DRA’s Midcoast Stewards Program: For volunteers committed to conservation

Posted:  Monday, January 23, 2017 - 8:15am

For those with a passion for conservation, Damariscotta River Association (DRA) is offering a unique overview of natural resource topics and stewardship-related activities along the Midcoast.

Coordinated by DRA and maintained through partnerships with many area conservation organizations and state agencies, the Midcoast Stewards Program offers participants the opportunity to learn about natural and cultural history from a number of professionals in natural resource management fields, as well as an invitation to serve local conservation organizations as a volunteer.

The program provides citizens with the knowledge they need to protect and conserve the coastal environment, and builds a network of educated and committed volunteers working together to protect the natural and cultural resources of Midcoast Maine.

DRA Education Director Sarah Gladu has coordinated the program for ten years. She notes, “Many people come to the program committed to making a difference to local conservation organizations. In the process, they are welcomed into a community of individuals with similar intellectual curiosity. The social component of the experience is highly rewarding.”

The 40-hour curriculum touches on coastal ecology, Wabanaki culture, geologic history, sustainable fisheries management, seabird restoration, water quality monitoring, lake health, lobster biology, estuarine studies and much more. The course finishes with a field trip to Monhegan Island for a natural history tour.

Past participant Bob Barkalow enthused, “The Midcoast Stewards program was an amazing experience, opening up to me the deep culture and history of the area, as well as the plants and animals that thrive in the Damariscotta estuary and beyond. The ‘classroom’ for most of the course was the outdoors, from Damariscotta Lake to a Washington gravel pit to Monhegan Island.  A tremendous bargain that truly deepened my understanding and appreciation for the Midcoast environment.” Following the program, Barkalow began volunteering for DRA and went on to become a trustee of the organization.

This year, the Midcoast Stewards program will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The program starts April 11 and ends on May 23. There will be a few Saturday field trips from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Class format includes lectures and discussions as well as many field trips and hands-on experiences. Classes meet at the Heritage Center at DRA’s Great Salt Bay Farm in Damariscotta, and field trips will take the group to sites from Washington to South Bristol.

Participants learn directly from professionals working for a variety of organizations including local land trusts, the Darling Marine Center, the Maine Natural Areas Program and the Maine Geological Survey. Many local conservation organizations come together to enrich the Midcoast Stewards program including Medomak Valley Land Trust, Midcoast Conservancy and Pemaquid Watershed Association.

After completing the course, participants commit to a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service over the next year with a conservation organization of their choice.

Applications are due by April 3. A materials fee of $100 for the 40-hour course is payable to the Damariscotta River Association. Limited scholarships are available. Applications and the program brochure are available on DRA’s website or can be obtained by contacting DRA.

For more information call 207-563-1393, email dra@damariscottariver.org, or view their website at www.damariscottariver.org.