It has been a long snowy winter here in the State of Maine. After months of driving slow, trudging through waist deep snow, and dealing with the mind numbing cabin fever . . . . . . . . . SPRING IS UPON US!!!!!!!!!
Here at the Maine Conservation Corps we have been itching to stretch our legs and get our hands dirty. Now begins the season of pleasantly brisk air, trail work, flowers, Maine’s famous Mud Season, and Earth Day.
This years’ Earth Day activity was organized by Taylor Ouderkirk. Taylor is currently an Environmental Steward serving at the Department of Environmental Protection Volunteer River Monitoring Program. Taylor organized a trash clean-up project on the Kennebec River Rail Trail.
The Kennebec River Rail Trail runs 6.5 miles from Augusta to Gardiner, Maine. Following alongside an old railway, the trail winds under bridges, next to houses, and provides visitors with an excellent view of the Kennebec River. The Kennebec River Rail Trail is one of many trails that are part of the East Coast Greenway, which runs along the east coast of the United States and Canada. The Rail Trail was established and is maintained by the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail. This local non-profit organization helped to organize the trail’s construction, raise grant match money, and maintains the trail for non-motorized use.
I joined Taylor as one of his volunteer on Monday the 20th of April, a few days before Earth Day proper at the Gardiner entrance to the Kennebec Rail Trail. Armed with nothing but gloves, trash bags, and our wits, Taylor and his volunteers walked a length of the trail from Gardiner to Farmingdale collecting trash, returnables, cigarette butts, and any other man made refuse that offended the eye. Joining him were three volunteers, and MCC members Deidrah Stanchfield, Krista Rogers, and myself. It was the first time I had seen Taylor in several weeks.
He seemed very happy to have his volunteer event work out, saying:
“I chose the Rail Trail because I wanted to do a project that would benefit a large number of people in the Augusta area; and would be easily accessible to volunteers. The Rail Trail serves as an outdoor recreational outlet for a lot of people living in Augusta and the surrounding areas, so it can get pretty dirty over the course of a long winter.”
We were greeted by many locals during our work. More than once a visitor stopped to thank us for the work that we were doing. Among the Volunteers was an informal contest for who could find the most interesting piece of trash. The winner by consensus was Krista Rogers who found the lost ruby slipper of a Barbie Princess.
This was the first time I had ever visited the Kennebec River Rail Trail myself. I was very pleased with the experience. The walk was very pleasant and the scenery was diverse and engaging. We found ourselves next to wood lots, under bridges, next to old railways, and along the length of the Kennebec River. I got see the local shops and businesses from a perspective I was not used to. Where the river is often merely in the background as I drive by, on Monday it was the dominant component of the landscape.
Taylor concluded: “Overall, I would consider the project a success. Together, the seven of us cleaned up just over a mile of the trail starting at the Gardiner entrance. We collected four bags of trash and one with recyclable bottles and cans. . . . . . .It was a great day to be outside doing something positive for the local community.”
This Post Written and Prepared by Dylan Cookson: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Volunteer and Outreach Corrdinator
Contributions to the article made by:
- Taylor Ouderkirk: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Environmental Steward with DEP Volunteer River Monitoring