Friday, April 23, 2010

Volunteers Needed for Cleanup of Town’s Oldest Cemetery

A cleanup of Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street will be held on the morning of Saturday, May 1 from 7 a.m. until noon. The rain date will be Sunday, May 2.
Neighbors and everyone who appreciates old cemeteries are invited to stop by any time, don gloves and pick up brush and leaves among the old headstones. Organizers Bruce and Vicky Whitney will provide free lunch at noon.
Located near the corner of Vine and Brattle Streets, the Old Fields Burying Ground was once South Berwick’s chief cemetery and dates from the 1600s.
“For the past two years, the neighbors of Old Fields and members of the Old Berwick Historical Society have joined together to help clean up and bring new life to the historic Old Fields Burying Ground,” Bruce Whitney said, adding that all ages and all talent levels are welcomed.
“It doesn’t matter where you live in town,” he said. “If you have an hour or two on May 1, please join us. If you have a rake and a ground cloth, please bring them. And everybody should dress with long pants and long sleeves.”
So far over the past two years, volunteers have removed 40 trees from the overgrown cemetery, which covers 1.75 acres overlooking Leigh’s Mill Pond. Some eight tons of leaves, logs, branches and brush have been cleaned up and hauled off, said Whitney.
The number of volunteers grew from 24 to 44 last year, and Whitney is hoping to see 50 helpers this year.
“The transformation of this cemetery is not complete but great and noticeable progress has been achieved,” he added. “You will work hard and you will work constantly, but you will also be rewarded for your efforts.”
Also known as Vine Street Cemetery, the Old Fields Burying Ground contains 339 known graves, including South Berwick’s founders and veterans of the World Wars, Civil War, French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. It is no longer cared for by local cemetery authorities and currently depends on volunteers for maintenance.
One of the interesting graves is that of the early colonist Hetty Goodwin, who was captured by the Indians and carried to Canada in 1689.
Veterans’ graves include those of a Civil War brevet major, and soldiers of the American Revolution. The cemetery is also the resting place of early Congregational ministers, including Rev. Jeremiah Wise, ordained here 300 years ago when this area was the center of town. The community’s main church stood here and residents worked at sawmills on the Great Works River and a shipyard near the Hamilton House. Jonathan Hamilton’s grave is in the burying ground as well.
For more information about the cleanup event, please contact Bruce Whitney (207) 384-384-2051, 384-2753 or BWHITNEY@GWI.NET. History information about the cemetery can be found at the Old Berwick Historical Society’s website,
Photo caption: Volunteers are needed to clean up Old Fields Burying Ground on Vine Street in South Berwick on Saturday, May 1, from 7 a.m. to noon. Shown here are some of last year’s spring cleanup volunteers. (Courtesy photo)

May Day Festival in Kennebunk

Kennebunk’s 12th Annual May Day Festival will be held on Saturday, May 1, 2010 and promises to be a full day of family-friendly activities throughout Downtown Kennebunk. Look for our new maps on Main Street to plot your course and join us for some or all the excitement that day!
Important note: The May Day Parade will begin at 1:30 p.m. and will include all the Kennebunks’ Little Leaguers in full uniform! (Everyone connected with the Little League is asked to park behind the Lafayette Center – routes from there to your games will be provided!) There will also be some well-known Mascots, antique/classic cars, the Shoe String Puppet Theater and Shriners!
Visit the open house at The Brick Store Museum (make your own May-basket), stop by the faerie garden planting and book/bake sale at The Kennebunk Free Library and celebrate opening day for The Kennebunk Farmers Market just off Main Street in the public parking lot. Check out the Maine Women in the Arts exhibit at The Kennebunk Inn, the craft market booths with artists/craftspeople at Lafayette Park on Storer Street and try your hand at chalk art at We Care Cleaners on the way by (no experience necessary!). There will be May-pole dancing, a rock climbing wall and all the usual Main Street shops will be open along with restaurants, and miscellaneous food vendors.
Multiple live bands will be playing in Lafayette Park on Storer Street, as well as the gazebo on Water Street throughout the afternoon. Come hear Ray Brown House Band, The Kennebunk River Band, Ketchfish Blues Band and Bob Cangello. Also performing will be Starbird Life Players and The Little Melodies Band. Don’t forget your lawn chair or bring a blanket!
A complete schedule of events, and list of sponsors who make this event happen, will be available soon at; go to Calendar and scroll down to May.

New Guide Helps Identify Maine’s Natural Communities

It’s easy to say – almost to the point of being clich├ęd -- that Maine people live in a unique region of the U.S., but two state ecologists are proving just that with a new book that’s just been published.
Susan C. Gawler, regional vegetation ecologist with NatureServe, a non-profit conservation science organization, and Andrew Cutko, a Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) ecologist with the Maine Department of Conservation, are co-authors of “Natural Landscapes of Maine: A Guide to Natural Communities and Ecosystems,” recently published by MNAP.
The new guidebook outlines and defines the 104 distinct, natural communities of which the state is comprised, proving just how special Maine really is. From the rare-to-Maine alpine bogs found in the Mahoosucs to the globally rare riverside seeps on the St. John River, Maine has some truly unusual landscapes, and Cutko and Gawler are helping everyone from conservationists to teachers to backyard naturalists discover that fact.
“We recognize that Maine is a special place that many people take for granted,” Cutko said recently. “Part of the message of the book is to give readers a real sense of place about where they live.”
“Conservation practitioners can use this as a technical guide, but more broadly, people who love the outdoors and the natural beauty of Maine can learn more about its diversity both statewide and close to home,” Gawler said. “There’s so much to see when you look closely! Appreciating the diversity of Maine’s habitats is the first step in their conservation and sensible use.”
The unique field guide has been more than10 years in preparation and came about when Gawler and Cutko perceived different needs for clear, concise information about the various habitats in Maine. A licensed forester by training, Cutko pointed out that the MNAP works with hundreds of foresters, environmental consultants and developers who need the program’s ecological information for conservation planning and development to minimize impact.
Much of the program’s information already existed in a notebook format with highly technical verbiage, definitely not the most user-friendly. “Some of our constituents can digest that type of information,” Cutko said, “but we recognized there was a much broader segment of the population, such as the weekend naturalist or fourth-grade teacher, who had an interest in the world around them.”
Gawler, who previously was a MNAP ecologist, did the bulk of the initial information analysis and crunched the technical data, undertaking the process of determining landscape types. Cutko, who previously was director of NatureServe’s forest program, used his field knowledge to refine the definitions of the various communities. “Dozens and dozens of people” did the actual field work of collecting data in various habitats, notating the plants and animals that live in them around the state, he said.
What has resulted is a guide that is a significant tool for the identification and conservation of special places throughout the state that meets the technical and general description needs of both audiences.
In identifying the 104 unique communities, the two ecologists used a “top-down” approach, Cutko explained, starting with four specific subgroups that are color-coded in the book: wooded uplands; wooded wetlands; open uplands; and open wetlands.
“Even a grade-schooler can figure out if they’re in a forested upland or an open wetland,” the ecologist said. “One of the first questions we ask is: Are your feet wet or dry? Are there trees there or not? … By grouping them that way, we try to make use of the book compatible even to those with much less knowledge and experience.”
Under each subgroup, readers will find a two-page description of each type, including attractive photographs, maps and helpful lists on trees, shrubs, wildflowers and wildlife, and most importantly, where on Maine’s conservation lands each habitat can be visited. Introductory material includes a diagnostic key and how each classification fits into a bigger picture for conservation; appendices include a cross-reference to other classification types and a glossary.
An interesting aspect of the guide is the inclusion of rankings by rarity. Some habitats are rare to Maine, but more common in other states, such as the oak-hickory forest found only in southern Maine but common from Massachusetts to West Virginia. Other habitats are “truly globally rare,” Cutko pointed out. These include the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in southern Maine that require periodic burning to be maintained and the riverside seep in the St. John Valley, home of the Furbish’s lousewort, a rare and endangered snapdragon that grows nowhere else in the world.
The book was carefully designed by Cutko, Lisa St. Hilaire, MNAP information manager, and designer Cory Courtois of Waterville to be accessible and attractive. About 3,000 books have been printed through grants from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Maine Forest Service and the Sweet Water Trust of Boston. Initial responses, mostly from the environmental community, have been positive; an enthusiastic reader called it “one wicked nice book.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Cutko acknowledged, “but we’re pretty confident it’s going to be useful to our constituents. What I am hopeful about are the high school kids or the amateur naturalist who want to know more about the woods and wetlands they’ve been walking through. Those are the Maine folks we also hope we reach.”
For more information about “Natural Landscapes of Maine,” go to: (Courtesy photo)