Photo by Curtis Rindlaub
Photo by Curtis Rindlaub
Peaks Island Land Preserve
Peaks Island is small: 720 acres, barely a square mile. A visitor in 1975 could have walked a mile along the back shore or through the woods without seeing any houses. In recent years, our population has significantly increased and real estate development has dramatically changed the character of the island. Peaks Island Land Preserve protects the island’s natural areas and special places for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
We invite you to browse through our site to learn about PILP and what we do. Following are news and events of interest to our island community.
In Praise of Scrub, Snags, Thickets, and Scraggly Vegetation
I recognize the human need for tidiness — strong solid homes, good roads, level sidewalks, and crisp, neat yards. But as I walk, listen, and look around Peaks Island I have found that our natural systems require some messiness.
Take our beaver snags down by the dump. Yeah, not that pleasing to the tidy eye — fallen trees, dead trees, mucky water, scrub. But can it be seen differently? I have observed here over the years: rows of painted turtles sunning themselves on partially submerged logs, night herons hunkered down in their bold and sly way, pileated woodpeckers, snowy egrets heavily and precariously perched on branches above the ponds, and I am sure there is so much more. The mess and muck are just part of an ongoing process: water, soil, plants, beavers, frogs, fish, herons, foxes, meadows, trees, humans.
I walked by a dense thicket of what looked like bamboo/japanese knotweed and bittersweet the other day, and I have to say it was the brightest most alive spot I came across that day — actually just singing with life, full of a flock of birds that couldn’t be happier, and their song said so. Yeah yeah yeah, bamboo and bittersweet, probably some thorny rose too, but what these or similar scrublands provide is protected space for birds, other critters, and maybe a glorious white oak sapling.
I know the tidiness we want for our yards, and sometimes our public spaces, does not often include scraggly vegetation, or ever invasive species like knotweed and bittersweet. But what else can we notice about these seemingly untidy places. Where do we see warblers, cardinals, chickadees, cedar waxwings, glossy ibis? Where do our native trees take root? Thinking about whole natural systems, can we visually see beauty and life in nature’s messiness?
So, scraggly, yet deserving much praise, here are some of my favorite native plants, found on our own Backshore, and that can be purchased in Maine nurseries for planting in yards:
• Staghorn sumac — is not poisonous, attracts chickadees, thrushes, warblers, cardinals, native bees
• Bayberry (Morella caroliniana) — with beautiful waxy berries that warblers like (no thorns and not the invasive Japanese barberry)
• Milkweed — every kids’ and monarch butterflies’ favorite
And I highly recommend Highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. Americanum L. Ait). I have a great thicket in my yard and early every spring I look forward to the arrival of a feisty flock of cedar waxwings that devour the berries — red berries that have waited the whole winter to be eaten by just them.
You will find here an extensive list of other native Maine plants.
Laura Glendening, Board member
Celebrating our 25th anniversary has been something of a dud in this unusual year of 2020. At the changing of the year it's usual to take a look back, as well as forward, and so we're looking back 15 years, to 2005. That year, then President Brenda Buchanan wrote an article for The Island Times looking back from there at the Peaks Island Land Preserve's first 10 years. It's interesting to revisit the beginnings of our organization, and take a look at how things have changed, or not, as time has passed. This PILP at 10 link will take you to the story on our website. Happy New Year!
On a beautiful Fall day recently, about a dozen people gathered at Greenwood Gardens to learn about ways that they can support pollinators in underutilized spaces in their yard. Elizabeth Walworth led the discussion and workshop. Liz has experience in agriculture, land maintenance, and a degree in environmental studies focused on agricultural impact, and is leading PILP’s effort to establish a pollinator sanctuary below the Ice Pond dam. Seed bombs are an easy way to spread flowers. A seed bomb consists of a dollop of compost wrapped in clay and rolled in seeds. It could be easily mistaken for a chocolate truffle. Simply toss it where you want flowers to grow. The seeds germinate and the compost provides nutrients as the clay is washed away by rain. Liz had materials and a mix of native seeds, and everyone had a hand in making a few to try at home. Tossed in March, flowers in June? We’ll see! Thanks to Liz for an enjoyable and educational afternoon, and the Peaks Island Lions Club for their support.
Photo by Elizabeth Walworth
On October 8, an enthusiastic and hardworking group of volunteers (thank you to all!) helped clear the land in front of the Ice Pond in preparation for the planting of a wildflower meadow. With spades, shears, handsaws, trimmers and sheer strength, bittersweet and other invasive plants were thinned and removed to make room for wildflower seeding. 6 very full truckloads were brought to the transfer station and seeding has begun. Stay tuned for updates this spring!
The Peaks Island Land Preserve is disappointed to announce its decision that this year’s Sacred & Profane is canceled. A large part of the enjoyment of this annual ritual is the crowd and social interaction, and there is no way to insure that the event will be safe in terms of masking or distancing within the spaces of Battery Steele. We look forward to hosting Sacred & Profane again next year.
Rosa Marie Iovino, who passed away on August 13, has left her estate to the Peaks Island Land Preserve. We at PILP are surprised and humbled by such a generous gift from a woman who obviously loved her home and the island.
At the discretion of the executor, Maria's home will be rented through the winter, until the estate proceeds through probate and passes to the Land Preserve. We will be considering the paths we might take that would honor Maria’s wishes for the property and that would benefit the island community.
A Steele for us, a bargain for you.
Due to the virus, the Peaks Island Land Preserve (PILP) was unable to hold its regular annual meeting this July. With food and drink, mingling on the best porch ever, and a bit of Land Preserve business, the meeting is always an enjoyable get together.
We were especially sorry to miss an in-person celebration of our 25th anniversary. Back on July 20, 1995, the sale closed on the 14-acre Battery Steele property. It capped the year-long effort of the entire island community to raise the $70,000 purchase price to protect the parcel from private development. What began as a mission to save the Battery from being parceled into house lots turned into an organization working to keep wild areas of the island safe for people to enjoy, forever. Since then, PILP has extended its stewardship to 150 acres of island land, a little over 20% of Peaks Island’s 720 acres.
An important part of the annual meeting is the renewal of memberships. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization the Peaks Island Land Preserve survives solely on memberships and contributions. Our stewards, lawyer, and board members all donate their time. Please renew your membership now to continue your support of an organization which works to keep the wild places on Peaks as beautiful as they are.
You can join, renew, or donate through the website Join/Donate page . Or mail a check to the Peaks Island Land Preserve, P.O. Box 99, Peaks Island, ME 04108. An individual membership is $20 a year, a family or household is $30 a year, a bargain price for 150 acres. And at any time of the year, your donations are gratefully welcomed.
Thank you for supporting PILP and helping to care for this special island.
PILP GROW ZONE PROGRESS (August 2020)
The Peaks Island Land Preserve’s Wildflower/Pollinator Planting plan moves ahead. Volunteer Liz Walworth describes their plan for the area below the Ice Pond dam to PILP Board members Paula Chessin and Eleanor Morse. Beginning with the removal of bittersweet, some rototilling will prepare an area for planting this fall. Native species with staggered growing seasons will be planted over several years to keep the area protected, attractive, and plentiful for bees and birds to find something they enjoy throughout the year.
We foresee a volunteer work day, clearing out invasives in some of the areas destined for planting. We will post dates so you can join us if you’d like to help.
Liz is considering running a workshop on making seedbombs, an easy and convenient way to plant wildflowers in your own yard. Let us know if you’d want to attend (outside, distanced), so we can gauge the interest. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you like birds be sure to visit our Back Shore Bird Blog