Bog Bridge

Maine can be a very wet state- we are famous for our lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. All of these places are very big parts of Maine culture and contribute to the appeal of our natural landscape. Less well remembered are our bogs, our mud holes, and the wet areas that hikers sink into during their travels.
Water is always a concern for building trails in Maine. On slopes, water bars and grade dips are used to slow erosion. In low areas trails need to be built so that hikers can comfortably traverse through wet areas. One of the simplest trail structures one can build is a Bog Bridge.

Bog bridges are a quick, easy way to make a good walking surface in a wet area. They have some disadvantages; they won’t last as long as stone or gravel, but they can be built from wood in areas where stone is not available or where gravel would wash away. Since 2011, the Maine Conservation Corps has been responsible for the construction of more than 19,000 feet of bog bridging throughout the state of Maine.

Bog bridges are built with sills and stringers. Sills rest on the ground and support the stringers. The stringers are staked to the sills and provide the walking surface. The dimensions of the building materials affect how well the bridge wears: sills need to be large enough to provide buoyancy in moist soils but small enough so that the bridge is not difficult to step up onto. Stringers need to be thick enough so that they do not flex when an adult hiker is walking on them. If they flex too much they may be prone to breaking after a few seasons.

It is important to use wood from species that are more resistant to rotting. Cedar is best because it can last for more than two decades in wet conditions without succumbing to rot.  Hemlock and Red Spruce are good options too and can last more than 12 years.

Here are some photos of some of the Maine Conservation Corps more recent bog bridging projects.

Photos are from Deidrah Stanchfield, VCL Training Coordinator

2013-06-24 10.46.39 2013-06-24 10.46.51 2013-06-24 10.46.58  2013-06-24 10.49.39 2013-06-24 10.49.42  2013-11-02 15.09.15 2014-05-30 11.18.59 2014-07-15 10.53.55  2014-08-11 08.59.55

This Post Written and Prepared by Dylan Cookson: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Volunteer and Outreach Corrdinator

Contributions to the article made by:

  • Deidrah Stanchfield: Community Leader Training Coordinator and MCC/AmeriCorps Alumna who provided photographs

Content derived from instructions written by Lester Kenway

Feathers Over Freeport

Henry David Thoreau once said: “The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever!”

Naturalists and recreationists celebrate every year when springtime returns to Maine. Spring brings the return of warm weather, deer come out of their wintering grounds, smaller animals wake from their torpor, and migratory birds return from their seasonal homes in the south. ‘Feathers over Freeport’ is the first birding festival of the year in Maine and takes place on the last weekend in April. This year Hannah Colbert, a MCC Community Leader hosted at Wofe’s Neck Woods State Park, had the opportunity to take part in Maine’s celebration of the return of our feathered neighbors at ‘Feathers Over Freeport.’

Feathers Over Freeport is held at Wolf’s Neck Woods and Bradbury Mountain State Parks, and is cosponsored by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands, and Freeport Wild Bird Supply. Bradbury hosted Saturday’s events and Hannah was there for the day to help organize the event and run some of the activities.

First thing in the morning, Hannah joint-lead a children’s bird walk with Janet Mangione of Ferry Beech State Park. The walk took a group of children and their families around the trails next to the parking area. She and Janet did a good job of keeping the children engaged, often shifting the focus when the children started getting restless.

Hannah and Janet address parents and kids before the walk.

The kids were bright and enthusiastic; they often competed with each other to see who could answer a question the fastest. Using photos and plush bird toys, Hannah and Janet gave kids a look at any bird they didn’t get to see up close, and quizzed them on the names of birds using photographs. Live and recorded bird calls and wild nests in trees were also used as teaching aids for the crowd of youngsters.

After the tour, Hannah spent the rest of the day teaching kids about the materials at the bird table display.  She said: “I like interpreting the bird table for the kids. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff over there: the eggs and the bird calls and the ’What’s It’ boxes.” A ‘What’s It’ box is frequently used for interpretive programs in Maine. It is a box that has a folding lid with a hole and a rubber curtain. Children then reach inside and try to guess what object they are feeling. The ‘What’s-It Boxes’ at Hannah’s table contained feathers, gummy worms, and a replica of an egg. There were other materials at the table including some props related to bird anatomy and biology, for instance a skull from an Osprey. “The skull is always popular.” Hannah said.

Photo Apr 25, 11 01 34 AM

Park system staff were very busy organizing the weekend’s events. In addition to the activities and workshops, attendees were treated to free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and coffee from Birds & Beans®. Birds & Beans® is a company that produces coffee certified to be bird friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. After co-leading the bird-walk with Hannah, Janet helped the program wherever she could. She engaged kids at the interpretive bird tables and served ice cream. This was Janet’s third or fourth year attending Feather’s Over Freeport. She was enthusiastic about the program and the smile never faded from her face the entire morning.

Derek and Jeanette Lovitch are the owners of Freeport Wild Bird Supply, and are also a pair of experienced birders. They have been leading Hawk watching programs at Bradbury for years. Derek has been bird watching for as long as he can remember, while Jeanette began just after graduating college while working as a biologist in Colorado. Feathers Over Freeport has its origins five years ago, when Derek was having a conversation with park management. “After the parks had an idea for a ‘bird day,’ I suggested we broaden the scope of the event and it just began to snowball from there.” Derek said. The couple leads and organizes workshops for hawk watching and bird walks at the event.

I really wanted to see that bird.
I really wanted to see that bird.

Fritz Applebee and Andy Hutchinson are the Park Managers of Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck Woods, respectively. Andy, was in charge of organizing children’s activities and the volunteers and staff that help make the event happen. He had Teresa Torrance from the Maine Coastal Program helping the kids at the free-form arts table. Andy also commented that the program had “Gary Best, the Assistant Regional Supervisor for Southern Region Parks building bird houses. That’s pretty cool, helping kids build bird houses they can take home with them.”

Gary Best was pleased with the bird house activity: “It was a great way for the kids to learn about habitat for wildlife right in their back yard and improve [that] habitat.” The kids’ painting station was placed beside the station for building bird houses for the first time; it gave the kids the chance to paint the bird houses before bringing them home. Gary commented:“[It] was really rewarding, and I’m sure the kids had a great time too.”

Fritz revealed that the bird houses were his favorite activity. He also had encouraging words about the event’s attendance, which has grown since the festival started in 2010. “We have seen the activity pick up. There is a lot of interest in it this year. . . . I think we are having a very good turnout… Word is getting out.” He noted.

When speaking of plans for future years, Derek said he wished to continue growing the event. This was the first year that Leica Sport Optics had been involved in the event. They co-sponsored the hawk watch and displayed some of their products. “They have some ideas for next year as well, so we look forward to that, and always, adding some new and different events and workshops.  Personally, I would like to explore the possibility of re-adding a Saturday evening Keynote presentation as we did in the first two years of Feathers over Freeport.”


Wind Over Wings

Photo Apr 25, 1 26 59 PM
Aiden the Kestrel

A very special event happened in the early afternoon on both the Saturday and Sunday of the festival. At 1 pm a crowd gathered around the picnic tables. Most of the programs attendants were present, holding cameras anxiously waiting for the event to begin. A presentation was being given by Wind Over Wings, a nonprofit wildlife education organization based in Dresden, Maine. Wind Over Wings houses and cares for birds with debilitating injuries. They run education programs and presentations with these birds as their Keynotes.

Each of the birds in Wind Over Wing’s program have had to overcome great personal hardships; most were severely injured due to human activity: Tansy the Eastern Screech Owl lost one of her eyes in a car collision; Aiden, the American Kestrel, suffered severe head trauma in 2012 and has a displaced lens in his left eye.

The two most impressive birds were Chaplin the Red-Tailed Hawk and Skywalker the Golden Eagle. The birds were much larger than their little companions. While Aiden and Tansy perched on their presenters fingers, Chaplin perched on the wrist of a gloved hand. Hope Douglas, President of Wind Over Wings, had to support her hand with a cane while holding Skywalker.

Skywalker the Eagle
Skywalker the Eagle

Chaplin and Skywalker share a similar history: Chaplin was accidently shot on a shooting range. and Skywalker was shot out of the sky by an unnamed poacher. Chaplin’s wing healed improperly and he is unable to fly more than a few feet at a time. Skywalker had to have his entire injured wing amputated and is unfortunately permanently unable to fly.

At first, SkyWalker was highly suspicious of people. During his recovery however, he began approaching the staff of Wind Over Wings and showing signs of curiosity. Over time he developed a special rapport with Hope Douglas. She demonstrated their personal connection by singing to Skywalker in front of the crowd and to everyone’s delight, Skywalker sang back. Every few verses of Hope’s song about friendship, Skywalker would open his beak and produce a soft Eagle cry. Hope commented on how Skywalker’s story tends to resonate with people. During a presentation at a Special Olympics event a child jumped up and exclaimed: “He’s just like me!”

The crowd was very energized and eagerly took pictures of the feathered visitors. One man from the audience commented that he had attended ‘Feathers Over Freeport’ before and that the presentation from Wind Over Wings was always his favorite part. The birds arrived and departed in wooden carrying cases with affixed brass name tags. Wind Over Wings was scheduled to present again on Sunday at Wolfe’s Neck Woods.

This Post Written and Prepared by Dylan Cookson: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Volunteer and Outreach Corrdinator

Contributions to made by:

  • Hannah Colbert: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Environmental Steward with DEP Volunteer River Monitoring
  • Gary Best: Assistant Regional Supervisor for Maine’s Southern Region Parks
  • Fritz Applebee: Park Manager of Bradbury Mountain State Park
  • Andy Hutchinson: Park Manager of Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park
  • Derek and Jeanette Lovitch: Owners of Freeport Wild Bird Supply
  • Janet Mangione: Park Ranger of Ferry Beech State Park
  • Whitney Bushey: MCC/AmeriCorps Alumna who provided photographs for this post

Earth Day 2015 With Maine Conservation Corps

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!!!!!!!!!20150417_102001

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.

Taylor Ouderkirk at his Earth-Day project in Gardiner, Maine.

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.

20150420_101108I 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.

20150420_101111This 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

Maine Conservation Corps Announces April Volunteers of the Month!

The Maine Conservation Corps is happy to announce that April’s Volunteers of the Month are Barbara and Charlie Grunden of Falmouth, Maine. The couple was nominated by Liz Deletetsky an Environmental Steward at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Liz commented that the pair is known to “walk through ankle breaking terrain for about a half mile to get to the work site. They work hard and always have a great attitude.” Barbara graciously offered some fascinating information about their backgrounds:

Barbara has a history in science education and has studied general and natural sciences. After taking some courses at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, she became an Environmental Educator and Administrator at a small museum within the New York State park system.

IMG_1597The Grundens spent time in the Marshall Islands where Charlie worked as a high powered radar engineer. After two years overseas, they returned to Maine’s Downeast area. Barbara began volunteering with the Audubon Society and joined the Josselyn Botanical Society. Charlie finished off his career as the manager of the Columbia Falls Air Force radar facility where he worked with Over the Horizon Backscatter Radar. The couple moved to Southern Maine after Charlie retired at the age of 65.

Barbara has been an active member in the Plant Conservation Volunteer program since its first crew was established. She is active in monitoring vernal pools, New England Cotton Tails, Heron rookeries and invasive plants through Invasive Plant Atlas of New England. In addition Barbara is a Seanet volunteer and has been involved in surveys of dragonflies and butterflies. This year she began helping with the Maine Bumblebee Survey. She has been volunteering with Rachel Carson longer than she can remember and has been pulling invasive garlic mustard for as long as it has been there. Charlie is her constant companion on her expeditions and is in charge of the GPS and Camera.

The MCC offers many volunteer opportunities every year! If you are interested in volunteering with us, please check out our account on Volunteer Maine.

This Post Written and Prepared by Dylan Cookson: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Volunteer and Outreach Corrdinator

Contributions to the article made by:

  • Liz Deletetsky: AmeriCorps Member and MCC Environmental Steward at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
  • Barbara and Charlie Grunden

An AmeriCorps State Program