Winter Newsletter 2006
Friends of Tunk is no longer incorporated as a not-for-profit. Please do not send checks made out to FoT. Support the volunteer of your choice. We will continue our watershed protection work as a group of concerned citizens. Our programs are being streamlined into a single volunteer watershed monitoring effort. The informal third weekend of the month hike and paddle will continue with the permanent schedule that has evolved over the years. All administrative aspects of the group, including this newsletter, will be handled by our website. Winter Council will be the time to discuss how to make this work meaningful.
As usual, only about half of our goals for 2006 have been accomplished. It might be wise to undertake only three projects next year. The website has been cleaned up so that it is nearly timeless and will need only annual maintenance. Large art-print quality copies of the Tunk Watershed Map are available from the Downeast Salmon Federation for a donation of $25. The visitor center is on hold and our eco-tourism efforts will be spun off to my Longwalker brand. The year of the canoe project resulted in most of the put-ins and portages being marked with clamshells. These access points are often non-point source pollution sites where erosion is degrading the water quality of Tunk Stream. The introduction of “calcium breadcrumbs” makes for good, safe footing for people launching their boats while stopping the erosion and promoting healthy root systems in the neighboring vegetation to stabilize the area. Clamshells act as a time release source of acid rain fighting minerals so our effort addresses three problems at once. This is a perfect example of our goal of establishing customs and traditions that over time will improve the health of the watershed.
This year began with The Nature Conservancy purchasing 10,000 acres in the northern part of Township 10 including the peak of Tunk Mountain and extending to the West Branch of the Narraguagus River. The total number of protected acres in the area is now over 27,000. Also, we would like to welcome Bob Babcock to the neighborhood. Bob has purchased Joe Maloney’s property at the corner of Route 182 and Tunk Stream. Originally from Cherryfield, he is a retired watershed protection professional. This brings another key property into the hands of a member of Friends of Tunk.
Early this year the federal recovery plan for the endangered Atlantic salmon was at last released. Atlantic salmon are an indicator species, their presence or absence can be used to judge the health of the watershed. While the fate of the Tunk salmon remains a mystery, the salmon habitat in Tunk Stream is covered by the listing. But without taking the government to court it is unlikely that the endangered species act will help to protect Tunk Stream.
This spring, I participated in an experiential tourism workshop in Machias and the Black’swoods Scenic By-Way committee meetings in Cherryfield. At the workshop we learned about creating itineraries of local attractions. This ties in well with the inventory of recreational sites along Route 182 we have been doing for the by-way committee. I prepared a draft of the eight best access points but the Bureau of Parks and Lands objected. Their position seems to be that visitors to the area should be self-reliant and not expect services like brochures, maps, well marked and maintained trails. This is a wilderness area management philosophy which all the members of FoT I have spoken to support. The by-way committee is focused on improving the Tunk Lake boat launch with a privy, picnic tables and more parking. Tunk Lake is shaping up to be the central access point for the area.
I got a letter in November saying the final draft of the Public Reserve Downeast Region management plan will be ready this month and finalized by the end of the year. It has now taken 12 years to complete a 10 year management plan. The fact that the stewardship issue has not been dealt with has discredited the Land for Maine’s Future Program and conservation efforts in general. Community watershed monitoring is the answer!
Ashby D. Bladen 11/30/06
2005 Year End Report
Dear Members, Friends, and Family, Friends of Tunk is getting out of the non-profit business. The two reasons FoT was formed, to serve as a watershed council for an endangered Atlantic salmon river, and to steward the Maine Public Reserved Lands that surround the headwaters of Tunk Stream, have proved thankless. It was the government and business interests that said we had to incorporate. But it’s not true. Being a group of concerned citizens is completely legitimate.
The government bureaucracy does not know how to work cooperatively with the people it is suppose to serve. In fact the word means 1 a body of appointive government officials 2 administration characterized by specialization of functions under fixed rules and a hierarchy of authority, also an unwieldy administrative system deficient in initiative and flexibility.
The administration of the not for profit corporation has been our greatest expense in both time and money and has been interfering with the mission. It is clear we are not headed toward becoming a 501 c 3 tax exempt non-profit, which are just tax write offs for the rich. Also there is a negative stigma associated with non-profits as a means for government to avoid its responsibilities. For those who feel the need to be organized as a legal entity the small not for-profit or mutual benefit corporation has merit. But such groups can get few of the benefits of being non-profit, like large donations and grants. In the end the efforts involved in the administration of a group as small as FoT: fundraising, marketing, grant writing, meetings, reports, newsletter and web-site, etc., are dragging us down.
About a year ago I went to my last salmon meeting. It was a big conference on making non-profits work where consultants asked us questions like “how is your organization most effective”, “when do you do your best work”. The answer is, when we have nothing to do with the government. As a group of self-sufficient volunteers we will be able to focus on the mission.
The year began with the release of Ghost Salmon, a DVD video documentary about the roots of FoT. This project was funded by a grant from the Atlantic Salmon Federation and a donation toward the purchase of a computer with video editing and DVD burning capabilities, as well as a free over flight from Lighthawk. The video is one hour long and includes a great deal of aerial footage of the Tunk Stream Watershed. There are still a few DVD’s left and I would be happy to make a VHS copy for anyone who wants one.
In January, FoT business cards were printed featuring our block print and contact information. I will include one in this years mailing.
Our first fund raising drive brought in eight donations for a total of $1100. To the people who gave all I can say is thank you, you kept FoT going for another year.
In April, I resigned from the board of the Downeast Salmon Federation. To put it simply, Tunk Stream is too small a salmon river to be a priority for DSF, but is top priority for my volunteer time.
On April 30th we held a Rt. 182 clean up in cooperation with Maine DOT. We picked up the trash and they hauled it away. A huge amount of garbage was collected from around the main access points. In the fall we did it again without DOT.
At the end of May I paddled Tunk Stream from Tunk Lake to Steuben. The water was extremely high, some of the portages were canoe-able and some of the rapids had to be portaged. The heavy rain storms of the past year have really cleaned out the river. I made video of the trip which took three days. Along the way I saw many Bald eagles feeding on Alewives.
The Informal Third Weekend of the Month Hike & Paddle recreational events were lightly attended this year. As usual, the most people came on the spring paddle in April. But for others, like the upstream paddle in June, no one showed up. We did have rain three third weekends in a row this fall.
The Bureau of Parks and Lands management plan meeting set for this spring was postponed until fall and has not happened yet. (Can you say bureaucracy?) BPL receives no funding to manage the public lands and is forced to log them to pay their own salaries. This puts the people who protect our lands in the impossible position of having to chose between environmental integrity and there own livelihoods. As long as this conflict of interest continues, the state’s management of the peoples’ land will have no creditability.
The state wants to create a loop trail from Rt. 182, out around Spring River Lake to Tunk Mountain and back again. A considerable amount of volunteer time this year went into scouting possible routes for this trail. Another major effort was restoring the public domain trails like Tunk, Catherine, and Black Mountains, which have been neglected since 2000. Many trails that have been logged over by H. C. Haynes and the State of Maine also required a lot of work over the course of the year. Again, much of this effort was documented on video.
In June, I bought the ˝ acre parcel of land north of Rt. 182 for the visitor center or welcome home from my father. This is a great location for a picnic table in the shade and a sign facing Cherryfield with information about the Tunk Stream Watershed. (See the picture below.) The goal is to have it open by Memorial Day weekend 2006. Work continues on the FoT campground as well.
2006 The Year of the Canoe
Paddling is the best way to explore the Tunk Stream Watershed. Our goal for next year is to make sure put-ins and portages are marked and maintained so that people can enjoy the river for years to come.
Our web-site at www.mainesalmonrivers.org is being updated to contain everything there is to know about FoT.
We plan to post a map of the watershed, the block print, and our basic brochure at the visit center on Rt. 182. Happy hiking and paddling and thank you for your support!
Ashby D. Bladen
Yearend Report 2004
The year began with our first ever membership drive, thanks to a grant we received from the Maine Community Foundation. Postcards and T-shirts were printed from our block print logo. Our mailing list is up to 75 households. T-shirts provided a little funding all year. Matching business cards are now being printed.
During the winter grant writing season four proposals went out. One to Tom’s of Maine to continue the watershed coordinator position. The second to New England Grassroots Grants to create a web site newsletter. The third proposal was to the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) to produce a video documentary about the Tunk Watershed. The forth to the Edge after school program in Cherryfield working with the Maine Community Foundation for a fundraising drive. Only the ASF proposal was successful. Grassroots would like to help us in the future. It has always been our policy to pursue grants only for projects we intend to do one way or another. I continued to work as the volunteer coordinator and thanks to Downeast Salmon Federation we now have a web site at www.mainesalmonrivers.org. Hopefully we can fill it up soon and get our seasonal newsletter (Wild Forever) off the ground. Our first fundraising drive will begin with the 2005 yearly mailing.
This year The Nature Conservancy purchased the Tilden Pond in-holding as part of the Machias River project and turned it over to the state of Maine. So it is now part of the Public Reserved Lands. This opens up through hiking and canoe camping possibilities. This photo was taken in 1988 luckily nothing has changed.
The Department of Conservation-Bureau of Parks and Lands management planning process for the Donnell Pond unit of the Maine Public Reserved Lands has been going on for a year and a half now. There is a draft plan that contains many of the right ideas. But implementation may be many years away. These meetings have resulted in a great contact list of people concerned with the area. Friends of Tunk may have to take the lead in contacting landowners about the trail system. We continue to work closely with the Downeast Rivers Land Trust on the management of the West River Trail head as one of the eight great expeditions, hardened access points for the Public Reserved Lands. The new ATV law requiring landowner permission has implications for this trail that runs from near Sprague Falls to the Long Falls portage along the West Branch of the Narraguagus River. The whole area is a work in progress.
We need a community presence and are building a visitor center on a piece of property my father bought last winter. It is about 12 acres located west of Cherryfield, along Rt. 182. There will be a campground and parking for members and their guests. Our goal is to build an office at the site in the years to come.
Friends of Tunk now has five established programs called: The Watershed Walkabout, Trail Restoration, Informal Third Weekend Hike & Paddle, Water Quality Monitoring, and Art for the Earth. The administration of the group takes an effort equal to any of these core customs. Our goals for 2005 are as follows.
The Watershed Walkabout will focus on 12 expeditions, one per month, to monitor land use issues in the whole watershed. In each case the area will be documented on video and at the end of the year a DVD will be produced.
Trail Restoration will be aimed at the logged over recreational assets of the northern part of T-10, which The Nature Conservancy is purchasing at the end of 2005. These include Tunk Mountain, North Face, North Face Twin trails, Ash Bog put in, Myrick Lake portage, Long Falls portage, and the West River trail.
The schedule for the Informal Third Weekend Hike & Paddle can be found on the 2005 brochure and the web site. Maintaining the trails, handouts, and public service announcements in the local papers will be used to support this program.
The Water Quality Monitoring will continue to collect data on temperature, pH and DO. There will be follow up on non-point source pollution sites and low pH fish kills. More volunteers are need for this program!
Art for the Earth is part fundraising, part education and out reach. The Ghost Salmon, a DVD documentary about our efforts over the last seven years is available to anyone concerned with the Tunk Watershed. “The Kids” painting by Butch Hunt will be used to support our first fundraising drive, the Summer Gathering at Spring River Lake, and the 2006 yearly mailing.
I put in a total of 1,600 volunteer hours this year. The Future Home of Friends of Tunk took up 350 hours of that time. With an effort like that any project can succeed.
Ashby D. Bladen
2003 Yearend Report / Winter Newsletter
Difficult Start, Then Grant Approved!
The first few months of 2003 were a low point for Friends of Tunk with almost no money in the bank and little hope that things would get better. Our yearly mailing was sent to only 26 households to save money. The January third weekend event was fun with 10 people and 7 dogs attending. But in February I snow shoed alone and only Jeff showed up for the March watershed workshop. He donated $50 to keep FoT going for another month and said we could invite people back to his house after the spring paddle for council. With Gerry's help, I got a grant proposal off to the Downeast Maine Salmon Recovery Fund. I also wrote some comments for the Rt. 182 corridor management plan and a timeline for a model FoT year. We did a good job of monitoring the pH of Tunk stream during the spring melt. Between Mark, Denny, and myself we did not miss any rain on snow events. The pH readings were all in the 5’s. Then toward the end of March I went to the first management plan meeting for the Maine Public Reserved Lands and got us on the advisory committee. For the first time I saw maps showing the boundaries of the Eco-reserves that surround much of the headwaters of Tunk stream. We have been waiting 9 years for this plan to be written and from that point on FoT had a reason to exist.
On April 11th I got an email from the Downeast Maine Salmon Recovery Fund saying our grant proposal for $15000 had been approved! From that point on things happened very fast. We had a great spring paddle, as always, and a good council afterwards. Next, I was contacted by one of the Steuben selectman to see if FoT could help restore the alewive run by clearing fish passage up Tunk stream. The beavers had been trapped out of the main-stem during the winter and a good run of alewives made it to Spring River Lake to spawn. I watched the eagles feeding on them with Tunk Mountain in the back ground and wished I could get a picture. Also, in April, I sent an email to Mark Midden about the role of Tunk stream in the Atlantic salmon Recovery Plan. His reply was encouraging but vague. A draft of the recovery plan still has not been release to the public.
At the start of the year there were two properties for sale bordering the Maine Public Reserve that we were very concerned about. One, the peak of Spraque Falls Mountain had been targeted for a cell phone tower, which would have spoiled the wilderness aesthetic of Downing Bog and much of the Eco-reserve. A new friend of Tunk purchased the property to protect it from development and keep it open to the public. Later in the year we opened a short steep hiking trail to the top of the mountain. The view from the peak is one of the best in the area, taking in all of Washington County and the public lands. The other was the Knapp property near the end of the Spraque Falls road. This piece of land includes frontage on the West Branch of the Narraguagus River and is the trailhead for the West Branch tote road. This old woods road goes upstream along the river for miles and has been used by hunters and fisherman for generations. ATV’s and hikers now use it as well. The Knapp property has been donated the Downeast Rivers Land Trust, the land trust arm of the Downeast Salmon Federation, and will be protected with a conservation easement. The next property along the West Branch tote road, the Goldwater lot had been donated to DRLT last year and will also be protected by an easement. This summer The Nature Conservancy announced that they have an agreement with H C Haynes to buy 10000 acres from him in the northern part of township 10 at the end of 2005. The West Branch tote road runs into this area where it joins I.P.s huge ATV trail system. In 1999, I documented a series of non-point source pollution site along the West Branch tote road. We hope that with the trailhead and the destination protected it will be easier to raise the money to stop the erosion and restore the trail. FoT is a member of the DSF and I am now the chair of DRLT so we will be actively involved in this project.
In May, I created a database of the 70 NPS sites documented in 2002. I put away several small sites with just hay, lime, and grass seed. A few others have largely healed themselves. A 60-foot piece of silt fence was installed across the Unionville blueberry field sandpit. The Henderson Logging subdivision has been worked on but is still putting mud in the river during heavy rains. There is no progress to report on the Steuben ballpark site. The sites in the Public Reserve Lands have been reported to the Bureau of Parks and Lands for inclusion in the management plan. I have shown DOT the 10 sites along Rt. 182 and they are working to stabilize them. Follow up on the rest is on going. There are many places where there is only a thin strip of vegetation between the road and the water. Because road runoff is loaded with sand, salt, and car exhaust the plant life suffers and cannot prevent erosion. These areas are prime candidates for liming. A soil enhancement facility will be needed to stockpile erosion control materials to take on the remaining sites.
Hikes, Paddles and Proposals
The June third weekend hike and paddle up Tunk stream to Downing Bog was attended by 13 people including 4 children. Six of us in four boats made the last portage and paddled out across the bog. This is as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get anymore. We saw lots of wildlife and a good time was had by all.
In the spring, I wrote a grant proposal to the Aristotle Fund of the Maine Community Foundation for $2000 to conduct a membership drive and write a vision statement. This grant was approved giving us a good start on fund raising for 2004. During the summer, I put a lot of time into writing a NFWF proposal. These grant were supposed to be announced August 4th. Through the grapevine I have heard that our proposal was turned down. To date I have not received a rejection letter. In September, I took a grant writing and fund raising workshop where it was recommended that government grants be avoided.
During the absolute lowest flow of the year we did our first DEP streamteam macro-invertebrate survey at our four water quality monitoring sites. We did two sites on Saturday with volunteers and children and I went back on Monday and did the last two by myself. The results were a water quality rating of fair out of good, fair, or poor. Which maybe right considering how low the water was. But we found many beautiful and pollution sensitive insects. This was a learning experience for us and we hope to have the system fine-tuned for next year. The streamteam bug count is great fun for kids and will become our third weekend event for September.
During the spring break up our water quality-monitoring program confirmed the low pH problems we have been following for years. The weather in early summer was very hot and dry and the water temperature rose to levels that are dangerous for salmon and trout. Mark and I had left two tidbit temperature loggers in the river over the winter. We lost one but the Steuben village one survived. We also placed one up the Tunk stream side of the confluence of Tunk and Bog streams and one up the Bog stream side. We found that the clear lake water gets if anything hotter than the bog water and the bog water temperature does not go up in the day time and down at night. Late in September, Mark and I placed a data-sonde automated water quality monitor down stream from the confluence to track the pH of fall rainstorms. By the end of the month we began finding acid rain fish kills among the young alewives migrating to the sea, just like last year. These fish kills followed every major rainstorm for a month. I saw well-developed alewives in great numbers indicating our fish passage efforts in the spring were successful. In response to the low pH problem, we have begun riparian liming and storm water chemistry enhancement projects along the river.
In 2004, FoT must focus on our existing programs. The watershed walkabout land use monitoring that allows us to be the eyes and ears of the river. The informal third weekend hike and paddle which introduces new members to the trailheads and canoe launches and serves as recreational educational public outreach. The monthly water quality monitoring which leads us in fascinating new directions all the time and suggests ways that humans can play a positive role in the environment. The development of FoT the non-profit itself is an on going project. We will start 2004 with our first membership drive; this will increase our base of support and the number of volunteers. The art as fundraiser program will continue with cards, T-shirts, and original works of art to sell or give as “thank you” to volunteers and those who make generous donations. We must seek funding for our core programs and to develop new ones to address the problems documented through out the watershed. Our record keeping and computer systems need to be updated. As always, we must keep it fun.
Ashby Bladen 12/20/03
Email: Friends of Tunk
Friends of Tunk Yearend Report 2002
In 2002 Friends of Tunk continued our monthly water quality monitoring and hike and paddle event. These two programs will continue in 2003. The water quality monitoring (W.Q.M.) head by Dennis Shellabarger with Mark Whiting of D.E.P. has identified low ph as a major problem for fish populations. Two temperature loggers placed in the river by Mark and Ashby showed that Tunk stream gets too warm during the summer to be healthy for salmon or trout. But these periods are short, lasting only a few days. While the low pH events go on for months in the spring and return with the fall rains. Ashby saw three fish kills this fall after rainstorms. Mark got samples of the last two and the lab reports showed the fish died of asphyxiation consistent with acid rain.
On the third weekend of each month Friends of Tunk hold an informal hike and paddle outdoor recreation event. The 2003 schedule will follow that of years past very closely. Children are always welcome.
During the year we checked on the forest liquidators who have picked up large tracts of ex- champion land from IP. Thousands of acres were being cut, too much for us to keep up with. Problems were found and reported on both Tunk stream and the West Branch of the Narraguagus.
In addition to going to a great many meetings over the winter, two grants were written to fund FoT for the year. But both were turned down leaving us with only what we had left of the $3000 from NMFS. The first check arrived April 18, many thanks to Mary Colligan.
In March, at our urging DOT repaired the erosion problem at the Unionville Bridge giving us a small success. Because the weather in March is often bad we held a Tunk watershed workshop on the third weekend of the month. This event was well attended and will be repeated this year. One issue that came up at the workshop was the importance of Alewives to the whole river system. I was on their trail from then on. Before the year was over I saw eagles feeding on them as they came upstream in the spring, saw them spawn in Spring River lake, and die from acid rain as they tried to leave for the sea in the fall.
Around this time we were approached by a man who asked us to find a buyer for a key trailhead, who would keep it open to the public? He had been paying the taxes for twenty years but his wife had inherited the land and as it turned out did not want to sell it. We put in some time on this and spent a little money on legal help. Nothing came of it in the end but we were convinced by what we learned that the property could not be developed. People have been using this piece of land to climb Catherine Mountain for generations.
During mud season we did a lot of watershed monitoring, made video, and took digital photos of many erosion sites. March 18th we sent a letter to the writers of the Salmon recovery plan requesting that Tunk Stream be considered for an experimental population of Atlantic salmon in conjunction with an acid deposition mitigation effort. During the summer the ASC surveyed the salmon habitat in Tunk Stream.
In April we had a great spring paddle down Tunk Stream. Fifty people showed up that included six children age one through ten. Thanks to Jeff Beckley for making this event such a success.
The non-point source pollution survey started in May. I found 70 sites, 40 on state owned land, roads or right of ways. Some of the worst sites include a blueberry field that has been a problem for years, an old town dump that is leaching into the river, and a forest liquidator trying to sneak in a subdivision.
In July before the summer council, volunteers worked to stabilize a new trail the state had put in down to Spring River lake. This turned out to be great out reach because people we didn’t even know stopped to talk and were very supportive.
Last year we had donations of equipment including a canoe and a laptop computer. As volunteer director I put in 1200 hours and drove 11000 miles. To date FoT has restored 25 miles of hiking trail, 7 portages, and 7 campsites.
For 2003 FoT needs first aid erosion control materials. To be creditable we must be able to offer a Band-Aid for the land when we approach landowners about NPS sites. We must be able to say we have silt fence, hay, seed, and lime. We will bring our shovels and help you. If we can stop the bleeding, stop the mud from getting into the body of water then at least DEP wont have to fine the landowner while we figure out how to fix the site permanently and how to pay for it. FoT wants to work with the small private landowners. We feel governments and businesses should be able to take care of their own problems and that this is the right role for us to play.
Working closely with DSF and DRLT we hope to develop a land conservation strategy and to get a grant written for this project in the next few months.
We plan to be heavily involved in the writing of the state management plan for the Tunk public reserve area. Which we think will happen this year.
We are starting pilot acid rain mitigation projects working with private landowners willing to their part to help with this problem.
Ashby Bladen 1/10/03