Franklin Countys First News

Academy Hill School students help monitor Wilson Lake

Academy Hill School students heading back to shore on the Melinda Ann.

WILTON - Academy Hill School students moonlighted as lake scientists Friday, working onboard the research boat Melinda Ann as part of local effort to keep Wilson Lake clean.

As part of a Section 319 Clean Water Act grant acquired by the town of Wilton and the Friends of Wilson Lake, 44 grade 4 students from AHS marched in groups between Bass Park to the foot of the lake. At the boat launch, they donned life jackets and waited to board the Maine Lakes Society boat. Once on the lake, the students performed a number of water quality tests, including checking lake clarity, oxygen levels and dragging the lake bottom for invasive plants.

"We see them as next generation lake stewards," Jen Jespersen, owner of Ecological Instincts and the grant's project manager. "For some of the students this is their first or second time in a boat or on the lake."

Students line up at the boat launch on Wilson Lake.

Two years ago, FOWL, Wilton, local area students and a number of other volunteers partnered to conduct a watershed survey for Wilson Lake, Varnum and Pease Pond. The survey identified 89 areas of possible concern to the bodies of water, ranging from town and state roads to residential developments to agricultural fields.

Earlier this summer, Wilton received $70,000 in federal funds distributed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to help protect Wilson Lake by targeting erosion within the watershed. Those funds were split between road and culvert work, making improvements to landowner property to reduce erosion and education. The Melinda Ann, a research boat operated by the Maine Lakes Society to engage with children or adults interested in learning about lakes.

Rob Lively, the president of FOWL, noted that many of the participating students had worked with FOWL last year for its loon program, so the Melinda Ann trip represented a continuation of FOWL's educational efforts.

"It's hands on learning, but it's also about the integrity of the lake," Lively said. He noted that Wilson Lake generated tax revenue for Wilton by supporting higher land values around the lake.

A steering committee has formed to utilize the rest of the grant funding. Much of the grant's roadway work will follow later this fall, as town crews begin road improvements. The grant includes funds that can be accessed by property owners to implement erosion control methods, such as planting vegetation. FOWL has an event planned later this summer or in the early fall to plant blueberry bushes at Kineowatha.

Other things people can do to reduce their impact on the watershed, Jespersen said, include digging trenches beneath their roof lines to drop more water underground and monitoring driveway runoff.

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  1. Great job, Rob and all of my fellow FOWL members. Wonderful to engage children in environmental protection.