Friday, February 2, 2018

The Fish Are In!

A volunteer helps set up the tank at Hall School, where the trout will live from
now through May. Insulation around the tank keeps it cold and dark,
 just they way the fish like it!
Hall School students were extra excited this week as they received 300 trout eggs from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's hatchery in Casco! From now until early May, the students will raise the trout in their classroom while monitoring their growth and the health of the water in their tank. To do this, students will make the following observations:

  • Daily Observations 
    • Temperature - The trout like COLD water! Students will check the water temperature in the tank to ensure that it stays between 34°F - 38°F.
    • Fatalities - Dead eggs can cause bacteria to grow and spread throughout the tank. Students will check for fatalities daily and have them removed.
    • Changes in appearance - Students will monitor the trout's growth by writing daily descriptions and sketches of what they look like.
  • Weekly Observations
    • pH Tests - Once a week, the students will test the acidity of the tank water. Trout prefer water with a pH between 6.8 - 7.8 (but can tolerate pH up to 9).
    • Out of tank observations - Students will have the chance to take a closer look at the trout once a week. Their teacher will carefully remove 2-3 trout and place them in a clean beaker for students to look at. 
Stay tuned to see how the Brook Trout develop! The students plan to release the trout this spring at the Mill Brook Preserve in Westbrook.

Staff at the ME Inland Fisheries & Wildlife's Casco
hatchery prepare Brook Trout eggs for Hall School.

Trout eggs

Monday, January 29, 2018

New Year Goals for 2018

Start the new year right by setting a goal to become a Greener Neighbor in 2018! Get started by taking on one (or more!) of the simple actions below:

Reduce your use of fertilizer and weed & bug killers.
Practice healthy lawn care this year! Weed and bug killers can harm our children and pets, and fertilizer can pollute our water. Click here to learn more about healthy lawn care practices that build healthy soil for a beautiful lawn without weed and bug killers and with reduced use of fertilizer.

Direct gutter downspouts to a rain barrel or vegetation.By directing your gutter downspouts into a rain barrel or vegetation, you'll not only conserve water, but you'll also stop water from running off of your property and into a nearby stream or storm drain, collecting pollutants along the way. For more information on rain barrels, contact the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District at 207-892-4700.

Pick up after your pet and throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet.Improper pet waste disposal can cause serious problems for our waterways. Pet waste that is left on the ground or thrown into a storm drain can enter our water after it rains or when the snow melts. Pet waste in our water can cause beach closures due to high levels of bacteria, increase weed and algae growth and use up oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Make sure to scoop it, bag it, and trash it when you're out with your pet.

Wash your car on the lawn or at a car wash.Washing your car on the lawn or at a car wash can help prevent soapy water from running into nearby streams or storm drains and ending up in our waterways. Many car washes also reuse their water, so you can feel good about reducing your water usage!

Never dump anything down a storm drain. 
Most storm drains empty out directly into the closet water body. This means they carry trash, oil, pet waste, and more right into our water! Always remember - only rain down the drain.

Tell your friends and neighbors what you hope to do in 2018, and challenge them to do the same! Let's work together to help keep our waterways clean and healthy.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Education Programs Set for 2018!

Hall School students celebrate the end of their service project in 2017.
The new year is almost here, and we're super excited for the start of the Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams' school programs! We're partnering with educators at the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) once again to bring clean water service learning programs to students at King Middle School, Longfellow Elementary School and the Many Rivers Program at Hall School. Check out what we have planned for each school:

  • King Middle School - Sixth grade students will take part in a Clean Water Stewards Service Learning Program. Students will receive classroom lessons, participate in field work at local streams or ponds, and implement a service project to help protect Portland's waterways.
  • Longfellow Elementary School - Fifth graders at Longfellow Elementary School will participate in the fourth year of the Youth YardScaping Program. Through the program, students will research healthy lawn care practices and their impact on our water resources, care for a section of the lawn in their school garden, and take a field trip to Capisic Pond Park. The program concludes at Longfellow's annual science fair, where the students will present their research to the community.
  • Many Rivers, Hall School - First and second grade students in Hall School's Many Rivers Program will participate in a Trout in the Classroom Program. The students will raise Brook Trout, while learning about their habitat, life cycle, and how their survival depends on clean water. In the spring, the students will release the trout into a local stream, after presenting what they've learned to friends and family.
Longfellow Elementary School students care for their test plot as part of the
2016-2017 Youth YardScaping Program

Monday, November 20, 2017

Attack of the Pet Waste!

Pick up your pet's waste and throw it in the
 garbage to keep our water clean.
Pet waste is a major threat to our streams, lakes, and coastal waters, but you can help! It's easy - simply bag it and trash it when you're out with your pet. To be sure it stays out of our water, throw the bag into a nearby trash can.

Effects of Pet Waste
It's easy to forget to clean up after your pet when they do their dooty, but pet waste in our water can have nasty consequences for the animals that live there and for us! Pet waste in our water can:

Close waterways to recreation, such as swimming, boating, and fishing, due to high levels of bacteria.

Cause large amounts of algae and weeds to grow, making the water murky and harmful to aquatic life.

Use up oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive, causing fish kills.

How does your pet waste get to the waterway in the first place?
Bacteria from pet waste left on the side of a roadway or in the grass, can be picked up by runoff when it rains or when the snow melts. The runoff carries the pest waste and bacteria into local water bodies. This can happen even if the pet waste has been put in a bag first. Unfortunately, storm drains have become a common dumping ground for pet waste. Not only does this lead to clogged storm drain systems (and street and parking lot flooding), but many of the storm drains empty into nearby rivers and streams without being treated first! Pet waste should never be thrown into a storm drain, bagged or not.

The Solution?
The solution is easy! When you're out with your pet, remember to bag it and trash it into a nearby trash receptacle. Scoop the poop and keep it out of our water!

Casco Bay, Portland, ME

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Take a Fall Adventure!

The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and fall is here. It's the perfect time to get out and explore all the awesome trails that run through Portland! Whether you walk, run, or bike, take some time before the snow falls to enjoy Portland's natural resources.

While you're out exploring, take note of all the amazing trees and vegetation you come across. You may not realize it, but did you know forests play an important role in protecting our water? Here's a few reasons how:

  1. Trees and other vegetation collect and filter rainwater and melted snow, acting like a sponge and keeping pollutants out of our waterways. When rain or snow fall on hard surfaces, such as roads or sidewalks, it cannot soak into the ground and causes what is called "stormwater runoff." As stormwater runoff makes its way across the land, it picks up pollutants and wash them directly into our waterways. Forests can act as a buffer, collecting and filtering the polluted runoff before it flows into our rivers, lakes, and streams.
  2. Forests help replenish our groundwater supply. Groundwater is essential! Households on wells get their tap water from groundwater. Our groundwater also adds water to our streams during the dry, summer months, and plants  drink up water from the ground when they are thirsty.
  3. Forests help to hold soil in place, keeping it out of our waterways. Soil is the number one freshwater pollutant here in Maine. Roots from trees and other vegetation hold the soil in place, and prevent erosion from occurring.
  4.  Trees help to keep water temperatures cool by providing shade. This is important for certain critters that live in the water, like trout or salmon who need cool water to lay their eggs.
Pretty cool, huh? It's one of the many reasons we love our forests and you should too! Need help finding a trail to explore? Check out Portland Trails for information on 70 miles of trails and green space in Portland.

Evergreen Cemetery is a wonderful spot to enjoy a walk in the woods!
Photo credit: Corey Templeton

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall Lawn Care Made Easy

Fall is here, and it's the perfect time to get your lawn ready for next spring. Here are a few easy steps from the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District's,(CCSWCD), YardScaping program, which aims to help Mainers improve soil health, reduce the use of lawn care products, and grow a beautiful lawn with few or no additives. 

Get confused at the store? CCSWCD works with many lawn and garden centers throughout the Greater Portland area to label healthy lawn care products with a rubber ducky logo. To find a list of participating stores, click here. For more information or specific questions regarding your lawn, give us a call at 207-892-4700. 

Step 1: Do a soil test
Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn, but it is not always necessary. Avoid wasting money on fertilizer by doing a soil test first. Fall is also the perfect time to add lime to your lawn, and a soil test will tell you exactly how much is needed. Request a soil testing kit from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension or by calling CCSWCD at 207-892-4700. Learn more about soil testing here

Step 2: Aerate
Help grass roots thrive by loosening the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots more easily. Core aerators are easy to use and affordable to rent, especially if you split the cost with a neighbor.  Learn more about aerating here

Step 3: Add Compost
Ideally, grass needs 6-inches of quality soil to grow. Unfortunately, Maine soils tend to be very shallow (only about 3-inches in most places). Adding a thin layer (1/4 to 3/8 inch) of compost over your lawn will help you build up your soil layer faster, while also adding nutrients and organic matter to help you grow a healthy lawn. Learn more about topdressing with compost here.

Step 4: Overseed 
Spread new grass seed over your existing lawn to rejuvenate your grass and have a thicker lawn next year. Learn more about choosing the right grass seed here

With a little time this fall, you'll have a healthier lawn next spring!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Longfellow Elementary 5th Graders Talk Healthy Lawn Care

The Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) was excited to work teach 5th graders at Longfellow Elementary School about Youth YardScaping this year. 2017 marks the third year students have learned how to grow a healthy lawn while keeping Capisic Brook clean. For one month the students learned about healthy lawn care practices and alternatives to harmful fertilizer and weed and bug killers. On June 4th they demonstrated their knowledge by educating community members at their annual Spring Fair. 

A look inside Youth YardScaping...

The 5th graders started the program by venturing on a walking field trip from the Longfellow School to Capisic Pond. As natural observers, the students took note of possible pollutants, storm drain locations, and where they thought the water may flow next.  Once at the pond, they put their science caps on to conduct water quality assessments, experiment with stormwater models, and participate in various nature games.

Checking out storm drains on the walk to Capisic Pond.

Back in the class room, the students were split into 12 groups and assigned a healthy lawn care topic to research for the next month.  Topics included mowing, watering, aerating, topdressing, overseeding, fertilizing, pest control, healthy soil, erosion, watersheds, compost tea, and rain gardens. CCSWCD educator, Kat Munson, made weekly visits to the classroom to work with the students on their research, as well as to help maintain an outdoor test plot in the school's garden area. 

The test plot allowed each student the chance to put what they were learning into action. They topdressed the plot with fresh compost, brewed compost tea to apply on the grass, added new grass seed, and more.

On June 4th, with the sun shining, the students invited the community to join them for their presentations at the school's Spring Fair.  With their displays set up and ready to go, family and friends rotated through the groups as the students explained what they had learned and their advice for a healthy lawn. 

Explaining how Compost Tea is made!

Showing off some homemade compost and explaining topdressing.

Thank yous are in order to all of the 5th grade teachers at Longfellow Elementary, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Pratt, and Mr. Connolly, for all of their hard work and support. Thank you also to the students from USM and Doug Roncarati from the City of Portland for volunteering their time and sharing their knowledge during the Capisic Pond field trip. Most importantly, a big round of applause for each and every student at Longfellow Elementary that worked so hard on this project - awesome job!