50 Lake Heroes for Our 50th Anniversary

Week of Feb. 24 Lake Hero: Sue Neal of Winthrop

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!)

Week of Feb. 17 Lake Hero: 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!

Week of Feb. 10 Lake Hero: 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.

Week of Feb. 3 Lake Hero: 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/.

Week of Jan. 27 Lake Heroes: 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.

Week of Jan. 20 Lake Heroes: 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!

Week of Jan. 13 Lake Hero: 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!

Week of Jan. 6 Lake Hero: Maggie Shannon

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!