Category Archives: Volume 5

Planning for taking shelter in a storm

Bonnie and David Percival (and Henry)

When meteorologists report that a winter storm is brewing, Bonnie and Dave Percival prepare themselves for the possibility that power outages may trigger a need to convert the generator-powered Fire Department Training Room adjacent to the Town Office in Tenants Harbor (where voting and community meetings also take place) into a hospitable space for community members seeking a place to warm up, get a bite to eat and charge up their cell phones. Members of the St. George Temporary Community Emergency Shelter Committee, the Percivals, if called, will trek down the hill from their home near the St. George School and across the street to the Fire Station to work with other volunteers to get the emergency shelter up and running for as long as it is needed.

The question, the Percivals say, is whether the current emergency shelter is adequate to meet future needs. “In light of what might be happening in terms of natural disasters, the severity of rain, wind, storm events that could be happening, do we need to think longer term of what might be involved?” Bonnie asks.

Town Manager Tim Polky

Town Manager Tim Polky, who is also the town’s Emergency Management Director (EMD), has been actively engaging that question for quite a while. He and other EMDs are concerned about how changing weather patterns that are resulting in longer-lasting hazardous weather events are putting a greater strain on both responders and households, with the result that upgrading shelter facilities is becoming a priority.

“I don’t know if you want to call it global warming but if you look at our weather patterns, we’re getting more rain, our rain events are heavier,” Polky explains. “We’ve just been fortunate that we haven’t seen big snow events, but I think they are coming. With the weather patterns that we are looking at right now, I think we’re going to begin to see a foot of snow and even 18-20 inches every time it snows.”

But it isn’t just severe snowstorms that pose a potential impact on shelters, as Polky also points out. “I’m not so worried about the wintertime as far as the people because I think the people who live here year round are more resilient, but if we had a hurricane in August, with a lot of transient people here, people on vacation, we probably would have to do something significant with a shelter.”

More severe weather may also likely translate into longer power outages, which could mean that even the most resilient members of the St. George community—Polky estimates that fewer than a half of the town is covered by someone who has a generator—would be candidates for a shelter stay. “We’ve had a couple of times where we’ve opened up the shelter and used the shelter as a ‘warming shelter’ where people can come in and get a cup of coffee, get something to eat and charge their cell phones—and that works fine. But if we had a situation where we needed to put some people up for the night we’d have a problem. That’s because there’d be two other things happening at the same time. First, if we got a major situation where the emergency was going to last an extended time, we’d set up our base of operation out there in the training room by the big screen, which is a smart board, which is basically a computer we’d use to go online directly with the state EMA. That leads to space problems because in that situation we would also have a lot of responders that we need to feed and rest while also serving those in the shelter.”

The solution, Polky and the shelter committee believe, is moving the shelter to the St. George School. “The school is now all for it,” Polky says, which was not the case before the school became its own Municipal School Unit. “Being there would not only separate the shelter from the first responders, but there’s also a better kitchen, there’s more room, more shower facilities and restroom facilities.”

The only problem is that the school currently is not equipped with a generator, a cost of about $80,000.

“The generator itself isn’t the big cost,” Polky notes. “The big cost is getting it wired. A lot of people don’t realize that at the school a lot of the wiring goes underground from outside into the building. And the building itself was built in different stages so it is really complicated how we are going to get the wires from the outside into the inside. I’ve talked to a couple of contractors and the best way to do it is to place another conduit into the building from the outside which is where the cost is.”

Polky believes the first draft of the next year’s town budget, at least, will have some provision for reserving money for the generator. But there are competing needs and factors that will have to be taken into consideration before a final budget document is assembled.

In the meantime, Polky and the rest of his Emergency Management team, including shelter committee members like the Percivals, are focused on what can be done now, which will include continuing to run the emergency shelter in the Fire Department Training Room. Aside from the planning work St. George does as part of Knox County Emergency Management, which is also part of state and federal efforts, the team is focused on alerting St. George households to what they can do to shelter successfully at home.

The emergency shelter committee has been refining a handout listing recommendations for the kind of “emergency readiness supplies” that people will likely need when an emergency occurs, whether at home or if they need to stay at the town’s shelter. The handout also includes a confidential form to fill out if someone wants to request some assistance when an emergency arises.

“We’ve especially wanted to stress that the emergency shelter is pet friendly,” Bonnie Percival adds. “One of the largest deterrents to people seeking shelter is that they don’t want to leave their pets.”

But sheltering in place, having the means to do that, Polky believes, is “probably the way we need to push people to go. And what we have been recommending is that if you have a generator and if you are willing to share it with your neighbors, let your neighbors know. We want it to be more neighbors and neighborhoods looking out for each other.”

Having the town’s shelter, whether in its current location or eventually at the school, he adds, is a key backup plan, but he stresses that keeping off the roads in bad weather is also important, especially for the town’s signifiant aging population. “We very strictly and vocally tell everyone if you need to get here we’ll come get you. I’d much rather come and bring people to the shelter than have to pick them up off the side of the road.” —JW

(The St. George Temporary Community Emergency Shelter handouts that the shelter committee has prepared can be obtained at the Town Office, the Jackson Memorial Library, the Tenants Harbor and Port Clyde post offices and at the Community Development Corporation office at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor.)

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

Tracking otter sign in the snow

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Otter maze at Goose Point

In my opinion there is no better medium for finding animal “sign” than snow. The thought of following early-morning tracks and trails in fresh snow brings out a special level of giddiness anticipation (giddipation) in trackers. The lessons are so immediate—tracks being laid at most a handful of hours prior to finding– tracking can be such a great way to learn what your wildlife neighbors are up to in the wee hours. And if I have a choice between trails, I always follow otters—take that mink!

North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is the species of otter found in Maine and there are lots of them along the entire coast (and probably inland as well). River otters are rather large, mostly nocturnal members of the weasel family (Mustelidae), growing in lengths up to 3.5 feet long and weighing around 30 pounds. They are referred to as “semi-aquatic,” spending most of their waking hours in water and coming to land when denning, marking a territory or moving from one body of water to another. Typical otter territories are between 3-15 sq. miles and it may take an individual several days before passing through an area twice. To accommodate this infrequency, an otter (or otters) will have several dens scattered throughout a single territory, as well as multiple latrines to maintain neighborly boundaries between visits.

North American River Otter

 

Otter spraint

Latrines, or marking areas, are exactly what they sound like—spots where river otters routinely scat, or “spraint,“ as well as use scent glands for marking. Otters use latrines as message boards, relaying information whether a territorial otter is in another corner of its territory, or just around the corner in a den. Otters are creatures of habit and locate their latrines in places where other otters are likely to look for them (smart). Hot spots are points of land that stick out in ponds and coves, where creeks meet, where otter overland trails begin or end (depending on which way you look at it), and close to (and sometimes on top of) dens. Latrines may be visited for years and by multiple generations. Littered with fish scales and matted down grasses, otter latrines are easy to find and can be numerous around lakes and shorelines. For the typical otter enthusiast, a latrine offers clues to the number of otters in an area and, more importantly, if they have been in the area recently.

With five inches or so of snow predicted to start mid-day on December 9th I checked eight of my favorite otter latrines—four in Tenants Harbor marsh and four in the Long Cove area—before they got covered. I was happy to find all my latrines active, with sign of a single otter using the latrines along Long Cove and multiple otters using the latrines in the marsh. With some snooping around two of the more heavily used latrines, I came across two new otter dens (new for me that is)! The dens were classic in that one was in tree roots and the other was in a pile of granite shrapnel left over from the quarrying days. Habitats wild and human provided. Simple, active otter-sized openings in the ground with excessively sprainted marking areas nearby told the story here. My first two-otter-den day in quite some time.

The next morning I followed my giddipation and ventured to the latrines in the marsh (right out the back door!). Within minutes I was on the trail of a pair of otters that had worked their way up from town and to a large latrine associated with a den my son Leif and I found a few years ago. This latrine is sweet—a relatively high, steep point along the marsh shoreline that otters still can scurry up and onto. Once on top, the way down is perfect for belly slides, and sure enough there were two 10-foot slides heading down the incline and into the water. Otter belly slides are so cool—there is a part of me that only likes animals that belly slide.

Seeing that the otters had come from the lower marsh, I decided to head over to the library trail and to what the kids named “Goose Point” a few years back (apparently the point acts as a latrine for multiple species).  Low, bare rock jutting out as a point into the water; it just feels like a place that otters would visit. And to little surprise, trails clearly showed where the otter pair broke through the thin ice and made their way up and over the point, marking the very top. Slow meandering belly slides led to where the otters went under the ice and re-entered the chilly marsh.

The otter pair in the marsh was probably out of the water for less than a minute total while visiting the latrines, but left evidence in their trails that could be found for much of the day. Most people don’t get to see otters on a regular basis (me included), but I’ll take the tracks, trails and belly slides anytime. It’s what gets me up and out on snowy mornings.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A good outing for school team at Lego League competition

By Leilani Myers
On November 18, 2017 the St.George Steam Powered Dragons competed in the  first Lego League competition in Western Maine, at Spruce Mountain High School. The team was Bennett Mather, Cecil White, Natalie Vanorse, Leah Darling, Jayden Small, Chase Janson, Mila Mathiau, and me, Leilani Myers.

The theme this year for the competition was Hydrodynamics. We had to base pretty much everything we did on water. All of the tasks that had been built for the Lego playing field were based on water problems.

There were five different stages to the competition. The first stage we had was Code Judging. This was when we got our code for the robot checked over to see how efficient and creative it was. Next was stage two, Water Project Judging. In this stage, we explained what we did to try and solve a problem in our community and how we did that. We discussed how bad the water tasted in our school and tried to come up with a solution.  We applied for a grant to see if we could get enough money to afford a water filling station with a filter in our school. This way kids would be healthier and stay hydrated.  Our third stage was our Robot Design Judging. This stage was the most simple one of all. All we had to do was explain how we came up with the attachments for our robot. The judges were impressed with our innovative design.  Stage four was Core Values Judging. We had to explain our poster on core values and do an activity involving collaboration.  Our fifth and final stage was the part when we showed off our programing skills on the playing field. We participated in three rounds and had three tries to do all of our tasks. On each round every team had two minutes and thirty seconds to complete their tasks. There were six tables and 24 teams and everyone got to go three times. The first round we went on we completed three out of four of our coded tasks. Same with the second and third rounds. We made it to the semi-final match and played up to the fourth round, before being eliminated. It was very exciting!

We came in sixth place and did not receive any trophies. But sixth is really good for a first-year team.  It was a very busy and nerve-wracking day, but in the end we were all proud of what we accomplished and went home proud.  Thank you to our mentors, Amy Palmer and Paul Meinersmann and everyone else who contributed to this team.

(Myers is a 6th grade student at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Amy Palmer

Thank you, St. George

A huge Thank You to all the volunteers and donors who helped to make the First Annual Thanksgiving Community Meal a great success.  Community members cooked turkeys, peeled vegetables, mashed potatoes and shared their time to provide a warm meal with holiday cheer for neighbors and friends.  All of the food was distributed to St. George families either at the table on Wednesday, November 22 or by delivery to their homes on Thanksgiving day.  The volunteers and donors were amazing and ranged in age from 5 to 83.

We’d like to extend additional thanks to the local organizations that came together to make this event a success:  Neighbor to Neighbor for offering to provide rides and deliver meals; Blueberry Cove for the use of their pots and pans and cold storage; the St. George Town Office for the use of their kitchen to carve turkeys; the St. George Fire Department for the chairs and tables; the St. George Business Alliance Members for turkey and dessert donations; the students and staff at St. George School for peeling and preparing vegetables, Ms. Smith’s second grade glass for the pies; St. George School for allowing the use of their gym and kitchen; and Herring Gut Learning Center for the delicious vegetables.

This event was truly community-powered and we can’t wait to do it all again next year.  Have thoughts to share on this community event? Send an email to info@stgeorgecommunity.org or give the St. George Community Development Corporation a call at 207-372-2193.  Better yet, stop by our office at 47 Main Street, Tenants Harbor on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays from 9 am-2 pm.  Happy Holidays!

—St. George Community Development Corporation

An invitation to celebrate the Chandlers’ ministry

Walden and Elaine Chandler, the pastors at the First Baptist Church of St. George in Wiley’s Corner for the past 22 years, are retiring at the end of December.  They have been an important part of many lives and vessels of God’s light in the St. George community. With their cards, phone calls, meals, and visits they have lifted the spirits of the lonely, the discouraged, and the grieving. Through music and teaching, Walden and Elaine have brought joy and gentle instruction to seeking souls. Please join the church, neighbors, and friends in thanking them for their years of service. All are welcome and invited to a retirement party and celebration of the ministry of the Chandlers at the St. George Grange Sunday, December 31st at 3 PM.
—Josh McPhail

Testing the feasibility of what seems a ‘natural partnership’

As Children’s Librarian Sharon Moskowitz tells it, the idea behind a new, year-long pilot collaboration between the St. George School and the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) began three years ago with some simple trips up the hill path between the library and the school.
“It started with a modest idea where I made a weekly visit with a stack of books to one of the third grade classes at the school,” Moskowitz explains. “The following year the third graders started coming here for their library visit, just to exchange books. Then the fourth grade teacher approached me and said they’d like to do the same thing. So they were making weekly visits just to exchange books.”

And then the St. George School became its own Municipal School Unit and Mike Felton, the school’s new superintendent, came to Moskowitz with a question. “He approached me and said, doesn’t it make sense that we collaborate?” Moskowitz says. “And I said, yes, it’s a natural partnership. So after having some discussion about it [which involved the library’s board of trustees and other school officials], we decided let’s give it a shot.”

Sharon Moskowitz

Currently, Moskowitz notes, the kindergarten through fifth grade classes come down to the JML each week—the kindergarten through second grade classes come for their “library block” time, and the third through fifth graders come to exchange books. “The library block for the younger kids is 45 minutes, so allowing for travel time down and back up the hill, they are actually here 30 to 35 minutes. There are also days I will go up to their classrooms. We read a couple of books and do an activity—I love to connect an activity with the story, whether a science activity or something like that. It makes it tangible for the students.”

Moskowitz reflects on what she sees as the positive effect on the kids of actually leaving the school and coming to the library. “For one thing, by coming to the library the kids are learning how to enter a public building where there are other users, that there’s a certain element of appropriate behavior required, that this place is not just for kids. And if they don’t remember to bring their books back they can’t get a book that week, so they are also learning responsibility.”

Many of the students, too, Moskowitz notes, “are first-generation library users,” which is not unusual in a rural community and in an on-line culture. That means much of her focus is on showing these novice library users just what a library is all about. “We take a tour of the library so they know what the library can offer them. I try to let them know there are resources here for information as well as for entertainment and that we have computers. But I think that mainly they like to come and look through the books. And every time they come they have a better idea of what they are looking for and what interests them.”

When Moskowitz is asked about what she hopes will come of the students’ more intense exposure to the JML under the current pilot program, she speaks about both short-term and long-term impacts. “I want to see the kids coming in, having an idea of what they’re looking for, being comfortable asking for help, and really being happy to be here—maybe even coming in during non-school hours and coming with their family. I also hope they will become life-long readers, and that they will learn that when they go off into the world that in any city, in any community, a library is one place they can go and be welcomed.”

While the idea of a partnership between the library and the school seems a no-brainer—as Moskowitz points out, “the school and the JML have the same mission, which is to be of service to the kids of this community”—the reason for calling the new school-day programming a “pilot program” has to do with the feasibility of sustaining the new operation while also maintaining and, hopefully, expanding other youth-oriented library services. These include the pre-K and after-school programs, but also special programs such as the exceptional month-long “Leaps of Imagination” arts program for fourth graders.

“The support for the pilot program has been wonderful from both the school and the library,” Moskowitz acknowledges, “but the library is definitely going to need to find extra resources for it. I’m hopeful, though, that as more community people see it in action they’ll understand the benefit and help provide that additional support.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Betsy Welch; bottom, Julie Wortman

Sea watchin’ (part one)

Nature Bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Long-tailed Duck

A co-worker of mine recently asked me what I was “on the lookout for” in late fall. I told her “seabirds and hunters.” Her reply focused entirely on the hunter portion of my message and was laden with “you better wear orange” kind of stuff (like I was born in Jersey or something!). I figure that she may not be familiar with “seabirds” or that she just doesn’t really care/think much about them. (The truth most likely being a fine mix of the two options). Seabirds may not be for everybody, I guess. But they are stacking up in a harbor near you just waiting to be observed!

Young Northern Gannet

“Seabird” is a loose, generic term referring to any species of bird that spends much, if not all their time at sea. Birds like tubenoses (shearwaters, albatrosses, storm-petrels), alcids (puffins, murres, guillemots), gannets and certain species of gulls and terns may spend their entire lives in and around the ocean, visiting land only to nest. These birds truly are pelagic.  Other birds such as loons, grebes and sea ducks nest on inland and northern freshwater ponds and lakes in the late spring and summer and then may spend the rest of the year in salt water.

Seabirds put a twist in the generalized understanding that “birds head south for the winter.” For these avian buddies, the coast of Maine may be their “southern” destination—potentially having travelled thousands of miles for the honor of keeping their featherless feet in the Gulf of Maine’s chilly waters all winter. These are hardcore visitors.

The “primo” way to observe sea birds is, of course, by getting on the water. However, many people don’t keep a boat in the water this time of the year, and some may even have had their sea kayak crushed in the “Storm of 2017” (that was me!). For those folks, doing a “sea watch” from land offers a great, and sometimes an even better, alternative for watching seabirds rather than heading out for a rocky ride on the sea.

Harlequin Duck

Finding a “comfortable” spot out of the wind and with a view of the ocean are key for a good sea watch. Places like Marshall Point and local harbors and coves can offer protected and sheltered waters for overwintering/visiting birds, often resulting in close views.  Binoculars are a must for sea watching—and a spotting scope can really expand your range of observation. Bringing coffee, tea or warming beverage of your choice is also highly recommended.

November was a wonderful month for observing from Marshall Point. “Standard” seabirds, species I saw on every visit, were Common Loon, Northern Gannet, Surf Scoter, Common Eider, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Ducks. This is an excellent group to be able to watch on a regular basis. Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Black Duck have become standards for coves and harbors as well.

And as with anything in nature, you never can tell what might show up on a sea watch. “Non-standards” or infrequently seen seabirds that I have observed from Marshall Point recently have been Red-throated Loon, Harlequin Duck, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, as well as Purple Sandpiper, Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle on the islands and ledges just off the point. The sea watching has been great to say the least.

And with fall wrapping up and things freezing up north, sea watches should be getting even more productive as more and more birds show up for the winter, warming an observer to the soul even on the coldest days. It’s always the right time to be outside, so warm up some grinds, grab your binos and we’ll see you out there.

Fibonacci

Recently in math class, we seventh-graders have been studying some number patterns that are repeated throughout the universe. We learned about a young boy named Leonardo Fibonacci, who grew up in medieval Italy.  He loved numbers and spent his life studying them. He discovered that many things in nature follow a certain pattern. He is famous for his word problem about multiplying rabbits, that you may have heard about.  But we learned that you can see the Fibonacci sequence of numbers in so many things: the spirals in pineapples, pine cones, sunflowers, tree leaf growth. And ram’s horns, waves and nautilus shells also all follow the pattern!

 

To get the special sequence you start with 1 and 1. Then you add to get the next number: 2, then keep adding the last two numbers: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,  21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on.

To go along with our math, we did artwork based on Fibonacci spirals, which we made using the Fibonacci sequence. We also discovered Fibonacci poems: Poems that use the number sequence to guide the number of syllables for each line. In English Language Arts we wrote poems to accompany our artwork.  These will soon be displayed on the walls at school. Come on in to see them.

Maggie Gill is a seventh-grade student at the St. George School.

A migration of cranes…

The crane is admired for its beauty, and in many cultures is a symbol of good fortune, fidelity, loyalty, long life, and associated with inner and outer peace.

In Japan the crane is thought to be a mystical, holy creature that lives for a thousand years.  Legend has it that anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 origami paper cranes in one year (one for each year in a crane’s life) will be granted their most desired wish.

After a year of engaging in the practice of making 1,000 cranes, it is my wish to release them into the world and to share their blessings and beauty.  A migration of sorts…

They are $1 each, singly or in strings, to benefit the St. George Fire and Rescue. Find them at the CDC office, the library, town office and Port Clyde post office.

—Wende McIlwain

Letters

To the editor:
We want to commend Alane Kennedy for the super job she did in organizing the first annual community Thanksgiving dinner.  The process of bringing the community together—the food, the volunteers, the camaraderie—was just outstanding.  As new home owners to St. George, we were impressed with the caring exhibited with this event.
Mel and Diane Myler

A letter from The Dragon staff

Dear Friends,
As we approach the end of our fifth year of publication, we are celebrating our 100th issue. We wish to thank the many businesses and organizations who have supported us by advertising in our pages and in our online edition. We couldn’t do this without you! Many of our advertisers have been with us since the very first issue on May 9, 2013, which featured a cover story about the recent refurbishment of the Laura B, Monhegan Boat Line’s familiar ferry vessel (right).

We also thank our loyal readers, who engage us with comments, story ideas, letters and photos. We love to hear from you—keep it coming!

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year!

        Julie Wortman & Betsy Welch