50 Lake Heroes for Our 50th Anniversary

In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, we look to recognize 50 Lake Heroes through the course of the year. These heroes represent just a small number of the many people and organizations across Maine who go above and beyond to protect the health of lakes. Please join us in thanking these folks, and the many others, for their continued efforts.

Laurie and Jim Fernwood, Cold Stream Pond

Today we recognize two of our superstar LakeSmart team members, Laurie and Jim Fenwood! Both retired wildlife biologists, Jim and Laurie spend their summers on Cold Stream Pond in the camp that Jim’s grandfather built in 1937. They appreciate that Cold Stream Pond is currently one of the clearest lakes in Maine, but see that threats to water quality are increasing every year. They are active members of the Cold Stream Camp Owner’s Association (CSCOA) an organization committed to protecting and improving water quality in the lake. Jim is on the board of directors and administers the CSCOA website and email campaigns, and Laurie produces the association newsletter.

Laurie and Jim started the LakeSmart program at Cold Stream Pond in 2015 and use the screening process to prioritize cost-share grants for projects that help protect the lake as well as a way to achieve LakeSmart program goals. In 2016, they secured and administered an $85,000 EPA grant for water quality projects around the lake, using LakeSmart to rank the projects.

With funding from the CSCOA, Jim and Laurie (and other Lake Stewards of Maine volunteers) monitor water clarity and sample for total phosphorus. They participate in the annual Maine Audubon loon count, assist road associations, and coordinate with the Towns of Enfield, Lincoln, and Lowell. FMI on CSCOA, visit: https://www.coldstreampond.com/

Friends of Wilson Ponds Association

The Friends of Wilson Ponds Association is an outstanding example of lake residents combining efforts to care for the lake/pond they live on. Their organizational skills shine and as a group, they organize invasive plant paddles, loon counts and are actively involved in LakeSmart. Between the two Wilson Ponds – Upper and Lower – there are a number of LakeSmart properties and trained LakeSmart evaluators! Lower Wilson Pond is home to Rum Ridge Association, which is a community surrounded by a 100ft in-tact buffer, which protects the pond.

Additionally, Friends of Wilson Ponds works very closely with the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District and sponsors two youth from the Greenville community to attend PCSWCD’s Teen Wilderness Expedition program. This program encourages youth to explore and engage with the outdoors and inspires future stewards of our land and waters. FMI: https://fowpa.org/ 

George Fergusson, Clary Lake

In 2011, Clary Lake and its Association were in trouble.  A dispute with the owner of the dam controlling the lake level was leading toward seven years of unswimmable, unboatable water and significant environmental damage to the natural resource. Only 28 of 100+ littoral owners were members.  Now in 2019, thanks to the unwavering efforts of George Fergusson, the Association’s long-time Secretary, the CLA has purchased and repaired the dam, the water level has been restored, and 148 (!) members can once again enjoy the benefits of a healthy lake.

George has lived on Clary Lake his entire adult life, and has been its prime steward for decades.  He instigated the 2012 petition to DEP for a Lake Level Order, and then bore the brunt of legal harassment by the dam owner that prevented the Order from being implemented for five years. This included endless hours compiling and drafting documents for court, attending innumerable hearings, and managing fund-raising for legal expenses.  His personal solicitation of new members meant that when the dam fell into bankruptcy, the Association could raise $120,000 for purchase and repair.  George is a certified Water Quality Monitor, and has measured and maintained daily records of the lake level for years, information that was crucial to DEP’s recent approval of CLA’s Water Level Management Plan.  He has been tireless in meeting with town officials, state agency staff, the press, contractors, and attorneys to keep the effort moving forward, and continually encouraged the Board of the CLA even when the quest seemed hopeless and endless.

Bart Hague, Waterford

Bart Hague, President Emeritus of the Maine Lakes Society, was inspired to a life of environmental activism by a visit to his aunt’s “Haunted House” overlooking McWain Pond when he discovered that his favorite pine grove had been cut down.  He went on to study Forestry at Yale, began work for the Eisenhower administration and helped form the US EPA, eventually retiring from there.  Along the way, he has been active in many environmental organizations in both Massachusetts and Maine, including the Newton Conservators, McWain Pond Association, Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (Now Lake Stewards of Maine), National Resources Council of Maine, Western Mountains Land Trust, Crooked River Watershed.  He has been honored for his activism by both US EPA and VLMP (2006 Outstanding Lake Stewardship Award), and now the Maine Lakes Society, Lake Hero Award. He and his wife Mary Ann, now own his aunt’s house in Waterford and have placed most of their property and over a mile of Crooked River shoreline in a conservation easement that helps protect the headwaters of Sebago Lake.

John Eliasberg, George’s Pond

John Eliasberg, president of the Georges Pond Association, has helped to energize volunteers to adopt a highly effective LakeSmart program while also building a strong leadership board; increasing membership in the lake association from 35 to nearly 200 dues-paying members over the course of three years; securing grants and private donations to pay for an alum treatment of the pond as well as make watershed improvements; and developing key partnerships with the Maine DEP, water-quality experts, community leaders, and others. All the while, he shows up with an abundance of energy, clear thinking, immense integrity, awe-inspiring persistence, and characteristically good humor. Every lake association would be blessed to have a John Eliasberg!

Dave Gay, Belgrade Lakes

Dave Gay has been actively involved with LakeSmart in the Belgrade Lakes for more than 10 years. He has worked tirelessly as a screener and an evaluator. At several points he has stepped in to rescue the program when unseen circumstances led to other staff and volunteers leaving the program with unfinished business. He has volunteered to encourage lakefront owners to sign-up for screenings at the local farmers market. He took 2 years to research and collect information about what lake and road associations existed on Great and Long Ponds. He has spoken regularly at homeowners’ associations about LakeSmart. He formed a committee to write a “white paper” with recommendations to streamline and improve the organization and its conservation corps partner. His dedicated participation led to more than 80 screenings being done several years in a row. He’s an unsung hero.

Lake Stewards of Maine

This week we are pleased to recognize our friends and colleagues at the Lake Stewards of Maine as Lake Heroes. We work with LSM on many different lake issues, and admire their hard work training and organizing more than 1,300 volunteer citizen scientists and maintaining their water quality monitoring, watershed survey, and invasive plant patrol data from more than 450 lakes across the state. That data is invaluable in our fight to keep Maine’s lakes clean, healthy. 

Formerly the Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program, LSM was established in 1971 when a small group of visionaries recognized that keeping a watchful eye on the health of several thousand Maine lakes could only be accomplished through widespread citizen participation in the gathering and dissemination of credible lake data. This marked the beginning of the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (recently re-named Lake Stewards of Maine/LSM), widely acknowledged to be the longest-standing citizen lake monitoring program in the United States, as well as one of the largest.

LSM has been training volunteers and supporting citizen lake science in Maine for nearly five decades. Currently about 1,300 LSM-certified citizen scientists are active on approximately 450 Maine lakes, monitoring water quality, conducting invasive aquatic species screening surveys, and/or carrying out watershed surveys. Thousands of others have participated in one or more free LSM trainings or otherwise tapped into LSM technical resources over the years, using what they have learned in myriad ways to strengthen local and statewide lake protection efforts.

What is most remarkable about Lake Stewards of Maine is the passion and commitment of its volunteers, many of whom have been continuously active for multiple decades! We are all continually struck by the extraordinary dedication, care and competence LSM volunteers bring to their work, and aware of how critical this work has been over time to the better understanding and protection of all Maine lakes.  All who treasure Maine’s clean, clear lakes owe a debt of gratitude to Maine’s citizen lake stewards.  LSM staff feel privileged to be reminded of this debt every day. Indeed, we are all in awe of LSM volunteers, and also thank LSM, whose role to serve and support volunteers is at the heart of everything they do! For more information visit http://lakestewardsofmaine.org.

Peter Kallin, Rome

We are honored to honor our good friend and recently retired long-time board member Peter Kallin as this week’s Lake Hero. Peter has been described as a “walking encyclopedia” (or in these days, a “human internet”), and we don’t think anyone who has met him would disagree with that statement. Peter’s knowledge is both wide and deep — ranging from legislative lake policy and politics (in Maine and across the country); to all things lake science; to organizational and board development; wildlife, natural history, fishing, as well as all things beer, stout or ale. Peter is generous with that knowledge, and is always available for a phone call (or in the old days, a meeting) with anyone who wanted to know more. His efforts and knowledge have shaped much of MLS’ past successes, and Maine lakes are better for having a generous expert in our midst! Thanks, Peter, and we look forward to tapping your expertise and enthusiasm for many years to come!

Lenny Reich, McGrath Pond – Salmon Lake Association

Currently its Vice President, Lenny Reich was a prime mover in the evolution of  the McGrath Pond – Salmon Lake Association (MPSLA). His ongoing contributions over three decades have brought together the interests, fears and aspirations of a diverse group of people – many with conflicting perspectives. As the membership, priorities and needs of the association changed, Lenny’s involvement with the day-to-day affairs of MPSLA took many forms. Though he could easily have rested on his laurels long ago, he was always there for yet another tour of duty when the association needed him, and rarely hesitated to support what can sometimes be a frustrating – if not thankless – venture. Lenny is a true master of “inside baseball” – often magically able to move state agencies, town governments, politicians, public utilities, and even recalcitrant locals in directions helpful to the cause.  Whether it requires editing and overseeing the printing of the association’s newsletter; representing it to an alphabet-soup of local, regional and government organizations; or just schmoozing up target audiences — Lenny is proof that the adage “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it!” still rings true.

Kim & David Hallee, Oakland

Kim & Dave Hallee (pictured here in the backrow) have worked tirelessly for years to spread the gospel of “LakeSmart” and “buff enough” around the 15 miles of the very challenging McGrath Pond – Salmon Lake shoreland.  They serve on the front-lines of our outreach efforts, selling our message to people who often don’t really wish to disturb their generations-old camp roads, manicured lawns and waterfronts. Kim and Dave’s energy and enthusiasm for this venture is truly contagious, and their capacity to enlist the participation of skeptical lakeside denizens is quite remarkable.  Beneath their dyadic charm is an astounding wealth of both scientific and practical knowledge about how to resist the forces of entropy, eutrophication and human abuse. They’ve powered our lake surveys, imposed order on record-keeping chaos, recognized responsible land use, and helped to bring available resources to bear on remediating troubling deficiencies. Our lakes would not be the same without their truly outstanding efforts.

Avian Haven, Freedom

This week’s Lake Hero is Avian Haven, a non-profit bird rehabilitation center in Freedom founded by Marc Payne and Diane Winn (pictured here). They and their dedicated staff treat more than 2,500 birds each year, including those that are orphaned, sick or injured with the goal, always, of releasing them back into the wild. We are recognizing them as Lake Heroes this week because of their dedication to rehabilitating Common Loons, a species notoriously difficult to treat. Over the last 20+ years, Avian Haven has treated several hundred Common Loons, many of whom were suffering from lead toxicosis after ingesting lead tackle. They have pioneered new treatments in loons, including lavage and chelation to reduce the after-effects of poisoning. We thank Mark, Diane, and their staff, for their dedication to rehabilitating and releasing Common Loons in our state. FMI, visit https://www.avianhaven.org/

Ted Koffman, Bar Harbor

Today we recognize Ted Koffman as of one of Maine’s long standing Lake Heroes!

Ted’s conservation career began at the College of the Atlantic, where he worked for 25 years. While there, he helped establish “Eco-Eco” (short for ecology and economics) to engage business, environmental, academic, and civic leaders in discussions focused on the environment and economy in Maine’s future. Ted’s exposure to public policy led to his successful 2000 campaign for the State Legislature, where he served for 8 years. While there he advocated for bills addressing invasive aquatic plants, climate change, protection of habitat for wading birds and waterfowl, and bills to protect public and private drinking water.

Following his legislative service, Ted joined Maine Audubon in 2009 as Executive Director. Ted provided leadership for Maine Audubon’s advocacy work to protect vernal pools and wetlands, and to reduce the threat of lead poisoning to loons from fishing gear. Ted also helped spearhead new conservation initiatives such as the Brook Trout Pond Survey and Stream Smart.

After he retired in 2014, Ted returned to Bar Harbor. He how serves on the board of Island Housing Trust (IHT). IHT creates affordable housing opportunities for families working and living on MDI year-around.

Thank you, Ted!

Sue Neal, Annabessacook Lake

This week’s Lake Hero is Sue Neal of Winthrop. After 15 years as Annabessacook Lake Improvement Association’s (ALIA) president, Sue Neal stepped down in August of 2019. Having joined ALIA’s board in 1968, she has tirelessly worked over the last 52 years for the health of the lake. She saw Annabessacook Lake through its time as a Superfund site, the site of an oil spill, and now a site with a variable water-milfoil infestation. She has attended countless meetings and continues to engage with a large number of people, other lake associations and town councils about these threats to Annabessacook Lake. Among the entities working with Sue include Maine DEP, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Cobbossee Watershed District and the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed. Sue will undoubtedly be missed as ALIA’s head honcho, although all are thankful she continues to sit on the board. Thank you, Sue, for more than 50 years of work to protect Annabessacook Lake! (And thanks to Jill Halligan for the nomination!)

Dr. Mark Pokras

Today we honor Dr. Mark Pokras as one of Maine’s Lake Heroes, but we can also call him a Loon Hero! Mark has been researching mortality in common loons since 1987 and is widely recognized for his work on lead poisoning in wildlife and public health. His research on lead poisoning in loons led to restrictions on fishing tackle in Maine and a number of other states.

After earning his D.V.M. from Tufts University in 1984, Mark stayed with the university as a resident in wildlife medicine. He became a faculty member in 1988, where he later served as Director of the Wildlife Clinic and was a founder of the Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine.

Mark is well-known in the worldwide scientific community for his important contributions to research and wildlife medicine. But aside from his many professional talents and accolades, we also know him as a spirited mentor and collaborator who’s generous with sharing his time and knowledge. Now retired and living in Maine, Mark still regularly consults for a variety of private, state, and federal wildlife agencies on issues of environmental health and policy. A lifelong teacher, Mark remains involved with education for veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, students, and the public.

Thank you, Mark!

Matt Scott

A true hero for Maine’s lakes for more than five decades, Matt Scott is considered the grandfather of lake protection in Maine. He is a walking encyclopedia about Maine’s lakes and ponds, and can recall the status of the fisheries, the history of water quality, and the on-going issues at almost any lake he’s visited. Matt first worked in fisheries for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the early ’60s, but was recruited to the fledgling Department of Environmental Protection in 1970 as the first biologist in an agency of primarily engineers. He developed strong scientific programs to protect water quality, which led to a Maine Lakes Working Group, made up of state agencies promoting management of Maine’s lakes and ponds. In 1974, Matt formed the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program (now Lake Stewards of Maine), leading to four decades of water quality data from hundreds of lakes. Under Matt’s leadership, staff at DEP developed a biological monitoring program assessing water quality and a nutrient management model regulating development, both among the best in the country. Matt officially retired from DEP in 1988 but since that time has remained active in many lake conservation organizations. And we aren’t the only ones who think Matt is a hero. Matt was recently recognized by the EPA with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thank you, Matt, for serving on the Maine Lakes board and for all you do to champion Maine’s clean lakes.  For more information on Matt’s recent award, visit https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/maine-citizens-and-organizations-recognized-epa-environmental-achievements.

East Pond Association

For more than 20 years, East Pond Association has worked with many partners to find the causes and work on a remedy for the almost annual intense algae blooms on the pond. With the able assistance of Colby College, 7 Lakes Alliance (formerly Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance), Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and others, East Pond Association identified the need to address internal phosphorus loading as the best strategy to improve water quality. Much work had already been done by LakeSmart property owners to reduce runoff and erosion as external sources of phosphorus. An alum treatment, where aluminum compounds chemically bind the phosphorus in the water column, turned out to be the recommended procedure but a huge obstacle was the $1 million price tag. The association, with assistance from the 7 Lakes Alliance, applied for grants from Maine DEP and the Alfond Foundation totalling $400,000. The association raised the balance from East Pond property owners, a massive undertaking! The 2018 alum treatment has resulted in dramatically improved water quality for the past two years. The treatment is expected to last for 15-20 years. We recognize and thank the East Pond Association as this week’s lake heroes! (Thanks to Rob Jones for the nomination!) FMI visit https://eastpond.org/.

The Staff of Lakes Environmental Association

This week’s lake heroes are our colleagues at Lakes Environmental Association in Bridgton. When the lakes are frozen, LEA staff are busy testing water through the ice, visiting schools,  and taking kids of all ages out on their preserves and trails. They meet with landowners throughout the year to help them with sustainable management, test water quality on more than 40 lakes in the region, and run the Maine Lakes Science Center, a cutting-edge research and water testing lab. They also manage the Courtesy Boat Inspection program and lead the charge on efforts to fight invasive aquatic invasions. LEA is a regional hub for the LakeSmart program and supports the work of Maine Lakes Society in so many ways. Incidentally, LEA also turns 50 this year. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our favorite collaborators doing great work for lakes and land in western Maine!  FMI and to find out more about the annual Milfoil Summit, visit www.mainelakes.org.

Sandy & Wynn Muller of Wilton

This week’s lake heroes are Sandy and Wynn Muller, a tireless dynamic duo in their ongoing work to support the health of Maine’s lakes. They have been especially active on Wilson Lake in Wilton, where they’ve had a home since 1987. Through the decades, they have devoted their talents, time, and appreciation of science to building community awareness (and taking action!) to protect Maine lakes. Their list of accomplishments is long but includes helping develop education programs in local schools, leading the local Courtesy Boat Inspection program, supporting LakeSmart evaluations, monitoring water quality as certified Lake Stewards, and leading the Friends of Wilson Lake as well as committees of the Maine Lake Society board. They were honored for their work by the Natural Resource Council of Maine this past year as a People’s Choice Award Finalist (pictured here at the ceremony last fall). Their leadership at the local and state level, their encouragement of other organizations and individuals, and their continued emphasis on learning more and doing better make them models of commitment for protecting and preserving Maine’s lakes for the future. We thank them for their efforts!

Midcoast Conservancy

Congratulations to the crew at Midcoast Conservancy!

This week’s lake hero is Midcoast Conservancy, an organization that cares for the waters in the midcoast region in so many ways! They have restored fish passage routes through projects to remove the Coopers Mills Dam and redesign the Head Tide Dam. They are preparing in 2020 for work on the Branch Pond Dam. They monitor water quality on the Sheepscot River and their Invasive Plant Patrol program trains volunteers who do bi-weekly monitoring on Damariscotta Lake. Their Courtesy Boat Inspectors are posted at both Clary and Damariscotta Lakes, and their Youth Conservation Corps installed anti-erosion projects on 11 lakefront properties on Damariscotta Lake. We love working with Midcoast Conservancy as a regional hub for the LakeSmart program and thank them for their hard work to keep Maine’s lakes clean and healthy!

Maggie Shannon, Belgrade

We thought it was appropriate to kick off our 50th anniversary celebration of 50 Lake Heroes by recognizing our own Maggie Shannon, who has been the heart and soul of our organization for more than 16 years! Her passion and dedication for lake conservation helped grow Maine Lakes from its roots as Maine Congress of Lake Associations, and was instrumental in the growth of LakeSmart as a Maine Lakes flagship program. We know Maggie’s passion for clean lakes will remain as she transitions away from Maine Lakes and onto other projects and adventures in the year ahead. We hope she is able to relax and enjoy all that lakes have to offer in the years to come and thank her for all the work she has done!