Prehistoric trees saved from Australia’s fires

By Sara Spary, CNN

 January 16, 2020

An ancient grove of pine trees whose ancestors are thought to have stood tall among dinosaurs some 200 million years ago has been saved from Australian bushfires in a covert firefighting mission.

Firefighters in New South Wales (NSW) were enlisted by the local government to save the prehistoric Wollemi Pine grove, which exists in a secret location within the 5,000-square-kilometer (1,930-square-mile) Wollemi National Park northwest of Sydney.

There are fewer than 200 Wollemi Pines left in the wild.

The oldest fossil of the rare pine species dates back 90 million years and the pines are thought to have existed during the Jurassic period.

Large air tankers of fire retardant were dropped inside the remote grove as part of the mission, while specialist firefighters attached to helicopters were winched down to set up an irrigation system to protect the trees from catching alight.

Swathes of the Wollemi National Park have been affected by the devastating bushfires and some of the precious pine trees have been charred.

“Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them,” Matt Kean, the NSW environment minister, said in a statement.

“The pines, which prior to 1994 were thought to be extinct and whose location is kept secret to prevent contamination, benefited from an unprecedented environmental protection mission,” he added.

The NSW government had carried out a detailed scientific assessment and, while some trees have been damaged, the species has survived, he said.

Tool Men Help Build Tool Shed

On a warm and foggy late October morning, “Lowes Heros” volunteer employees from Sanford Lowes gathered to help a local community’s non-profit organization, as they do every year. This year’s help was the building of a tool shed for Sanford Community Garden. The “Heros” brought the necessary materials with them, and along with help from Sanford Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust managed to frame up and side the shed, located inside the fenced-in garden area.

More Heros came back later to raise the roof. Sanford Community Garden is part of the Pence Ecology Center, located on the Trust’s 110 acre McKeon Environmental Reserve in Springvale. This shed will be put to good use housing the various garden tools and soil amendments for these organically gardened raised beds, described here: https://mousamwaylandtrust.org/2019/03/07/sanford-community-garden/

Global Warming is Creating Ice in Greenland!

Greenland ice is actually building. Although this seems improbable due to Earth’s increasing temperature, it’s true…AND…it’s increasing sea water level rise!!

Here’s how.
Glaciers form where snow accumulates and, under pressure from the weight of more accumulating snow, forms ice. This usually happens on large, depression-shaped landforms (similar to those which hold lake water) which allow snow to collect and compress under its own weight. This creates granular ice, also called névé. (We see this stuff in early spring, as the surface snow melts.). Further snowfall adds weight, crushing the snow/névé layers to create “firn”, as more air is squeezed out. At about 10% air, glacial ice is formed. 

BTW…

…with fewer air bubbles held within the ice, light is less scattered and able to penetrate more deeply into the ice. This effectively absorbs the red and yellow light, and reflects back the blue; hence the “Blue Ice” of the very dense glacial ice. 

Anyway, the ice being formed is not glacial ice; it’s ice slabs, being formed very close to the glaciers surface, above layers of ice crystals called “névé”, or “firn”. The warming temperatures of Earth are melting the snow that falls on the glaciers more quickly than the névé layers of ice crystals below this snowmelt would normally absorb. As the snowmelt sinks into the névé layers, it freezes the layers together, forming a layer of ice on top of the spongy névé layers, effectively damming the snowmelt flow. This causes the water to flow downhill into the ocean instead of becoming an additional layer of névé which would have eventually added to the glacial ice mass. 

There’s a short video here explaining this action.  

BLUE CARBON and SEAGRASS

“Blue Carbon” is the scientifically recognized term defining carbon stored by coastal ecological systems. These systems of seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and seaweed, cover less than 0.5% of the seabed, are equal in size to about 0.05% of the biomass on land, and are responsible for over 50% of all carbon storage in ocean sediment. Through photosynthesis, carbon is captured in the plants and roots as the plants grow, ending up in the sediment where the carbon is stored (sequestered) for up to millions of years. One acre of seagrass can remove the carbon emitted from 4,000 miles of car exhaust each year.

There are about 72 species of flowering plants collectively called seagrasses that evolved from sea algae, moved onto land, and then, about 100 million years ago, transitioned back to the sea. Forming beautiful water-based meadows along coastal floodplains and in water up to 150’ deep, seagrass is a critical food source and habitat for wildlife, supporting a diverse community of fish, snails, sea turtles, crabs, shrimp, oysters, clams, squid, sea urchins, sponges, and anemones. 

Seagrasses have been called “the lungs of the sea”, capturing and storing large amounts of carbon and releasing oxygen into the water as they build their leaves and roots through the process of photosynthesis—similar to how trees take carbon from the air to build their trunks. As parts of the seagrass die and decay, it collects on the seafloor and becomes buried and trapped in the sediment. The sediment forms sedimentary rock under the effects of time and pressure, and through actions of Earth’s tectonic plates, becomes buried in the upper crust; the carbon is thus effectively sequestered for decades and up to millions of years, resurfacing as volcanic spew (lava) and mountain outcrop eruption (magma).

But Blue Carbon ecosystems are being lost by 2-7%/year—a higher rate than even the rainforests. This loss adds to deadly atmospheric carbon by removing seagrasses’ carbon sequestration actions, and also reduces habitat that is vital for managing the health and viabilities of our climate, our coasts, our health, and a multitude of plants & animals.   

Seagrass habitats are threatened by many anthropogenic (human) activities. Paved surfaces cause heavy runoffs of dirty, unfiltered water from storms and waste-waters. Increased fertilizer use from farms and housing developments, nitrous oxides from various fossil fuel burning activities—auto, factory, electricity generation, home heating—all cause excess nutrient accumulations flowing to the seas. These activities encourage algae blooms like red tide which deplete oxygen, cloud the sunlight, increase the water’s temperature, and release deadly toxins which kill animals, people, and the seagrass meadow. 

Dragging weighted fishing nets over the meadows uproot the plants. Global Warming causes sea levels to rise and ocean acidification, reducing light infiltration, hindering photosynthesis thus causing a decrease in plant growth, health, and plant biodiversity. ( A “wasting disease” in the early 1930’s caused a large die-off of up to 90 percent of a seagrass species called eelgrass growing in temperate North America, causing an extinction of a snail species. ).  

Another cause of seagrass depletion is the reduction of predatory actions upon the herbivore community, allowing these grass-eating animals unfettered access to seagrasses. This situation is mostly caused by over-fishing of the herbivore-eaters. For example, Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs eat grazing snails. Over-harvesting the crabs allows the snails to flourish, destroying the seagrasses.    

Seagrass loss has accelerated over the past few decades, from 0.9% per year prior to 1940 to 7% per year in 1990, with about a 1/3 global loss since WWII. An increase in awareness and protections are required to eliminate these losses and to ensure the health and survival of not only these magnificent habitats, but of us too.

A global assessment, done by the National Academy of Sciences, involving 215 studies found that seagrass habitat has been disappearing at an increasing rate since 1940; 29% has disappeared since seagrass data began in 1879, with 25-50% in the past 55 years. Seagrass loss rates are comparable to those reported for mangroves and coral reefs, and place seagrass meadows among the most threatened ecosystems on earth.

So, vegetative coastal ecological systems are emerging as the most carbon-rich ecosystems in the world, and one of the most effective methods for long-term carbon storage: they bury carbon 35 times faster than tropical forests and contribute 50% of the total carbon buried in ocean sediments. Because of their remarkable speed and effectiveness to sequester carbon for millions of years, Blue Carbon storage should be a key strategy to combat Global Warming. 

https://www.thebluecarboninitiative.org/library#Mangroves; https://www.pnas.org/content/106/30/12377; https://mousamwaylandtrustmaine.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/44722-atwood-et-al.-2015.pdf; https://www.fws.gov/verobeach/MSRPPDFs/Seagrass.pdf; https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/seagrass-and-seagrass-beds#element_37; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633871/ 

GLOBAL OCEAN CONVEYOR BELT: Changes due to Global Warming

Sea water along the equatorial area gets heated by the sun, and the warmed water forms a stratification layer above the colder lower water. Eastern Trade Winds caused by Earth’s rotation and atmospheric temperatures push this water layer, creating the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt (GOCB). 

Part of this GOCB is The Gulf Stream.

The warm water reaches the North Atlantic and Labrador areas, where heat is lost to the atmosphere, mixes with cold water, and sinks. These actions form the North Atlantic Gyre, also known as the Sargasso Sea. As the cooled water sinks, warmer water replaces it, enhancing the GOCB and the Gulf Stream current. The cooled water forms a deep-water channel flowing south, under the Gulf Stream, along the eastern South American and Antarctic coasts, to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Other gyres in the major oceans are also formed and act to further energize the GOCB by the current created by the flowing warm-to-cold water actions.  

The GOCB facilitates heat transfer among the ocean’s seas and atmosphere, thus modulating global warming. 

Increased global carbon levels, through various actions, are causing global warming. Also increasing are the depths of various heat-stratification layers, lessening the heat transfer efficiencies among these layers; the GOCB warm layer is one of these layers. 

The heat of the atmosphere is increasing, lessening the amount of heat transferrable from the oceans to the air. This causes the upper warm ocean layer to both get warmer and get thicker. The lowered water-to-air heat transfer effectively slows the water cooling, slowing the decent of cool water to the deep water current of the GOCB, thus slowing the Gulf Stream. 

The slowed current allows the trade winds to push the Gulf Stream closer to the North American continental shelf and its shallow water, lessening the cooling effects from the cool, deeper water layer. The water thus gets warmer, the warmer water expands, and sea levels rise along the coastline. Due to the Gulf of Maine’s configuration and placement, ocean warming and sea level rise is especially egregious in New England and Maine.     

Adding to this is the fresh water from increased river flowage from increasingly severe storms and the melting of polar caps, ice sheets and glaciers. Fresh water is less dense than sea water so tends to stay at the surface, further increasing the depth of the upper stratified layer of warm water, further decreasing heat transfer actions.

Recent research indicates that the GOCB has been reduced by 15-20% since the mid-1800…the surge of the Industrial Revolution, fossil-fuel burning, and its carbon-releasing effects. Evidence from research of ancient ice cores also suggests that the GOCB is at its weakest point in the past 1600 years. 

Our Climate in 60 Years

Most folks have difficulty relating to the scientists’ warnings relating to climate change due to global warming. A University of Maryland study, with funding from National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey, attempts to clarify these temperature changes. The image above shows our climate just a short 60 years from now, if our governmental policies remain the same. Go to the below interactive map, designed by the researchers of this paper: https://rdcu.be/bXACi.

Interactive map: https://fitzlab.shinyapps.io/cityapp/

Rotarians & Trust Collaborate on Trail Building

On a recent Saturday morning, folks from the Sanford/Springvale Rotary Club and the Sanford/Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust teamed up to install improvements on a trail that follows the western shore of Deering Pond, which is in the Trust’s Hall Reserve in Springvale. Three bridges and two boardwalks will help keep walkers’ feet dry during their walks through this peaceful and historic area just a couple of miles from Springvale Square. 
The Rotary Foundation awarded their local Club a grant, which will also be used to install new trailhead signs, nature interpretative placards along the trail, and a colorful brochure to help folks enjoy the area. The Trust thanks the Rotary Club for their initiative in this community-oriented collaborative effort to build civic awareness and outdoor public activities.

The Natural History of Deering Pond

by Gordon S. Johnston, Professor of Biology, Nasson College, August, 1973

Updated November, 2019

Introduction

       I first saw the pond in the company of students John Holzapfel and Sidney Korn on a cold January morning in 1966. It was an impressive introduction for the ice was groaning. Strain cracks were streaking across the ice from one side of the pond to the other, accompanied in their passage by groaning and renting sounds. During the years 1967 to 1978, with the help of innumerable students, I have witnessed the progress of the seasons at the pond, probed its shores, plumbed its depths, and reflected on its past. Of all of the things that we have learned about the pond, the one aspect that is most meaningful to me is that I now comprehend Henry Thoreau’s love and fascination for Walden Pond. To me, Deering Pond is another Walden. 

History

       That body of water presently known as Deering Pond came into existence sometime before 13,350 years ago during the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier1. The basin in which the pond lies was gouged out of the metamorphic rocks of the Rindgemere formation by earlier glacial advance2. As the ice mass melted, a depression ringed with glacial debris and paved with rock flour was left behind to catch water flowing from the hills and ridges in the vicinity. The original depth of the basin has not been ascertained, but superficial investigations suggest that it must have been at least seventy-five feet deep with a water level several feet higher than at present. Such was the birth of Deering Pond.

       Within a short period of time, the inevitable aging process which afflicts all standing bodies of water commenced. The shallowing process was heralded by the arrival of Sphagnum moss and the growth of plants in the marginal water of the western shore. The growth of these plants was encouraged by the acidic minerals in the surrounding till and bedrock, while at the same time, decay of the organic material was retarded. Consequently, peat, the product of partially decayed organic material, gradually began to accumulate and fill the basin. Analysis of a peat core made by an ecology class in the fall of 1972 indicates that acid-loving diatoms were present quite early in the history of the pond and have predominated ever since. This substantiates suspicions that Deering Pond was predisposed to rapid filling. 

       The first human to view the pond undoubtedly was an Indian for early maps of the area give the name of the pond as Tombegewoc3. Huden4 states that this is an Abenaki word meaning “place of the rocky reef in the pond”. The presence of boulders at or below the water surface support this description.  On the other hand, Eckstom5 contends that the word signifies 

“rapids” and refers to a rapid on the outlet.  Since the stream leaving the pond flows smoothly for some distance, this translation does not seem to apply.  Whatever the case may be, the Indians apparently were familiar with the pond and utilized its fish and plants. 

       There is no available record concerning the first colonist to view the pond. Abraham Preble passed within a half mile of it in 1720 when he was establishing the boundaries of the township3. However, he probably did not see the pond owing to the tree growth which existed at the time. John Deering inherited the land surrounding the pond from his grandfather who previously was granted the land by the Crown for his services in the French-Indian War of 1693. William and Gideon Deering, sons of John, settled about one mile northwest of the pond around 1789. Hence, the pond, Deering Ridge, and the Deering Neighborhood are named for his family. Under a colonial ordinance made at the time Maine was part of the Colony and Province of  Massachu- setts Bay, the State of Maine today has jurisdiction over the pond itself. 

       The presence of stonewalls and barbwire fences indicates that most of the land around the pond was eventually cleared. Rev. Ilsley6 reports in 1872 that the largest mast pines in the State were cut on a lot west of Deering Pond and that the stumps were still present at that time. 

       Human activities up until the years of 1870-1871 apparently had but little influence upon the pond. However, the construction of the Portland and Rochester Railroad (later the Sanford and Eastern) brought about significant alterations in two original sources of water to the pond3

       On the southwest side of the pond, the railroad grade was built across three boggy areas which formally were part of the pond in 1871. Drainage from a marsh to the present pond was blocked, but not without retribution. At the first of these boggy areas, a flat car, standing by itself sank out of sight overnight at the foot of the pond in May of 18713

       On the southwest side of the pond, the grade intercepted the third area that had an inlet stream. The stream flowing from Hanson’s Ridge was diverted into a ditch on the south side of the grade while the former mouth became an outlet of the pond flowing down the north side of the same grade. These modifications of the drainage patterns almost a century ago probably lowered the water level of the pond and stabilized it against seasonal oscillations. In turn, the new water level favored more rapid filling of the basin with organic material.

        Mr. A. J. Rollins of Nasson College secured interesting documentation of the railroad construction in the form of an increment boring taken in 1971 from a large red maple that was growing adjacent to the railroad grade. As a seedling, it had established itself when the land was cleared. For several years it grew vigorously until it was crowded and shaded by other trees that also had invaded the site. It grew slowly for approximately a half a century until 1938, at which time vigorous growth was renewed. Apparently, the hurricane of 1938 blew down the surrounding trees allowing the red maple to stretch in the sunshine. 

       Within the last sixty years, logging operations and a fire in 1953 have occurred on both the eastern and western sides of the pond. The creation of logging roads may have lowered the water level of the pond somewhat, but this was offset by beavers building a dam on the major outlet in the early sixties. These beavers vanished around 1967 and the pond level fell again. In 1971, the beavers re-colonized the pond and established the present day water level. Both the fire and logging have left their marks in the form of mosaic patterns of vegetation that are in various stages of succession. 

Present Day Conditions

       The land around the pond was owned by Nasson College from 1972 to 1983.  It was designated as the Russell Environmental Study Tract in honor of Mrs. Ina Russell who purchased the land from Veterinarian Dr. Ralph Vigue and donated it to the College. The area served as a wildlife preserve, an outdoor classroom, and as a “green space”.  In 1999 the Hall family of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who purchased it at auction, donated this property to the Sanford Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust. Today The Hall Environment Reserve at Deering Pond is a signature holding of the Sanford Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust with the Sanford Railroad Trail on the south, the much improved Vigue Trail on the east, and the Hazen Carpenter Trail circling the west and the north. 

Deering Pond has a surface area of twenty-six acres, a shoreline of approximately 0.8 of a mile, and an average depth of 7.5 feet. The bottom, which is composed of unconsolidated colloidal ooze, is fifteen-feet below the 

surface at its deepest point. This ooze has the remarkable property of forming a gel upon prolonged exposure to the air. In the course of a field trip some years ago, a bucket of sediment was brought back to campus. Somehow the bucket was overlooked for the better part of a year. When it was finally discovered, the contents had acquired the characteristics of  “Jello”. Even though the bucket was turned upside down, the gel remained in place.

       Microscopic examination of the pond sediment has revealed an abundance of diatoms, pollen grains, and sponge spicules in a matrix of granular colloidal floc. Less common components of the sediment include pieces of plant debris and the exoskeletons of insects. On the basis of preliminary study of the microbiology of the sediment, it appears that floc-forming bacteria of the genera Bacillus, Zooglea, Flavobacterium, and Achromobacter, among others are responsible for the production of vast quantities of colloidal floc present in the basin7. In addition, Sarcina and a species of green sulfur bacterium have been tentatively identified in sediment samples. 

       Chemical analysis of the sediment has revealed that more than 56 tons of calcium, 1,300 pounds of potassium and magnesium, and 250 pounds of phosphorus are deposited within the sediment. Moderate amounts of nitrogen particularly in the ammonia form have been detected. The pH of the material ranges from 4-5 and, thus far, has proved to be uniform throughout the sediment mass. 

       The characteristics of the sediment outlined above indicate that this material exerts a prevailing influence upon all living organisms found within the basin. Suspended colloidal material and liberated tannic and humic acids impart a tea color to the water and reduce the depth of light penetration. The average secchi disc depth is around 7 feet. 

       Furthermore, these materials maintain the acidity of the water which retards, but does not inhibit, the decay activity of micro-organisms. Consequently, near the bottom of the sediment, dissolved oxygen is virtually exhausted while the carbon dioxide level is quite high, a situation that favors 

the activity of anaerobic organisms such as the reducing and sulfur bacteria which release methane and hydrogen sulfide respectively. 

       Because nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, etc. are either bound within the undecomposed matter on the bottom or precipitated out of solution in a colloidal complex, the concentration of dissolved substances in the water is extremely low. Thus, the following limiting factors are imposed upon organisms:

1. A low pH; 2. Low nutrient levels; 3. Low dissolved oxygen levels; 4. Warm water temperatures (summer). 

Flora and Fauna

       The limiting factors listed above constitute what is known as a dystrophic condition8, 9.  Since these factors limit the variety of organisms which can exist, the flora and fauna of bog ponds are impoverished. A partial biotic inventory of Deering Pond is listed below.

Aquatic Plants and Animals

       Phytoplankton – quite abundant and relatively diverse: Blue-green algae; Green algae – particularly desmids; Euglenoids; Dinoflagellates; Golden algae – particularly diatoms, that are most abundant. 

       Zooplankton: Protozoans – particularly sarcodinids; Rotifers – most abundant; Water fleas – particularly Daphnia & Bosmina.

       Copepods – particularly Cyclops

       Periphyton – attached forms: Blue-green algae – particularly Nostoc; Green algae; Red algae – particularly Batrachospermum; Sponges; Rotifers; Bryozoans.

       Worms – flatworms, oligochaetes, and leeches common

       Molluscs – quite rare

       Insects – mature and immature forms: 

       Orders: Odonata – dragon and damsel flies; Hemiptera – water bugs; Trichoptera – caddis flies; Diptera – flies and mosquitoes.

       Reptiles – mostly regional turtles – particularly painted and snapping.

       Amphibians – frogs quite abundant, a few salamanders.

       Fish – warm-water species: Suckers, Shiners, Yellow Perch, Minnows, Sunfish, Bullheads, Pickerel, Small-mouth bass introduced in the 1980s.

        Floating Aquatic Plants – water lilies, water shield, floating heart, and bladderwort.

        Emergent Aquatic Plants – spike rushes and cattails

Bog Plants and Animals

         Plants and animals of the bog proper are quite interesting because they represent a subarctic assemblage that is tundra-like9.  Bog soils and sphagnum moss are poor conductors of heat. Consequently, such soils or areas covered with sphagnum moss are generally colder than surrounding soils or areas. The following zones or plant communities are present (cf. Figure 3): 

        Sphagnum mat and heath – at margin of water: Insectivorous plants, Sphagnum moss, Leather leaf, Bog rosemary, Sweet gale, Cranberry (large and small-fruited species), Cotton grass, Orchids, Bog aster, Buttonbush, Purple pitcher-plant.

        Shrub: Sheep laurel, Rhodora, Winterberry, Speckled alder, Mountain holly, Bebb’s Willow, Black spruce, Highbush blueberry, Black chokeberry

         Woodland: Red spruce, Red maple, Hemlock, Yellow birch, Black gum (rare), Red Spruce.

         Animals are not very abundant in a bog and many animals that are found in this habitat do not live there. Some of the animals that have been observed or captured in the bog are:

         Spiders and ticks

         Insects: Midges, Blow flies, Crane flies, Pitcher plant mosquito, Bumblebees.

         Birds: Oven bird, Water thrush, Great blue heron, Marsh hawk, Coot, Tree swallow.

       Rodents: Snowshoe hare, Meadow vole, Deer mice, Bog lemming, Water shrew, Red-backed vole

The Future

       Eventually Deering Pond will pass from existence and be replaced by a wet woodland. The rate at which this transformation occurs will depend upon the activities of man and beavers. Additions of sewage or septic tank effluent will provide nutrients which are presently lacking. Algal blooms and rapid accumulation of organic material will result from this enrichment. The continued presence of beavers will ensure higher water levels which retard the rate of shallowing and bog mat encroachment. At the same time, their activities will protect the bog from fire damage.

Well-meaning people have, at various times, suggested that the filling process could be delayed by either chemical treatment or dredging. On the surface such actions to preserve the pond seem reasonable. However, chemical treatment or dredging undoubtedly would have serious side effects. With respect to chemical treatment, clarification of the water would encourage extensive growth of the littoral vegetation which is presently limited in extent by low light levels at its outer edge, while destruction of the sediment floc would release large quantities of dissolved substances that could create downstream problems as well as encourage the growth of littoral vegetation.

       On the other hand dredging would result in the deposition of  a considerable quantity of colloidal ooze in some appropriate place. In view of the unique properties of this material, disposal of it would be a technological challenge. 

Epilogue

The fact that the pond is destined to vanish three or four thousand years from now is saddening. However, it is the natural scheme of things on the grand scale of time.

LITERATURE  CITED

1.  Neil, Craig D., 1997. Surficial Geology of the Sanford 7.5Minute Quadrangle, York County, ME.  Maine Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-70. A radiocarbon age on the bottommost organic sediment was 13,350 +/- 75 years.

2.   Hussey, A. H., 1962. The Geology of Southern York County, Maine. Special Geological Study Series, No. 4, Dept. of Economic Development, Augusta, Maine.

3.  Prosser, A. L., 1968. Sanford, Maine: A Bicentennial History. The Sanford Historical Society, Sanford, Maine. Note: David Parent, Superintendent of the Sanford Water District, and Gordon Johnston located the actual position of the car with a magnetic pin detector.  Journal Tribune, October 4, 2018. 

4.  Huden, J. C., 1962. Indian Place Names of New England. Museum of American Indians, Heye Foundations. 

 5.  Eckstorm, F. H., 1941. Indian Place-names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast. The Maine Bulletin, XLIV (4).                              

 6.  Ilsley, G. B., 1872. Sanford. In Atlas of York County, Maine: 367. Everts and Peck, Philadelphia, 1880.

 7.  Dohrman, M. E., 1972. Isolation and Identification of Microorganisms from Deering Pond. Reading and Research Manuscript.

 8.  Daubenmire, R., 1968. Plant Communities: A Textbook of Plant Synecology. Harper and Row, Inc., New York. 

 9.  Deevey, Edward S., Jr., 1951. Life in the Depths of a Pond.  Scientific American, 185:68-72.

Figure 1
Proposed Management for the Hall Environment Reserve
Figure 2
Some Denizens of Deering Pond
Figure 3

A Short History of Deering Pond

Various glacial actions carved a basin into ancient bedrock. About 14,000 years ago, meltwater from the last retreating glacier lined this basin with “rock flour”, a fine-grained silt made from the glaciers grinding away at the bedrock and suspended in the runoff. As the water collected in the basin, the silt settled, forming a layer over 50 feet deep. This basin still collects flowage from the surrounding ridges forming a pond. 

Over time, water level decreased and plants colonized the area. Acidic minerals in the glacial till both encouraged growth of acid-loving plants and slowed decay of organic matter. Thus began the ongoing formation of a spongy peat bog along the shoreline, and the resultant tannin-rich water formed by the settled, acidic silt and slowly decaying organic matter. In centuries to come, the pond will evolve to a peat bog. 

A 324 acre lot was granted to John Lydston in 1744 for his services in the Indian wars, including braking his thigh in the War of 1693. Subsequently inherited by the Deering Family of Old Kittery, family members settled about 1 mile northwest of the pond, thus becoming the Deering Area, containing Deering Ridge and Deering Pond. Evidence suggests that this land was occasionally logged, probably used as pastureland, and that the largest mast pines in the State were cut west of the pond; the stumps were still visible 150 years ago.

A railroad was built through a boggy area of the pond in 1871, separating the pond from 2 other parts; these parts formed an unusual wetland, now protected by the Trust. A flat car used to haul construction materials was left there overnight and sank into the bog, where it now sits about 14’ deep under the Rail Trail. Various local families came to own the land, and was eventually bought by Mrs. Ira Russel, who donated it to the former Nasson College; known as The Russel Environmental Study Tract, it served as a wildlife preserve and outdoor laboratory. In 1983, Nasson closed, the land was sold at auction to the Hall Educational Foundation, which sold much of a large strip along Deering Neighborhood Road to PATCO, a local construction company, which built houses there. The remaining land was donated to the Trust.

1. The Natural History of Deering Pond, by Dr. G. S. Johnston, August, 1973

2. Hall Environmental Reserve, Property Description, Sanford/Springvale Mousam Way Land Trust, website: https://mousamwaylandtrust.org/2017/05/23/hall-environmental-reserve/ 

Fun and Challenges of Building a Community Garden

From: UMaine Cooperative Extension’s “Maine Home Garden News”, October, 2019 https://extension.umaine.edu/gardening/2019/10/01/maine-home-garden-news-october-2019/

After acquiring what is now known as The McKeon Environmental Reserve, the Directors of the Mousam Way Land Trust endorsed the concept to plan and build a community ecology center. The David and Linda Pence Community Ecology Center, named after the generous folks who put the fundraising for Reserve property acquisition over the top, will include an Environmental Center where folks can hold meetings; a small workshop for making bird nesting boxes, bat houses, informational signs, and other eco-oriented projects; an environmental library, attuned towards school kids; an ADA-accessible outdoor restroom; an industrial-sized greenhouse; and a nursery to propagate various plants for the Nature Trail and other ongoing projects:

  • Meadow restoration being helped along by, among others, 2nd grade kids from local schools;
  • Self-guided Nature Trail with informational placards, passing through the existing 2 1/2 miles of trails with several types of woodland, forested wetland, and meadow habitats, which can support most Maine-endemic species;
  • Local high school students’ science studies relating to our avian friends; students choose a bird species, learn about its habitat requirements, then design, build, and properly place nesting boxes in various areas in the Reserve.

But I was asked to talk about another facet of the Eco-Center and the Reserve: The Sanford Community Garden.

Public outreach and environmental awareness being leading tenets of Mousam Way Land Trust’s operational directives, the Reserve’s field next to a barn, and a windmill-styled hand water pump connected to a very productive drilled well both sparked a vision within the prescient-minded Dr. Bud Johnston, Trust co-founder and long-time President. “Let’s build a community garden, an offering sorely lacking in the Sanford area.”

Recruiting public involvement is always an agenda item when Trust projects begin, and this was no different. University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (MGV) from York County worked with Bud to plan, design, budget, source materials, solicit other volunteers, build, and maintain Sanford Community Garden.

It was very quickly realized that substantial financing would be required, so Dr. Bud got to work researching grant possibilities and doing the quiet and tedious work of grant writing. Generous donors, organizations, and local businesses answered Bud’s call for help; and the Maine Master Gardener Development Board answered mine!

With sufficient funding, it was shopping time. A neighbor’s recently rehabbed portable sawmill and his abundant hemlock trees became the planks that formed the 27, 4-foot by 12-foot raised beds. A neighboring town’s sawmill supplied the composted soil, which tested perfect for the garden’s use. Deer fencing, posts, tools, water supply materials, nuts, bolts, screws, landscape fabric … we had plenty of toys to play with! “Playtime” began with a friendly plumber removing the old hand pump and installing a pressurized system, using the electrical service available in the barn. Trenches were dug, lines and cable run, and garden hose manifolds designed, built, and installed. The annual United Way Day of Caring (UWDOC) organization found some energetic folks to work alongside some pre-enrolled raised bed gardeners and Trust members in Maine’s rocky soil, driving heavy steel fence posts and digging deep holes for the corner and gate posts, which were expertly fashioned by experienced carpenters that just happened to be among the UWDOC folks. Unbelievable, right!

From this (old hand water pump) to this (new covered pump)
Photos courtesy of Kevin McKeon. Used with permission.
People building raised flower bed.
Photo courtesy of Kevin McKeon. Used with permission.

While the posts and gates were being placed, Master Gardener Volunteers (you thought they just grew plants, right!?) joined others to assemble the heavy, 10-inch-high raised beds in neat rows, and line them all with landscape fabric. A helpful neighbor drove his tractor from his farm through some of the Reserve’s 2 1/2 miles of woods trails to help fill the beds with rich soil as they were built. Yet even more volunteers raked the soil level in the beds as some volunteers’ kids played in a huge, 1/8 acre “sandpit” — actually a foundation for the donated greenhouse yet to be installed — blessed again by generous donors, but that’s a story for another time.

Mishaps you ask? Learning as we go? Well…

  • There was a time where the gravel delivery truck slid off the very slippery, waterlogged access road (remember the late, wet spring this year?), and “re-located” the neighbor’s (us!) raised bed of asparagus;
  • The late Spring? Well, the soil at the vendors was too muddy to load into the trucks, so the delivery was delayed by about 3 weeks;
  • Then, the roads were weight-limit posted, so the trucks couldn’t drive on ‘em ’til the postings got lifted!
  • When the soil was sufficiently dried and the roads were open for the trucks, the dump trucks couldn’t make it all the way to the Community Garden area due to mud, so the soil got dumped in the neighbor’s (us, again!) driveway. (Notice the “s” on the word “trucks”? 55 yards in the driveway!)
Dump truck slid off road into asparagus plants.
Photos courtesy of Kevin McKeon. Used with permission.

Anyway, the raised beds are built, filled with soil, surrounded with an 8-foot-tall, high-tensile steel deer fence tightly stretched around steel and wooden posts, 5-foot-wide gates are swinging open for access, wood chips from the on-going city road building project are spread along the fencing perimeter and between beds, and hundreds of seed packets and rather sickly-looking plants donated from local businesses were placed in the hands of excited gardeners.

Well, the sickly plants survived MGV-rehab wonderfully and, along with hundreds of seeds now sprouting and plenty of watering hoses to keep them all happy, we are also growing a bustling community garden. Some beds are assigned to folks who have been granted waivers due to financial challenges (the Trust asks for a $25 donation to help cover operational and maintenance costs); some are being tended by supervised adults with disabilities; some are under the watchful eyes of a local school’s food-for-kids program; others are tended by Master Gardener Volunteers for local food pantries. A few have gone unassigned and are sprouting buckwheat cover crop sown to enrich the soil even further.

From this (fencing) and this (dump truck) and this (fields) and this (lumber) to this (fenced in and planted raised bed garden).
Photo Courtesy of Kevin McKeon. Used with permission.

Next spring, we won’t be waiting for the soil to thaw and dry to allow trucking it to a waterlogged, impassable road (did I mention that we needed to rebuild and gravel a couple hundred feet of road to allow access to the garden area?). And with the water supply available, we expect gardeners to fill up all the beds and are anticipating a waiting list. The future is bright and bountiful!

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