Your Land: What you can see (and what you can’t) – Earth Day ’22


A cool spring morning, with the wind blowing. It’s a season—post-snow and pre-spring-growth—where what’s thrown away and flown in is easy to spot, and I’ve come to this section of Brunswick Landing with 30+ other people to clean up this area of ​​hands-and wind-blown trash. .

Behind me, a one-story building, its long windows opening out onto the grounds, houses the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). Often as working partners, these two conservation organizations help conserve and manage land, bring people to it, and promote the inherent and emerging spirit of the land. Near the building are swaths of New Mainers Park, where signs of the spirit will soon appear above ground. CREA has organized today’s cleanup, and their executive director, Caroline Eliot, has welcomed us, including a number of families (thank you, parents), and, with a broad gesture, she freed us up to clean.

Armed with a picker-upper and an empty bag, I began working my way through grass and small pines on the crushed stone embankment at the bottom of the thin pond. Stuck among the grass: 2 paper coffee cups (company name withheld), plastic lid and straw, two linked sticky notes (task done, I presume), white strip of shipping foam, wadded paper towels, bottle cap, ah, plastic bottle companion , disposable pencils, bags 1, 2 and 3, (plastic). And on.

I’m near the water. I looked back, and I didn’t see any trash left. Soon, I would join the others as they spread out into the woods and along the nearby paths to further fill their bags. By the end of the morning we will have dozens of bags full. But first I returned to the pool. I know this water. The eastern branch of the Mere Brook watershed, is also in need of (and planned for) cleanup work.

Named Pool B, the water in front of me has started to work. Not far upriver, Pond A is behind its own dam, and just above it, water rises from the twin culverts that run under Brunswick Landing. Pools A and B, and their downstream relatives, Pool Area C and Picnic Ponds receive and process 80% of the rainwater that flows from the Landing. Everyone eventually headed south towards Mere Brook, and then, Harpswell Cove.

Such water from densely populated, asphalt-rich places contains the chemical equivalent of the dumped and blown waste we all collect today. A complete catalog of this water problem will solve this columnar layer. But before I go into the woods for more visible litter, I want to briefly explain how the Stormwater Ponds System works, and how, over time, the water can be redeemed.


When it rains heavily, runoff water flows throughout the Landing. The rushing water picks up whatever is available — sand, pollutants, debris; it all flows through the system, swells, rises. When the water reaches the pool, it does what we all do in calmer water — it slows down. And, as it slows down, it lays down some of its load, sand and particles, pollutants; the load sinks to the bottom, over time overlaying it. The water which has now been partially cleaned flows towards the sea. Little success.

But the accumulation of time eventually made the bottom of this pool toxic, a touchless sediment that had to be cleaned up. Such improvements are imminent for the Ponds system. The Navy, which implemented this system in the mid-90s, has contracted about $5 million to remove this sediment this summer and fall. A layer of clean sand will then be placed in place. Ponds would then return to work slowing and sorting rainwater, which, given the successful reuse of Naval Base as the Brunswick Landing, would be substantial work.

Here, alongside this working water, I ponder the dilemma of our presence. We peel off so much, visible and invisible; how we manage our waste, how we minimize our disposal footprint are important challenges on this Earth Day and every day.

An hour later, and I’ve followed a deliberate path of sorting my trash into a small raffle. A small transparent stream flows along the bottom towards the Pool C area; on the brink, my favorite harbinger of spring swirls, maroon surprise. Before becoming a leaf-green fan, Skunk Cabbage begins as a twisting eruption of freshly soft ground; it is a statue of the highest quality. Nearby, in the middle of the river, lies the thin manila fin of a sandbar formed by flowing water. The surface of the sand stirred and I bowed to it; there, in a two-way script, see the footprints of fellow travelers — a raccoon (I believe), a fox (I think), and a naughty cat(?) plush pad. Here in this little raffle, slowed down by my work of looking for trash, I also find traces and whereabouts of fellow animals. We are all this earth. I owe them an effort to clean up the visible and invisible trash in my life.

Sandy Stott is a resident of Brunswick, chair of the city’s Conservation Commission, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. He writes for various publications. He can be reached at [email protected]

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