Past items from our homepage News column and our Facebook page
In Praise of Scrub, Snags, Thickets, and Scraggly Vegetation
Laura Glendening, Board member
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.
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 email@example.com.
July 15, 2018
You may have noticed that behind the orange fencing, work has continued at the Ice Pond dam. Island contractors Lionel Plante Associates has removed vegetation from the down hill side of the dam. With the pond drained, they dredged silt from the pond side to allow access to the old drain at the bottom of the dam. Drilling through the 4-foot-thick rock and concrete dam to remove the old drain pipe, they replaced it with a larger one. The engineering company will now begin the work of repairing the exposed dam. With the water drained away, the silt in the pond has solidified and dried out, and it looks like grass is beginning to grow.
June 27, 2018
The draining of the Ice Pond has apparently opened new opportunities for some of the local residents...
June 24, 2018
With one last detail cleared by the City, the Ice Pond dam repair is set to begin. If it has seemed a long time coming, imagine how the people working through the process have felt. Now, the shovels hit the silt.
January 29, 2017
Peaks Island Land Preserve acknowledges with gratitude a gift of land in December 2016 by John S. Bunton, Jr., Robert C. Bunton, Catherine Bunton, and William E. Bunton. The donated parcel of land, rectangular in shape and comprising more than an acre, is near Lyndon Avenue, east of Tolman Heights. It is open and rocky woodland bisected by an existing road leading down toward Spar Cove. We thank the Bunton family for their generosity.
March 3, 2018
The repair of the Ice Pond dam seems like a simple project, but the regulatory process has required more than a year. From our point of view, we need to drain the pond, remove enough silt on the upstream face of the dam, and repair the dam as necessary to restore the pond to its former elevation. When the work is done, there will be no change to the status quo. From the DEP’s point of view, however, PILP is seeking to do construction work adjacent to a stream, and the comparatively modest amount of silt to be removed falls within the definition of “solid waste.” Thus, we needed two separate DEP permits, a process that has lasted 14 months and cost a substantial amount in consultant fees. But, no complaints! The DEP’s purpose, and PILP’s, is to protect the environment; they have a job to do. The second and final DEP permit has just been received, and we are scheduling the work to begin on or about June 1. If all goes well, the project will be completed before Labor Day.
Nov. 29, 2017
As the weather cools and thoughts turn to ice skating, here’s an update on our progress with the Ice Pond dam repair. After two Board members began the permit applications eleven months ago, it became clear that the complexity of the applications and the process would require outside help. PILP hired an engineer familiar with the process to file and shepherd them through for us. Money well spent. We have secured the necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Portland, and one of two permits from the Department of Environmental Protection. We are now allowed to remove the silt from the pond, but we don’t know yet if we are allowed to put it somewhere. Dredging can begin no earlier than June 1, 2018 and the project must be finished by October 1, 2018. The timing is determined largely by the mating cycles of the frogs, salamanders, and other creatures which call the Ice Pond home, aiming for the quietest spells, of course. We estimate actual working time at about 6 weeks, about half the time we are allotted. It may feel like slow going, but we are moving ahead, and will let you know more as things progress. In the meantime, get those skates sharpened!
Update: Summer Ender-Bender Party & Pigroast
Oct. 14, 2015
A crowd of people turned out for live music and good food at The Summer Ender-Bender Party & Pigroast. Hosted by The Inn on Peaks, the event also helped raise money for a couple of worthy causes; Peaks Island Land Preserve and Maine Adaptive Skiing. Over $300 was donated to PILP. A big Thank You to the folks at The Inn on Peaks for supporting the local community, and having fun doing it!
Ice Pond Dam
Sept. 6, 2015
The Ice Pond is created by a stone wall dam that was built about 100 years ago. Though the dam still serves its purpose, it is leaking and needs substantial repair. With that in mind, PILP continued its fund-raising campaign long after we had raised the $60,000 purchase price for the property. We are working closely with the City of Portland’s Public Services Department, which recently sent out a request for proposals to several engineering firms. The DPS and PILP will soon be meeting with the first of these firms, and it is anticipated that design work will begin in the near future.
Summer-Ender Bender Party & Pigroast
(September 2, 2015)
What better way to celebrate Labor Day and help a worthy organization while you're having fun than by showing up at the Summer-Ender Bender Party & Pigroast at the Inn on Peaks! The Jason Spooner Band will provide live music. Proceeds from the event will benefit PILP and Maine Adaptive Skiing. Monday, Sept. 7th from 1 to 5 PM. A big Thank You to the Inn on Peaks! We hope to see you there.
Patty's Back Shore Bird Blog
(March 15, 2015)
PILP is very happy to announce a new community resource located on our website entitled Patty's Back Shore Bird Blog.
Patty is one of PILP's volunteer stewards for the Back Shore area and takes great joy in observing, identifying, and learning more about the birds that live on Peaks Island and would like to share this joy with us. Patty considers herself more of a bird aficionado than a bird expert and writes beautifully and descriptively about the birds she sees while walking the Back Shore.
The Blog is posted monthly and contains amazing on-site bird photographs, carefully researched information on the fascinating lives of the birds she see on Peaks, and is guaranteed to make you want to grab your binoculars and head out to the Back Shore!
Patty is also creating bird species accounts for Peaks Island birds starting with Scoters and Northern Gannets and will be adding new species accounts every month.
So, if you're a birder and interested in birds, would simply like to know more about birds, or are just looking for another way to appreciate living on Peaks Island, please visit Patty's Back Shore Bird Blog and Bird Species Accounts (under Bird Varieties) both at the Bird Blog tab in the top menu.
Also on the Bird Varieties page, don't miss the up-close-and-personal Peaks Island bird photographs taken by Butch Sullins and the Peaks Island Community Bird Checklist to help test your own bird identification and field observation skills.
Any comments, suggestions, or additional bird sightings you have regarding the Blog or bird checklist can be sent to PILP's Volunteer Steward Coordinator, Michelle H. Brown, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
Ice Pond Skating Party
A sunny Saturday in January was the perfect day to celebrate the Closing of the sale of the Ice Pond to the Land Preserve. Cookies and hot cocoa, clearing snow off the ice, and skating with friends were things we've done, and will be able to continue to do, because of the generosity of the Island community of Peaks Island.
Video by Michelle Brown
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.