The Rumphius FactorAcadia's plant-control program snares a popular flower.
No one complained this summer when Acadia National Park workers dug out 901 coltsfoot plants. There were no murmurs of protest when 19,563 garlic mustard plants were pulled in the park. And not a soul rose to the defense of the 1,000 honeysuckle shrubs that were cut and removed from an island inside the park's boundaries.
So park officials can be excused at their surprise when the very dickens broke loose after they started whacking the lupines. "We were weed-whipping a stand of lupine along the Park Loop Road," recalls David Manski, the park's chief of resource management. "When residents and visitors saw us cutting it down, there was a certain amount of controversy and concern."
The lupine slashing is part of Acadia's regular program to keep non-native species either out of the park altogether or at least under control. And the colorful lupine that decorates roadsides all over Maine in early summer is not local, despite its general popularity and identification with Maine through books such as Barbara Cooney Porter's well-known children's book, Miss Rumphius. "The lupine we now have originated on the West Coast," Manski explains. "Maine had a native species of lupine at one time, but it's thought to be extinct nowadays. Certainly we're confident that the lupines in the park are from away."
Nor is Acadia's program unusual. Every national park in the country is charged with protecting native plant species and, if possible, eradicating non-native interlopers — of which Acadia has an abundance. "The park has about 1,000 species of plants within its borders," Manski says, "and about 290 of them are not native to Mount Desert Island."
Manski says past land-use patterns are the major factor in the number of non-native species found in a park. In Acadia's case many of its off-island flora escaped from the formal gardens and elaborate plantings that often surrounded the huge cottages found on the island during the Gilded Age. "Japanese barberry was a popular hedge plant," he notes, "and now we find it all over the park."
Acadia has more than two-dozen priority plants on its hit list, from purple loosestrife to coltsfoot. Ironically, lupine didn't make the cut six years ago, the last time the list was reviewed, because "it wasn't that common in the park in those days," Manski explains. "In just the past few years it has spread quite a bit along the roadsides and into areas where we never expected to see it." The controversial stand along the Loop Road was on the verge of spreading into a nearby wetland, he notes.
Given the public outcry, the park has temporarily stopped destroying lupine stands, although park personnel are cutting off seed heads to prevent the plants from spreading. "We're doing more research on the plant," Manski says. "For example, it's already considered a weed in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Finland. And even here in Maine, there's a problem with lupine pushing out the native milkweed plants on Blue Hill and affecting the monarch butterfly populations that feed on them."
The park is also mapping the location of lupine stands to get a better idea of how widespread it is. Manski isn't making any promises about the park's future attitude toward the popular flower. "The best way to control an invasive species is when it's a small problem, not a big problem," he offers.
Miss Rumphius had better lie low.Doc on a RockMonhegan has the right prescription for emergency medicine.
Life on an island seems to inspire creativity, as evidenced by the crowds of artists who descend upon Monhegan each summer. But beyond artistic inspiration, island life also seems to bring forth a certain resourcefulness from the people who call this gorgeous, but isolated, chunk of land home, especially when it comes to their own medical needs. With only four emergency medical technicians and the nearest hospital a nine-mile ocean voyage away, people on Monhegan needing urgent medical care have had few options in the past. "Out here we sure don't have the 'Golden Hour' that other emergency crews have," explains Faryl Wiley, one of the founders of the Monhegan Emergency Rescue Service. "Even when we can get a helicopter, our time to the emergency room is two hours and forty minutes."
In order to provide more immediate health care, the rescue squad has begun inviting doctors to stay on the island, free of charge and with all meals included, in exchange for being on-call in case of emergencies. The "Doc on a Rock" program, now in its second year, has hosted physicians from Manhattan to Boothbay, all of whom have been more than happy to assist in the fifty or so emergency calls that the squad handles each summer. The doctors typically visit between May and October and handle only those calls that are too serious for the island EMTs. "Some of them don't get any calls while they're here, and then they feel guilty," says Wiley, adding that the visiting doctors carry radios at all times. "But we tell them ahead of time that they're on vacation and they can have a wonderful time, but we have the right to interrupt that vacation." Wiley says that many doctors have put on training sessions and classes for the local emergency medical teams, helping to raise the island's year-round medical readiness.
To pay for the "miniscule" one-room cottage that the doctor occupies, the rescue squad holds a chowder dinner in August and another fundraiser in winter, but Wiley says everything else — the ferry fare, food, e-mail service (email@example.com
), even parking on the mainland — is donated by local businesses. For people like Wiley, who describes herself as "old, and getting older by the day," and the other creative souls on Monhegan, this ingenious solution to the island's health care needs is just the right medicine.Coasties in the CountyLost at sea? Some very landlocked sailors are ready to help.
Spend much time on the waterfront in places like Portland, Rockland, and Southwest Harbor, and you're likely to bump into a few of the "boys in blue." These Coast Guard crews (despite the nickname, many Coast Guardsmen are actually women) are charged with protecting Maine waters from foreign invaders and drug smugglers and rescuing regular folks who get themselves in over their heads, sometimes literally, on the high seas. But way up north in Aroostook County you might not expect to come across such salty types. That is, unless you stop by the 300-acre Coast Guard Loran Station just outside Caribou, where four "Coasties" make sure the massive antenna array there keeps broadcasting its 100-kilohertz signal to lobstermen, yachtsmen, and even airplanes who use it to locate themselves along the Maine coast.
"Because of the way our signal works, the best place to receive a signal sent from here is actually along the coast," explains Chief Petty Officer Carlton Seccomb, who heads the landlocked station. "Our signal reaches about 500 miles offshore, and we've been picked up beyond Georges Bank." First put into operation in 1976, the Caribou facility is one of three Loran stations in the Northeast that vessels use to pinpoint their location. Seccomb says that while his station employs far fewer than the twenty-two sailors it did during Loran's heydey (newer global-positioning technology has since made Loran systems more backup than necessity for most mariners), he and his landlocked colleagues realize that some people on the high seas might still need their signal when the fog sets in or a storm knocks them off course. Each Coast Guardsman, most of whom spend between three and four years stationed in the County, wears a patch that proudly boasts "Without Us . . . You Can't Get There From Here" — illustrated with a rendering of a moose.
Further proof that the boys in blue, whether they're landlocked in Caribou or steering a rescue vessel along the coast, are always on guard.A Hundred Years of Automobiles
Hard as it is to believe now, it was only a century ago that the Maine legislature adopted the first laws requiring the registration of motor vehicles and the licensing of their drivers. The horseless carriage was still new and somewhat scary in those days, and it's interesting to note that one of the main reasons advanced for requiring automobile registrations was to make it easier for horse-and-buggy drivers (who were not licensed) to identify the vehicles that frightened their animals.
- Automobile registration fee in 1905: $2, for life. Registration fee in 2005: $25 a year, plus local excise tax.
- The first Maine license plate was issued in 1905. License plates began to be produced at the Maine State Prison in 1936. Coincidentally, or not, that was the same year the Vacationland motto appeared on the plate.
- Total vehicles registered in 1905: 792. Total vehicles registered in 2004: 1,486,969.
- Licensed drivers in Maine in 1905: 898. Licensed drivers in Maine in 2004: 984,829.
- First paved road in Maine: Pemaquid in 1625, a cobblestone street between the shore and the fish-drying racks on the hill above.
- Miles of paved road in Maine in 1905: eighty-five (sixty-five with macadam, twenty with granite blocks). Miles of paved road in 2005: 22,000.
- Number of summonses for motor vehicle violations issued in 2004: 115,209 to residents, 25,930 to nonresidents.Hatching a PlanLobstermen in Stonington try growing their own.
Maine's lobster industry has seen a string of record landings in recent years, and lobstermen around Deer Isle are working on a groundbreaking new method to keep the numbers up. Using innovative Maine-based technologies and research, they have turned a building on the Stonington waterfront into the state's first commercial lobster hatchery. Starting this month, the lobstermen plan to stock up to 150,000 young lobsters each year in selected spots along the coast.
The hatchery's design is based on research by Dr. Brian Beal, of the University of Maine at Machias. "People have built lobster hatcheries in the past," explains Ted Ames, of the Penobscot East Resource Center, which is helping set up the facility, "but they haven't been successful because their survival rate for lobsters from egg through the fourth molt was only 5 to 7 percent. Brian Beal developed a method that gives 60 to 70 percent survival with a phenomenal increase in the efficiency of the hatchery operation."
The system uses air pumped through specially designed tanks to create water currents that suspend the larval lobsters and keep the "cannibalistic critters," as Ames calls them, from feeding on each other for the two weeks it takes for them to reach juvenile size. Instead they feed on brine shrimp that the hatchery also raises. The shrimp, in turn, are raised on a diet of algae grown in thirty-two twenty-gallon tanks. "We're sort of creating our own ecosystem here," Ames explains.
The lobstermen of fishing Zone C, an area stretching from Cape Rosier to Jericho Bay and out to Matinicus Island, are financing the hatchery themselves with help from a $25,000 matching grant, after trying and failing to land financing through state government or out-of-state scientific sources. "The scientific community said there was no proof it would work, so they couldn't go along with it," Ames says.
Ames admits that there's a general perception that the lobster fishery is in top form after more than a decade of 50-million-plus pounds of lobster landings every year. (Using a new, more accurate reporting method, landings last year totaled 63.2 million pounds.)
"But the fishermen are seeing an erosion of the resource from the shallow coastal waters toward deeper water," he notes. In fact, many dealers estimate that landings last year were down as much as 10 percent over the previous year.
The hatchery's goal, according to Ames, is to "correct a deficiency of young lobsters in certain coastal areas where we're not seeing any now." The project will also provide invaluable information for researchers who currently know little or nothing about the lives of juvenile lobsters. "There's a tremendous amount of scientific research that needs to be done to understand what's going on with juvenile lobsters," Ames explains.
Fishermen will have to wait seven years before seeing any effect of the project in their traps — that's how long it takes a juvenile lobster to reach legal size. Still, they're enthusiastic about the possibilities, Ames says. "For the lobstermen, this is the greatest thing since spit."Let Them Eat GoatBillies are the new beef among Maine farmers.
George Martikke, of Starks, is in farmer's heaven. He markets a product so popular he can't meet the demand. Martikke sells meat goats. Martikke, president of Boer Goat Breeders of Maine, says as many as fifty other goat breeders in Maine are in the same situation. "We can't produce enough goats to meet the market," Martikke says. "We could sell 100 goats a week if we could raise them." As it is, he sold about 100 Boer goats all last year for meat and breeding, and he is one of the largest meat-goat breeders in Maine.
Martikke and Maine Department of Agriculture officials credit the rise in goat meat's popularity to the increasing number of immigrants from Mexico, Africa, and Asia, where goats are the meat animals of choice. "Virtually every country outside the United States, Canada, and northern Europe eat goat meat," Martikke explains. Hispanic, African, and Asian immigrants in particular demand goat meat for traditional dishes and holiday meals.
The most common meat breed is Boer goats, originally from South Africa. Martikke first began raising them about seven years ago, when he expanded his acreage in Starks. "I had a dairy goat herd, but I didn't want to take on more milking," he explains. "I needed more goats to keep the fields clear and the brush down, so I bought some Boers."
About two years ago, he noticed that his market for meat goats was expanding outside the local area. "When the Somali Muslims settled in Lewiston-Auburn, the demand increased," he recalls. "Then buyers began showing up for ethnic markets outside Maine."
Meat goats are finding favor with farmers because they can be raised to market weight in seven months, rather than the two years required for beef cows. Prices in the past year have run as high as $1.75 live weight for a sixty-five-pound animal. Martikke says the breeder's association has about thirty members, but he estimates there are at least another twenty meat-goat farmers in Maine, along with upwards of 100 dairy-goat farms.
Martikke says meat goat production is expanding rapidly in Maine. Last year all of his breeding-stock sales were in-state. "Maine has the land," he points out. "Plus you can raise six goats on an acre of land, and they're easier to take care of than cows."
There is one problem. "They're so friendly and cute that you want to make pets out of them," Martikke allows. "It can hurt to send them to market sometimes."Touch of ClassAn elegant steamship makes its return to Casco Bay.
A refreshing touch of class has returned to Maine waters with the Casco Bay Lines' new $3-million passenger ferry, Aucocisco III (pronounced aw-ko-sisco). The 110-foot-long, 399-passenger vessel, which replaces the rather uninspired-looking Island Holiday on the inner islands run, is practically a spitting image of the grand turn-of-the-century steamship from which it gets its name. (The word comes from the Native American term for Casco Bay, meaning "resting place.") From her plumb bow and wooden bench seats to the spacious wraparound decks that afford passengers an open-air view of the Calendar Islands, the ship appears to have sailed straight out of the pages of history.
At a time when the modern always seems to trump the classic, this pleasing ship's design is as refreshing as a sea breeze on a hot September day.