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!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

NEW Story Walk at Hall School!

Many Rivers first and second grade students spent this past semester working with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District, (CCSWCD), to develop a story walk for a portion of the City Forest Trail behind Hall School. We're excited to announce that with the help of some awesome parent volunteers, the story walk has officially been installed and open to the public!

Starting in early February, CCSWCD educators began weekly visits with the first and second grade students to learn about the water cycle and protecting our water resources.  Using what they learned, the students then wrote and illustrated a story to be used for the story walk, called "Flow's Amazing Adventure".  The story follows a water droplet on her crazy journey through the water cycle.

This project was made possible with funds from the Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams program in partnership with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District.  We would also like to give a big thank you to the amazing Many River's Educators, Carie Garrett and Kristen Wyatt, as well as teaching artist Sarah Boyden.

Join us on Tuesday, June 6th at 5:00pm for a ribbon cutting ceremony and walk through to celebrate the new story walk.  We can't wait for you to see it!

Parent volunteers help install the Story Walk at Hall School.

Deering High School Students Monitor Capisic Brook

As part of our school outreach, educators from the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) have been working with Deering High School students to study the health of Capisic Brook. The students are participating in the University of Maine’s Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) program, which encourages students to become actively engaged in water quality monitoring at a local water body in their neighborhood.

CCSWCD has been supplementing the student's SMART work to provide them with a better understanding of how actions and activities on the land can impact our water. Lessons focus on how pollutants enter Capisic Brook, their effects on the water and wildlife, and the many different indicators of stream health.

The students also participated in a field trip that taught them how looking at stream life (critters called macroinvertebrates) can tell scientists if pollution is present in the stream. The students stepped into waders and got into Capisic Brook to collect and identify macroinvertebrates.

Students identify macroinvertebrates collected from Capisic Brook.
As part of the SMART program, the students will share their findings with the community. The students are enthusiastic about working with CCSWCD staff to explore different ways to share their information.  Possible outreach includes working with younger students at Longfellow Elementary School, and participating in storm drain stenciling. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fun at the 6th Annual Green Neighbor Family Fest!

The 6th Annual Urban Runoff and Green Neighbor Family Fest were a blast! Thank you to everyone who came out to join us (despite the weather) to help raise awareness of water pollution and to support the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District's CONNECT clean water education program.  We couldn’t be more excited to see the race and festival grow year after year and are already looking forward to 2018.

We may have had to move this year's festival inside, but it didn’t stop the fun! The Maine Marimba Ensemble had us grooving, Party Palooga joined us for face painting and Cannoli Joe’s food truck was serving up delicious cannolis.  We also had over 25 organizations join us to provide awesome hands on activities for youth, while talking about what we can all do to be greener neighbors!

Check out this year's festival participants below:

Breakwater                                                              IDEXX 
Chiropractic & Sports Health                                 Lamey Wellehan Shoes
City of Portland                                                      Maine Green Power 
Cumberland County SWCD                                   Maine Water Environment Assoc.
CC-UCAN                                                              Oceans Wide
Cultivating Community                                          Odyssey of the Mind
Cycling Savvy                                                        Opportunity Alliance
Deering Center Neighborhood Assoc.                   Party Palooga
EcoMaine                                                               ReVision Energy
Friends of Casco Bay                                             Sappi Paper 
Friends of Presumpscot River                                Spiral Tree Yoga
Garbage to Garden                                                 Sunrise Guide
Greener Neighborhoods Cleaner Streams              Surf Camp Maine
The Honey Exchange                                             U-Maine 4-H: Aquaculture Activities