are doing very well at recycling, Carr would also like to see the recycling rate in St. George increase. “The idea is to just give it a try—start with just one thing, like newspapers or milk jugs, and see how that goes. Recycling takes a little thought, a little room. But for us in St. George, it makes a difference. If people care about nothing else, it can at least lower their taxes.” —JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, Wendy Carr

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The creation of Ponderosa Pond

This is a place in St. George that people drive by on a regular basis but know little about. To some of us long-time residents we still remember when this was a marshy area similar to the area on the easterly side of Turkey Cove Road across from the entrance to Otis Point Road—an area that would flood during heavy rains, but was home to a meandering stream the rest of the time.

This pond was created in the fall of 1963 by the Town of St. George when it rebuilt the section of road at the head of Watts Cove at a cost of $3,000. A 1965 news article tells us that prior to 1963, when the culvert under the road was down at the level of the brook draining out of the marsh area, this section of road was so dangerous that school buses were not allowed to cross over it.

The idea of flooding the marsh came from Harold Watts. He was a dairy farmer who lived just up the road and had a great interest in preserving things of nature. The 10-acre marsh was part of a larger piece of land owned at the time by Alfred Leppanen, who joined in the idea of creating this beautiful spot. So in 1963 the town built up the road, effectively damming the brook to create the pond. The new road culvert was placed at a higher level to drain the excess water from the new pond. Rebuilding the base of the road made it much safer.

Harold Watts passed away in 1964, a year after the project was completed, and in May of 1965 the area was dedicated to his memory. The weekend of the dedication the local Boy Scout troop planted on the site a grove of red pines that were donated by the State Forestry Department. On the same day more than 1,500 young trout were put into the lake. The plaque to Watts’ memory was also placed on the site. —John Falla

PHOTOS: Top, Dawn Leppanen Gauthier, bottom, John Falla


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Community walk to support community nursing on June 8

The friends and board members of the Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA) invite members of the St. George community to join in a “Community Walk for Community Nursing” on Saturday, June 8. All proceeds from the walk go to support the RDNA and, in turn, to benefit many residents in St. George who depend on this non-profit organization’s vital visiting home care.

On the day of the walk there will be a sign-in at 9:30am at the parking lot of the Baptist Church on Route 131 in Port Clyde, with a bake sale at the same location from 9am-11am.  The walk and bake sale are all by donation, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the RDNA. The 2-mile walk will follow a route to the beautiful Marshall Point Lighthouse and back.

The walk, which will be held rain or shine, is a casual event—bring a friend and walk at your own pace, or join a group of those walking.  There are no speeches or mandatory departure and return times.

—Meg Sawyer, Treasurer, RDNA (FMI call Meg at 372-6489 or contact the RDNA at 594-4522 or

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St. George post celebrates American Legion’s 100th anniversary

Thornton Batty, Commander of the Kinney-Melquist Post 34 honors World War II veteran Edgar M. Post. This year the American flag at the St. George ball field flies in his honor.

The St. George American Legion Kinney-Melquist Post 34 is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the American Legion along with the family of posts worldwide. To celebrate the 100th Anniversary, the local American Legion honors its past accomplishments and renews the post’s resolve to serve the community.

Post 34 supports the St. George community in many ways such as providing awareness of national traditions and flag etiquette to the local Boy and Girl Scouts, conducting a Veterans Day ceremony at the school and hosting the annual Town Memorial Day parade. During the Memorial Day ceremony students recite historical messages appropriate for the Day and the school band provides patriotic music.

Each year Post 34 recognizes a veteran by flying the American flag at the St. George ball field for a year in his or her honor. This year the flag flies in honor of Edgar M. Post, a World War II veteran.  —Dave Percival

PHOTO: Dave Percival

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Got questions about internet service in St. George?

Join the Select Board, the Connect St. George Group of the Community Development Corporation, and State Rep. Ann Matlack on Thursday, May 30 at 7pm in the Fire House meeting room at the Town Office for a community-wide conversation about what universal, reliable, high-speed internet could mean for you and our community. Topics will include the status of internet access in St. George, what reliable high-speed internet could mean for our community and what the Town’s vision should be for the future of internet connectivity here.

This meeting will shape a broader connectivity conversation at a follow-up public meeting with Charter Communications (Spectrum) on June 18 at 7pm. —Susan Bates

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Rule #34: Enjoy the little things

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Wood Frog eggs

My family recently gave me one of those clip-on, macro lenses that attaches to my phone (cellular not terrestrial). It allows close-up photo documentation and was a birthday present. I don’t normally gush over gear, but this one was an instant game changer. “New tools bring new opportunities,” or is it “with new tools comes great opportunities?” Whatever I may mean—the timing of the gift couldn’t have been better. Not only was it for my birthday, but the vernal pools on the peninsula are bubbling with amphibian egg masses and life in early spring! I know—just when you thought life couldn’t get any better!

From the 15 or so vernal pools I have had the pleasure to visit in St. George, Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander egg masses are the amphibian eggs most likely to be present.

Wood frogs lay sizable egg masses (up to 1,500 eggs) soon after arriving at the pools (this year that was early-mid April). The eggs usually hatch within three weeks. The egg masses, shells, and yolk are clear, so observing the Wood Frog embryos develop prior to hatching,—as odd as that may sound—is easy.

Wood Frogs unfurling in eggs

Over a two-week period, repeat visits to a couple of local pools took the frog embryos from rolled-up specks, to unfurled blobs and eventually to gilled tadpoles and hatching! Photos taken with the new tool added to the lessons and appreciation of vernal pool life—even from the comforts of home! In the end, May 13th was the Wood Frog hatching day at Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Bamford Preserve on Long Cove, and to be at a vernal pool when thousands of tadpoles were erupting is pretty cool and exciting. I was there to welcome the tadpoles to freedom, catch some views of their first attempts at swimming and to snag a photo or two!

While vernal pools are often “turnaround zones” for early spring strolls, an entire walk can be thought of as the “destination.” And there are always numerous distractions by which to get side-tracked along the way.

Rodent mandible in an owl pellet

Owl pellets are distractions I am happy to take a closer look at, and there is no shortage of pellets to be found in the woods of mid-coast Maine. These pellets consist of non-digestables (fur and bones) from an owl’s recent meal, wrapped up tight and coughed up while the owl is perched. Earlier this month a Great-horned Owl was kind enough to regurgitate a pellet right along the path I take to the vernal pool down the road. With each inspection, the pellet showed sign of breaking down as the fur was being washed away, exposing a rodent skull and bones within. As if that weren’t cool enough, keeping tabs on the bones turned up three rodent lower mandibles, which meant that the owl caught three rodents before coughing up this pellet. Must have been a great hunting night!

Carrion Beetle

While on a visit to the vernal pools by the Town Forest Loop trail I came across a pile of coyote scat right in middle of the trail, classic coyote style. Coyote scat is a common sight on the peninsula for sure, but this scat was the first I’ve found this year that had some movement in it (pun indeed!). A small, but strong contingent of Carrion Beetles (Oiceoptoma novaboracense) was finding nourishment from the waste of a product the coyote had passed on (pun again!). These beetles will often scurry or burrow when approached, but either this “scat was so good” or this particular group was in a “scat coma” as they just stayed in position, outwardly showing no interest in my large, looming presence. I used the new tool to gain a close-up Carrion Beetle perspective, while limiting my close-up time and potential impact on the beetles. They have a crappy, but important job to do, and so I left them to their own.

I have a friend who leaves his camera at home on purpose at times. Apparently, he feels that his pursuit of the perfect shot can take away from his observing of wildlife. I have never felt this. Binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, field guides—they are all tools meant to enhance an observation, expand an understanding, and continue a lesson. The simple act of taking a close-up photo requires slowing down and taking a closer look. That, right there, is a lesson unto itself every time. Enjoy the little things!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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