Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Persistence of Discovery

Yesterday our family discovered a real gem practically in our backyard. Wood Island, an uninhabited 32-acre nature preserve, sits at the southern entrance to Saco Bay, Maine. It's only 1/3 mile off the finger of mainland known as Biddeford Pool, but really does feel like a different world. It houses a boat ramp...
Approaching the sheltered western end of the island
...a boardwalk that runs across the island from west to east...
It runs through seagull nesting grounds;
angry seagull dads aren't to be trifled with
...and a lighthouse dating from 1838. Attached is the old lighthouse-keeper's home, which was inhabited until the light was fully automated in 1978 1986, and is now a free* museum.
About as "Maine" as you can get
Spectacular Maine beauty lay in all directions. Knobbly islands, rocky cliffs, crying gulls, pounding surf. Lobster buoys are thick in the water (some are visible in the next picture, my other pictures of thicker clusters didn't come out well). Watching the lobster boats setting & hauling is good fun on a beautiful day.
In some places you could hop from buoy to buoy
This is a place where the timelessness of Maine persists. Its architecture, landscape, traditions. There are even deer on the island, whose forefathers swam over at some point in the forgotten past. But Wood Island is also a repository for what happens when other things persist. For example, how many mangled lobster traps do you see in this picture? (Mouse-over to see what's really there.)
Do you really want to know?
All of that, in 40 or so feet of shore. Not to mention the rope, claw bands, and plenty of non-fishing garbage among the branches & rocks. Other side of the ramp, more of the same.
Wreckage everywhere
I'll swear to seeing 100 traps. It was probably 200. Plus, of course, water bottles, styrofoam, flipflops, tires, a wrecked sailboat (!), and other plastic debris of the modern world. All on one island out of many; in one small bay out of many; in a coastline that stretches for 200+ miles; which is itself only one out of countless such coastlines in the world.

The Wood Island "Friends" mow the lawns, maintain the buildings, offer tours, keep the museum. They're a dedicated group who have spent years stabilizing & restoring the buildings, and making the island available to anybody who would like to visit. But they're not equipped to deal with the influx of manmade trash the sea keeps feeding this refuge's shores. Really, until we stop dumping so much persistent waste into the ocean, nobody would be equipped to deal with that.

And it's a shame. Because this is a really special spot & a great place. And it should stay that way!
My daughter leading her friend through the wilds
To learn more of the island's history and the efforts of the Friends, please check out

* There's a suggested donation of $10 for visiting the island & museum; more than fair given the beauty of the place & the amount of upkeep needed to maintain it.

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