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Conservation Commission Annual Report 2019

As current chair of the Conservation Commission, I hereby submit the annual report for the year ending June 30, 2019.  Conservation Commission (CC) volunteers have been very active over the year as they educate about, promote the use of and protect our many water bodies and variety of open spaces.  Here are some examples.

In collaboration with the Smithfield Plantation trustees and Historic Preservation, CC members run three outdoor educational programs which are much appreciated by the 3rd and 4th graders:  early April Vernal Pool Day, just as the ice is out, Forestry Day in May and History Day in June, all held at the Town owned 103 acre Smithfield Plantation.

Our thanks go to Carol Smith for her extensive work on the Litchfield Community Park (LCP) on the Hallowell Road, NE of the Town Office.  Here’s her report.  ” The Community Park is open to residents and guests year round. This natural resource has hiking trails, picnic area, a children’s slide (graciously donated by Stan Labbe), sand hills to slide and climb on, ponds to fish in as well and is an opportunity to spend the day outside. The Conservation Commission sponsors the park. Although it is accessible all year from the Kiosk area, the gate is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You can hike in at the gate or from the Town Office Parking lot for fall and spring hikes or to enjoy the winter snowshoe trails.  We have the “Wildlife Trail” marked and it’s an ongoing process clearing it. Also, for safety reasons, we have installed guardrails to keep motorized traffic off the sandy areas and to identify the parking area.  Again, we thank volunteers as well as Dick Brown and Charlie Smith for lending us equipment to bring in the 20-foot slide and dig holes for the guardrails. This spring, a local parent and family have been putting tires in place as a new play activity near the slide.  The Conservation Commission invites you to a challenge of coming up with recycle, reuse items to create an interactive inventive addition to the play area. We can be contacted at the Town Office or on our Facebook page- Litchfield Community Park.  We welcome ideas and volunteers to join us!”

Thanks also to Terry and Tim Tracy who have put many hours into creating and maintaining trails on Town owned land.  Terry reports that, “at the LCP trail clean up and more trail identifying signs have been added to the trails leading to and along Crystal Pond; more work has been done on the extended trails to the north of the parking lot.  Trails have been blazed, however more clean-up is needed to better identify where the trail is and blown down trees need to be cut and cleared from the trails.  The RSU 4 middle school came to the Litchfield Community Park in October for a Day of Caring.  Students helped clean up branches and learned how to identify some of the invasive plants that are at the park. They learned the process of placing a bag over the plants and or digging them up as a means of plant control. They did a wonderful job and we thank you, all!”

Adults also volunteer yearly at the Litchfield Community Park and another Town owned property on the Pine Tree Road to learn about and to control invasive plants by cutting woody shrubs at about 15” and covering with a HD plastic bag and tying the base.  Non-chemical, mechanical means are always the first choice if practical.  In the spring of 2018 the Town continued year two in the control of Japanese knotweed, called bamboo, along local road right of ways.  The goal is to prevent spreading it during normal grading and ditching maintenance.   Knotweed is an extremely difficult to control invasive plant; weekly mowing works but that is not possible on ditched roadsides.  We used the Maine Department of Transportation recommended chemical spray which combines three materials disabling the plant in three ways.  Homeowners were invited to give their permission to spray the knotweed beyond the right of way to kill the whole patch to prevent its spread back into the Town right of way.  In year two the licensed applicator sprayed if he found small amounts of knotweed regrowth, on new properties for which we got permission and on State and State aid roads in Litchfield in cooperation with the MDOT.   In 2018 MDOT only controlled knotweed on State roads with 12 or more infestations; they gave us the small number of locations in Litchfield for us to control.  We also received a detailed variance from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to spray knotweed/bamboo with a material that is approved for control near water at various sites in town, for example, to keep knotweed out of Jimmy Stream at the new Ferrin Road bridge.  Knotweed can take off in streams, filling the sides.  When the knotweed is killed we will plant native plants to hold the bank.

The Conservation Commission sponsors a program to help homeowners identify invasives on their property; contact retired horticulturalist Lindsay Nelsen.  In January Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s terrestrial invasive species educator Nancy Olmstead spoke in Litchfield.  She taught the list of invasives with a slide show, keeping us informed of the latest news (new invasive insects) and a review of best practices.

In a volunteer lake monitoring program from the Tacoma Lakes Association, a group called the Invasive Plant Patrol, goes out weekly in boats, canoes and kayaks mid to late the summer to study plants growing in the lakes and ponds looking for aquatic invasives.  Volunteers participate in ongoing educational programs presented by the Lake Stewards of Maine to learn plants and techniques.  The good news is that we have ‘failed’ to find any in Tacoma Lakes so far.  If found, the plants are marked by a buoy and the DEP will come and remove them.  “Early Detection and Rapid Response” is key in all invasive species control.   Unfortunately, invasive milfoil is present in Cobbossee Stream and Pleasant Pond.  Sadly, more invasives were recently found in Cobbossee Lake and a few of the IPP went and helped with removal last fall.  We extend our thanks to the Friends of Cobbossee Watershed for their tireless work on removal of these plants and the funds that they provide for boat inspections.  Questions can be directed to FOCW or to the Tacoma Lakes Association; for the IPP call representative Diane Clay.

CC member Emma Christman gave a presentation of her high school senior project growing edible seaweed in Casco Bay.  She created a school curriculum to go with the project.

In addition to the trails at Smithfield plantation on Libby Road, LCP and the four Kennebec Land Trust properties in Litchfield, Conservation Commission member Dian White and family have created The Jimmy Stream Conservation Area.  They have removed invasive species and created trails.  It is open to the public with 1.75 miles of trails for hiking, walking, skiing and snowshoeing.  Enjoy 35 acres of wetlands, hardwood and conifer forest. Public access between dawn and dusk. Directions: Rt. 197, north on Wentzell Road, then right on Gustin Road. Please park in the area at the intersection of Gustin Road and Jimmy Pond Lane.

This group of people enjoys working together and with others protecting our outdoor legacy.  Think about joining.

Respectfully submitted,

Lindsay M Nelsen, Chair


Conservation Commission Annual Report 2018

The mission of the Litchfield Conservation Commission is to work in areas of lake monitoring, water quality, the reclamation of the town gravel pit, maintaining town walking trails and facilitating the sustainable timber harvest on town owned wood lots. In a collaborative effort with the Smithfield Plantation trustees we sponsor local RSU 4 educational field trips at Smithfield Plantation.

This past September we sponsored a speaker for Invasive Plant Species, Lindsey Nelson. The presentation talked about invasive plant species along Litchfield roadways and how they affect all citizens of Litchfield. What specific invasives have been identified and what needs to be done to control them will be determined by the Litchfield Road Committee. Lindsey has posted articles in the Sodalite to help us all better understand what needs to be done on this topic.

Again this year students from RSU4 attended a live timber harvest at Smithfield Plantation along with a demonstration of a portable sawmill. Other field trips scheduled for this year are Vernal Pool Day and Forestry Day. There is a lot of effort put into these two educational projects for the students and educators of RSU 4 and they are always well received by all in attendance.

Another project that was started a few years back was the Litchfield Community Park. A new trail is in development and plans to update the current parking lot are underway. The new trail will be an extension of an existing trail to the pond and pass through the gravel pit to an old harvested wood lot owned by the town. This trail has a connection to Small-Burnham trail which makes for interesting walking on both lots. The Community Park will be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day with the same hours of operation as Woodbury Pond Park. One exception: For inclement weather the gate will be closed to the parking area. However, the trail system can still be accessed via the trail head behind the town office. As always, respect the carry in carry out rules of any town owned property as there are no trash cans for disposal.

Meetings of the Conservation Commission are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. unless otherwise posted. All are welcomed to attend. Please consider volunteering on some of these projects as many hands make light work, and who knows you might also have some valuable ideas to enhance these projects. My thanks to all our volunteers and town office crew who have given of their time and talents.

Respectfully submitted,
Tim Tracy

Conservation Commission Annual Report 2010

Litchfield is a great place to live, work and play.  Thinking about our town’s future we ask, how would we like to see it grow by, say 2030?  As a Commission, we promote the sustainable use of our natural resources through sound principles, so that future generations may enjoy the benefits of our wildlife, water and the land conservation. Over the past months, we’ve been working with Marcel Polak, from the Maine Association of Conservation Commissions, on ways in which we might continue this conversation with the community. Marcel’s time and expertise, paid for by a generous grant from the Duke Foundation, have helped the Commission think through some of the long-term goals we’d like to accomplish (e.g. more trails and conservation areas open for recreation). But to get there, we’re going to need everyone’s input. Associate member Delmar Small has created a “traveling road show” of maps and overlays which make for helpful conversation starters. We’re looking forward to sharing this work with all of you in the coming year.

We have begun a comprehensive mapping project of the town using ArcGIS, and to date have roads, water features, town-owned parcels, developed districts, historic and cultural sites, many trails, certain animal habitats, and soil types entered into software. We expect this tool to be very helpful in planning areas for conservation and producing trail maps.

Speakers have come to our meetings throughout the year to keep us up to date on environmental issues in our town and surrounding areas. Bruce Damon from the Stanton Bird Club provided an up-date of the proposed CMP corridor. Morte Mosswilde a District Forester, gave a talk about invasive forest species, Tamara Whitmore from Friends of Cobbossee Watershed gave us an up-date about the Tadpole Patrol. The town’s people were invited to hear a talk by LaMarr Clannon from Maine Nemo, about rural character and what Litchfield residents value. Pat Sirois from Four Towns Watershed Association addressed the commission about the milfoil problem on Pleasant Pond. They are hoping to purchase a DASH (diver assisted suction harvester) to help get control of the milfoil.

Trail Report:  Our trail committee members maintain four walking trails of varied distances, lengths and terrain. During the winter months, we held four Full Moon snowshoe walks on different trails around town. These planned walks were very well-attended and helped make people aware of the trail locations and sparked interest in snowshoeing at night. In addition to the walks, we had  hotdog roast over a half barrel that we hauled from site to site .Everyone seemed to enjoy standing around the fire meeting their neighbors and warming up with hot chocolate.

Forestry: Volunteers from the Litchfield Conservation Commission and Smithfield plantation have collaborated on the annual Forestry Day event at Smithfield Plantation. For 2010 teachers Carol Pelletier and Jackie Pettengill worked with volunteers to bring their students to Smithfield for the fourth event hosted on the site. Students have enjoyed presentations at this event on topics such as tree measurement and identification, forest products, wildlife habit, outdoor survival and vernal pool study. Presenters have volunteered from Maine Department on Island Fisheries & Wildlife, Maine Forest Service, Department of Environmental protection, Friends of Cobbossee Watershed and the private sector.

The Loon Committee kept watch over 5 loon nesting islands last summer and continues to collect data about the numbers of loons and chicks on the nesting sites in the Town of Litchfield.

The spring road side clean-up was held on May 8th and 9th.Thanks to Elaine Carpenter  for the work you did getting this event organized We hope that we can keep our roadside clean so we will have a nicer view as we drive around our town.

The committee voted to have a scholarship fund of $300 for students wishing to go to a Conservation Camp. Jasmyne Thornton was our only applicant; she is going to Camp Chewonki in July.

The Conservation Commission has also made a contribution to The Tacoma Lakes Improvement Society to show our support of their efforts to try and keep the milfoil out of the Tacoma Lakes.  Tacoma Lakes include Jimmy, Buker, Sand, Woodbury and Little Purgatory Ponds.

As you can see we represent a lot of different interests on this committee. We have 7 permanent members and up to 12 associate members. If you would like to help with some of these projects we have openings for some associate members. We are in the beginning stage of a plan to rehab the gravel pit areas behind the town office.  If you are interested in joining the committee send a letter of interest to the Conservation Commission c/o the Town Office.

Respectfully submitted,

Terry Tracy chairman