Pierce Pond 2022 Restoration

Published in the Weekly Packet’s ‘Another View’ on July 14th, 2022

Driving along the head of the Bagaduce River during the alewife migration, one can easily spot dozens of Bald Eagles feasting on this keystone species as they make their way up to reproduce in the freshwater ponds that dot the watershed. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, ‘alewives tie the ocean, rivers and lakes together and are recognized as an important ecological ingredient for restoring healthy fisheries and watersheds” Spearheaded by fishery activist, Bailey Bowden, the successful restoration of the alewife fish ladder into Pierce Pond has revived local alewife populations which in turn has increased available food for wildlife while bolstering our local fisheries by providing desirable bait fish for lobstermen.

Keystone species are organisms that help hold an ecosystem together, and without them our wildlife communities would look quite different. In contrast, invasive species disrupt functioning ecosystems, harming the local environment. Invasive species are often introduced to a site with fill dirt that is brought in during construction. Unfortunately, the highly invasive ‘Bishop’s weed’ seems to have exploded from some of the fill that was used in restructuring the road behind the public boat launch into Pierce’s Pond, and it has started to spill into the pocket-sized meadow along the fish ladder.

Last summer, members of the Halcyon Grange joined the Blue Hill Garden Club to start the long and arduous process of suppressing this invasive species. Because the site sits along the stream, chemicals are not allowed, and it will take time and diligence to oust this aggressive species. If even a tiny bit of the root material is left behind, it will take hold and return with gusto. Over the several years since the completion of the ladder, local community members have done an extraordinary job in stepping up to account for the increased numbers of fish making their way up to the pond. Now locals and visitors alike are invited to participate in tending the shoreline in order to eradicate the weed before it takes over the entire site.

On Saturday, August 13th the Open Air Arts Initiative will host a free workshop where participants will creative a collaborative ‘habitat sculpture’ atop the patch of weed while learning how to quell invasive species without the use of chemicals. A collaboration between the Cynthia Winings Gallery, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the SEED Barn, OAAI inspires people to creatively connect to the natural world around us. Deep connections with the landscape are fostered through tending it. During the process of creating a sculpture using materials found on site opens the space to express ourselves in ways that considers our relationship with the natural world around us.

Because the process of ousting this invasive species will take so much time, the organizations are approaching the shoreline restoration with the idea of long-term collaborative tending of this common access space. Instead of simply accomplishing this task with a singular event, folks from here and ‘away’ are invited to participate as they pass through and enjoy the site. ‘Many hands make light work’ and instructions on how to expel the Bishop’s weed as well as how to tend to the long term needs along the lakeshore area are posted online as well as at the site itself. Look for information on the kiosk located in the outdoor classroom and at www.virtualvoices.org

When you see the emergence of the Bishop’s weed, please feel free to help eradicate it by either digging it out and placing all of the plant material in a garbage bag before disposing of it at the dump, or suppressing it with several layers of cardboard which may be camouflaged with sticks an leaves found on site.

The invasive Bishop’s weed, or ‘Snow on the Mountain’ in it’s natural form
If you see this plant, help eradicate it!

What IS Bishop’s weed?

Aegopodium podagraria or Bishop Weed is the wild form of the nursery plant, ‘Snow on the Mountain’ and is very, very aggressive. Snow on the Mountain has variegated leaves and was promoted by the nursery industry as a shady ground cover. After going to seed, it reverts to its non-descript native form of solid green leaves. It is native to south central Europe and was used as a food plant by the Romans, and as a medicinal herb by monks, who carried it into northern Europe. It can still be found growing in patches around monastic ruins throughout the continent and descriptions of its use are found in monastic writings such as Physica by Hildegard von Bingen.

Pierce’s Pond Lakeshore Restoration

In order to direct the outflow from Pierce’s Pond, a dam was constructed with a deep rubber lining going down the middle to prevent underground seepage and keep a robust flow through the fish ladder. The ground was super-compacted, making the growth rate extra slow to establish plants there. Sedges that exploded in the hard scrabble of the ladder are present, just miniature…as are many of the varieties sown from seed.

The final shots are views of the dam as it slowly fills in after 3 years of sowing seed and adding plugs.

A school of baby alewives….the ladder is working!
Standing with ankles immersed, we can enjoy the light nibbles of fish eating dead skin off our toes.
The dam just after construction. We tried laying screen down in one area to see how much of a difference it made in seed germination. It did not make much of a difference! We felt like it was not worth bringing the foreign material to the site to protect the seeds, they emerged regardless.
Many Maine native plants need winter cold to germinate. The best time to sow seeds onto open, disturbed ground is in the late fall and winter. Grasses do not need a period of cold to germinate and may be sown at any time.
The creative act of making seed head mandalas with materials found on site. Students from the Bay School visited the site to create ephemeral artworks that assisted in re-seeding the site.
Plugs were sown at various area schools during the winter & grown out over the summer. When autumn approached, the young plants had developed enough roots to be transplanted in the field. The cooler temperatures eased the transition.
Plugs are planted quite literally in the stone since we cannot dig into the compacted dirt on the dam in order to preserve the integrity of the structure. We take away stone until the compacted soil is exposed, place the plug on top then surround the plug with stones so the soil does not dry out. There is seepage up to the lining, so the roots stay moist on the pond side of the liner, despite dry conditions.
Sticks brought by the beaver help shelter plugs by providing dappled shade during the heat of the day
Growing native plants from seed is a slow process. The compacted soil makes it even slower! This is the view three years after the initiation of the project, where the dam is slowly filling in with green.
Other, less compacted areas provide grounds for pioneers like this Rudbekia to flourish, despite the gravelly nature of the soil. While the plant communities are based on the book, the Natural Landscapes of Maine, we are also working with native plants that are already present at the site.

Invasive Bishops Weed in the Meadow

HELP OUST THE BISHOP WEED!!!

If you see the ‘Bishops Weed’ which has exploded out of the rocks supporting the parking lot, please help us eradicate it.

Big patches are smothered with 3-4 layers of cardboard, topped with organic material (Gray Poplar) cleared out of the outdoor classroom area…or extra mulch/leaf-litter brought from home.

Smaller patches are dug out & taken to the dump in plastic bags. If even a small bit of the rhizome is left in the ground, a new plant grows in with ease. It is important to stay on top of the outbursts before they really take hold.

Bishop weed is one of the most difficult Invasive species to eradicate. As the site is right along the river shore, NO CHEMICALS ALLOWED!! Invasive species disrupt the ecologic rhythms of an in-tact ecology. Migrating fish need protein! Amongst other functions, native plants support insects to feed the Alewives coming up the ladder

We are taking a long term and sustained approach to contain and smother it. We invite community members to help tend the space, in order to maintain natural systems that supports shared resources that migrate here from the sea.

Construction fill often brings invasive species to a site, and there was an explosion of the invasive Bishop’s Weed in the pocket of open meadow situated between the woodland path and the fish ladder. Because we cannot use chemicals so near the river shore, we invite folks to help tamp out the weed using layers of cardboard and mulch (dry leaves, small sticks and other organic material) The roots are pervasive, so if digging out the edges of the patch, make sure to bag and dispose of the entire plant material.

Follow along the approach we are taking and feel free to jump in and participate as you are passing through to enjoy the site!

When digging out Bishop weed, make sure not to leave any rhizomes behind, or it will grow back with a vengeance. Here, Peter Leonard is digging out a smaller patch and throwing it onto the larger outburst that can be seen spreading out behind Peter. If you are digging out Bishop weed, please remove ALL of the plant material from the site by taking it to the dump.
Small Bishop weed leaves spring forth 2 weeks after burning it to the ground. We layered cardboard atop the weed to start smothering it. It is very important not to disturb the roots in this process, so all the organic material will be left to decompose.

Once the cardboard is laid, we started piling organic material that we had cleared out of the outdoor classroom area. Please feel free to continue adding layers of cardboard and hiding it with organic material that will eventually break down into soil, tamping out the weed. It will take time, and many layers of cardboard/mulch to fully rid the site of the weed.
In 2021, we initiated a long term, sustained approach to tamping out Bishop Weed in the pocket meadow along the fish ladder with an educational event and BBQ

What IS Bishop Weed??

Aegopodium podagraria or Bishop Weed is the wild form of ‘Snow on the Mountain’ and is very, very aggressive. It seems to have exploded from the fill of the road to the boat ramp above.

Brought to this land as the nursery plant, ‘snow on the mountain’, the plant reverts to it’s native form of solid green leaves once it has ‘skipped the fence’. In fact, it is a medicinal plant in Europe. From Wikipedia: “The tender leaves have been used in antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages as a spring leaf vegetable, much as spinach was used. It is commonly used for soup. Young leaves are preferred as a pot herb. It is best picked from when it appears (as early as February in the UK) to just before it flowers (May to June). If it is picked after this point, it takes on a pungent taste and has a laxative effect. However, it can be stopped from flowering by pinching out the flowers, ensuring the plant remains edible if used more sparingly as a pot herb.

“It also had a history as a medicinal herb to treat gout and arthritis, applied in hot wraps externally upon boiling both leaves and roots together. Ingested, the leaves have a diuretic effect and act as a mild sedative. Its use as a medicinal herb has largely declined during the modern era.

“The plant is said to have been introduced into Great Britain by the Romans as a food plant and into Northern Europe as a medicinal herb by monks. It is still found growing in patches surrounding many monastic ruins in Europe, and descriptions of its use are found among monastic writings, such as in Physica by Hildegard von Bingen

Bagaduce Alewife Celebration


Join the Penobscot Alewife Committee, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries for the 2nd Annual Bagaduce Alewife Celebration!

Saturday, May 18th, 11am – 3pm
Pierce Pond in Penobscot


Learn about the native plant restoration work being done at Pierces with the SEED Barn & Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

Demonstrations on sowing native seeds, transplanting seedlings and providing habitat will compliment an art installation of cast paper butterflies. The public is invited to participate in this community restoration project by learning about the ecologies along the land water interface. Add your voice by composing messages to wildlife who use this passage, and bring home an assortment of native grass seeds to plant in your own yard!

Guided tours of future restoration locations will take place on on Parker Pond (9:30am)  and Walkers Pond (1pm)


Explore the Water!
Catch alewives to make observations, view a freshwater fish observation tank, taste smoked fish, and much more! There will even be a Virtual Reality set up so you can “swim with the fishes” through Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries!

For more information, please contact Blue Hill Heritage Trust at 374-5118 or info@bluehillheritagetrust.org

Participate in the Community Restoration of Pierce Pond through March by sowing native seeds specific to the river and lakeshore plant communities observed around Pierce Pond and gathered from the research in the Natural Landscapes of Maine guide published by the Maine Heritage Fund. Seeds are best sown at home, and we invite community members to establish some in their home gardens and sow some to share with the restoration project.



Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Art is for the BIRDS!!

The Great Maine Outdoors Weekend encourages people to get outside! This year, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust is working with Lee Lee of the SEED Barn on a participatory sculpture that will be woven directly into the landscape in the Kingdom Woods Conservation Area. Part of the Open Air Arts Initiative, this arts workshop invites community members to collaborate on a sculpture that will provide winter shelter for birds, aesthetically integrating material from young oak trees that were recently cleared to preserve the heirloom blueberry field. Extending the flow of existing natural forms which stand prominently in the landscape, participants will weave the branches together, keeping in mind the space needed by bunnies to burrow and birds to flutter. In the process, contributors can explore ways we may integrate organic detritus offer winter protection for resident species in a way that piques visual interest. The Open-Air Arts Initiative is a collaboration between the SEED Barn, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Cynthia Winings Gallery. Its mission is to use nature to ignite creativity in the young people who live on or visit the Blue Hill Peninsula.

Drawing inspiration from the land immersed arts movement of the west, Lee Lee has been bringing a new kind of community arts practice to the Blue Hill Peninsula. Working with only materials found on site, she has invited the public to work together in weaving sculptures through the landscapes around the Blue Hill Peninsula. Through the spring, she collaborated with local students to build sculptural pollinator homes. As the season transitions into fall, she is working with the wider community on ways we may increase habitat for birds through the series birdSEED.

Sculpting branches that we trim out of the garden challenges the popular but somewhat misplaced notion that tidy yards are superior. In fact, tangles of woody brush are essential habitat for birds, small mammals as well as pollinators. Downeast Audubon director, Leslie Clapp describes ways we may creatively incorporate winter protection for resident birds into our domestic spheres at home; “Building brush piles is fun and you can be as creative as you wish.  Some look like tepees, some porcupines, others bee hives. You can plant vines which cover them for more interest.  Sometimes I put a base of logs (in log cabin style) and then weave the sticks in through the logs so they stand upright. The major thing is not to pack them too tightly so the critters can’t get in.  I keep adding to some year after year because they do break down.”

Complementing the weaving of thicket style shelter for the birds, ongoing seasonal workshops hosted by the SEED barn demonstrate how to ferment and sow fresh native stone fruit seeds. Native species like wild cherries, elderberry, mountain ash and an array of viburnum and dogwoods not only feed the birds but provide important nectar sources for pollinators in the early spring.  Because fruit is an inhibitor to seed germination, it needs to be cleaned off thoroughly; as if it has passed through the gut of a bird, bear or moose. The process of mimicking bird digestion is easily replicated at home by smashing a bunch of fruit to a pulp in a Ziploc bag. Over the course of about ten days, mashing the bag daily, the bubbles of fermentation form in the macerated fruit then settle. At this point, the seeds may be cleaned by immersing them in fresh water, massaging any remaining fruit off the seed, swirling the pulp in a bowl of water and pouring off the macerated fruit. Viable seeds will sink in the vortex of the swirl, while the fruit will be picked up by the current and easily poured off. These seeds cannot dry out, so need to be planted fresh. They may be stored immersed in vermiculite in the same plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator until the season shifts; then planted right before the ground freezes. 

Supported in part by a project grant from the Maine Arts Commission, birdSEED will continue the following week with a public workshop on taming invasive bittersweet and barberry at the Blue Hill Consolidated School on September 29th.