Summertime in the Belgrades
June 22 – 29
Training Future Lake Stewards
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by Pete Kallin
Although according to the calendar summer has barely begun, it is already flying by with lots going on. Most of our snowbird summer residents are back already and increasing numbers of out of town visitors are appearing. Every day it is harder to find a parking spot in the village. As schools are getting out, more and more young faces are appearing throughout the watershed. This week began with a weekend visit from an old friend followed by a multi-day trip to western Maine with a couple of short hikes and fishing trips in between.
My friend, Steve Jurmu, whom I have known since he was born six months after I was, came for a visit. Steve's mother was my mother's best friend and growing up, we spent our summers together on the shores Lake Michigan in Escanaba, Michigan, a small Upper Peninsula town that has much in common with Belgrade Lakes. As kids, we spent nearly every day fishing, swimming, sailing, water skiing, and going on hikes. During his visit we became kids again, and tried to cram as many of those activities as possible into a couple of days. We relived many old memories and created new ones. I look forward to our next chance to get together.
The weather has continued to be inconsistent, sometimes warm, sometimes cool and windy, sometimes wet, sometimes dry. The local hiking trails are in pretty good shape, very lush, and I expect much better mushroom foraging than last year. There is a group of dog owners who, almost every day, get together early in the morning to hike BRCA's Mountain Trail off Mountain Drive.
Hiking with a dog is a great way to really learn a property and see how it changes over the season. Dogs keep you in shape because they won't let you skip too many days. Their senses, especially smell, are keener than yours and they will usually spot most wildlife before you do. The BRCA allows dogs on our hiking trails, but the dogs must be under the control of the owner, either on lead or under verbal control. If your dog, "does its business" on the trail, please take a stick and move it well off the trail into the woods. If you see hikers approaching, please put your pet "on lead" until they pass, in case they are not "dog people."
Among the many hats I wear, I serve as the president of the board of the Maine Lakes Society, a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to protecting the health of Maine's lakes for future generations through science-based education, action, and policy.
In addition to overseeing the LakeSmart Program for lake associations across Maine, we have a program called LakesAlive, designed to help train tomorrow's lake stewards. We have a 30-ft floating classroom, the Melinda Ann, which we use to take school students and other youth groups out on Maine lakes to give them some hands-on, experiential lake science, such as doing plankton tows and Secchi depth readings.
Last week, sponsored by the Kezar Lake Watershed Association, Phil Mulville and I towed the Melinda Ann to Kezar Lake where we took nearly 50 students from Molly Ockett Middle School and New Suncook Elementary School out over two days, teaching them a bit about watersheds and lake science. The kids had a ball and learned a lot. On the 5th of July, thanks to the Onion Foundation and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, we will be conducting a similar program at Belgrade's Center for All Seasons for their Camp Loon and Camp Golden Pond campers.
This area offers some great outdoor recreation, whether you like to hike, bike, birdwatch, fish, sail, or paddle a canoe or kayak. Pick up a map of the local trails at Day's Store or from the BRCA at the Maine Lakes Resource Center. (Check out the Belgrade Lakes Association's LakeSmart Program while you are there.) Get out and explore! Sign your kids up to learn to sail through the Great Pond Yacht Club. And make sure you take a kid on your next outdoor adventure.
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.