For those with a passion for conservation, the Damariscotta River Association is offering a unique overview of natural-resource topics and stewardship-related activities along the Midcoast of Maine. Coordinated by the 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 Midcoast Stewards 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 10 years. “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,” Gladu said.
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.
“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,’ said past participant Bob Barkalow. “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 the DRA and went on to become a trustee of the organization.
This year, the Midcoast Stewards program will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-8 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.
The class format includes lectures and discussions as well as many field trips and hands-on experiences. Classes meet at the Heritage Center at the 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 the 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 the DRA’s website, damariscottariver.org, or can be obtained by contacting the DRA.
The Damariscotta River Association is a nonprofit, membership supported, and nationally accredited land trust dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta region, centered on the Damariscotta River. The DRA has active programs in the areas of land conservation, stewardship, community education, water-quality monitoring, marine conservation, and cultural preservation.
Visitors are welcome at the Great Salt Bay Heritage Center in Damariscotta as well as at the many other DRA properties throughout the region. For more information, call 563-1393, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to damariscottariver.org.