Shoreline and Waterfront Clean-up September 12

Shoreline Clean-up Sept 12, 2015-1

We hope you join us for the shoreline clean up in September.  The Lower Maitland Stewardship Group will meet at the bottom of North Harbour Road, at the entrance to the Menesetung Bridge.  We will spend about an hour and a half cleaning up the shores of the Maitland River.  Concurrently, the Coastal Centre will be leading a clean-up at the Goderich waterfront.  We will all come together for refreshments and door prizes at the Main Beach.

Sign up today!  www.shorelinecleanup.ca

The following is an article by Karen Alexander at the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation about the importance of cleaning up plastic from the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Plastic Pollution: the solution is you

Plastic pollution is emerging as a serious threat to the Great Lakes.  Recent studies by US researchers have discovered that concentrations of plastic in the Great Lakes are higher than those in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a sea of floating plastic spanning hundreds of square kilometers discovered in the Pacific in the 1970’s.

All plastic littered across the landscape eventually makes its way to the lake through storm water drains, creeks, streams, and rivers.  Once in the lake, plastic floats and can be carried out into the lake, or wash along the shore.

Large plastic litter items can entangle and harm wildlife, carry aquatic species beyond their normal range, and decrease the aesthetic beauty of the Great Lakes.  Small pieces of plastic may be mistakenly ingested by local wildlife causing choking, or if swallowed, malnourishment and / or starvation.

Plastic fragments continue to degrade until they become microplastic pieces.  Microplastics can also come from other surprising sources such as personal care products like facial cleansers and body scrubs that contain the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene, both micro bead plastics.  Synthetic fibres from laundered clothing are also a source because, like personal care products, the microplastic ingredients are small enough to wash through sewage treatment plants directly into the lake.  Even plastic pellets, industry’s raw plastic material used to create virtually all plastic products, are being found in the lake and on the shore.  These pellets are likely coming from spills during transport over land and /or water.

As plastic pollution accumulates in the Lakes, the amount of plastic debris washing onto shorelines is also increasing.  Combine what is washing in with what is left behind by beach goers, and the Lake Huron coast can start to look like a regular old garbage dump.  In 2014, community volunteers helped remove over 10,000 plastic articles from nearly 40 km of Lake Huron shoreline.  The most common litter items found are cigarette butts and single use food containers like wrappers, cups and straws.

Garbage covered beaches are not OK for groups like the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation who are working hard to coordinate beach clean-ups and educate beach-goers about the importance of properly disposing plastic litter items.

One of their campaigns is titled “Butt Free Beach” and targets cigarette butt litter on public beaches.  Cigarette butts are made of a fibrous plastic that will never biodegrade.  The campaign piloted successfully in Grand Bend in 2013 and has since expanded to Canatara Park, Goderich waterfront, Station Beach, and Sauble Beach.  The program offers recyclable, re-useable cardboard ashtrays for smoking beach goers to responsibly dispose of cigarette butts as opposed to burying them in the sand.

Of course the best way to reduce plastic pollution in the lakes starts with responsible plastic consumption, coupled with proper disposal or recycling.  Beach clean-ups remain a last resort option for managing the impacts of plastic pollution.

The Coastal Centre is excited to partner with the Lower Maitland Stewardship Group to organize a Great Goderich Shoreline Clean-up for the Goderich waterfront and the Maitland River Valley on September 12, 2015.  Volunteers are needed to make this event a success. To register for the clean-up please visit www.shorelinecleanup.ca.  For more information, contact Karen Alexander (Karen.alexander@lakehuron.on.ca) or Rachel White (huronstewardship@gmail.com).

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Blue Crayfish Mystery Solved!

We have been conducting Queensnake searches in the Maitland River for several years now. Along with that, we have also been studying crayfish. The reason for that is that the diet of the snakes is almost entirely freshly molted crayfish. This happens several times a year for young, rapidly growing crayfish and once a year for adult males after mating. There are three species of crayfish in the river, and a fourth, the rusty crayfish, is an invasive that we keep an eye out for. So far, we have not seen it, which is good.

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A blue crayfish. Source: Kris Stepenuk – kris.stepenuck@ces.uwex.edu

Crayfish are normally a drab olive and brown colour, but every now and then we come across one that is a bright sky-blue all over. This invariably sparks a discussion amongst the researchers as to the cause. Is it something in their diet, something about where they are living, or some other reason? This has remained a mystery … until now. There was a Queensnake Training Day held recently, with the hands-on portion of the program taking place in the Maitland River. There will be several teams of researchers studying Queensnakes in a number of different watersheds, so they had to learn the required protocols. The crayfish portion of the training was handled by Dr. Premek Hamr, who is Ontario’s leading crayfish expert.

Dr. Hamr demonstrates how to identify each species of crayfish to onlooking biologists. Photo by Jory Mullen

Dr. Hamr demonstrates how to identify each species of crayfish to onlooking biologists. Photo by Jory Mullen

As the ‘crayfish man’ and I were walking along in the shallow water and scanning rocks for crayfish, I couldn’t resist asking about the blue ones.  Premek responded that it was an extremely rare genetic trait, with maybe one occurrence in many thousands. He also said that they are highly prized for aquariums. Several steps later, I spotted a bright blue claw laying on the bottom of the river. After a minute, the rest of the crayfish’s remains were found. Premek examined it and commented, “Too bad something got it. It would have been great in a tank.” So I now have a better understanding of one of the Maitland River’s many fascinating critters.

– Tom Lobb, Landowner and local Naturalist    

To learn more about the Queensnake project in the Lower Maitland River, visit the Huron Stewardship Council website:  hsc.huronstewardship.ca.

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Video project to highlight the Lower Maitland River Valley

In 2015, we plan to create a video to highlight the importance of protecting the river and valley of the Maitland River.  This video will extend our reach to people who are unable to visit the Maitland River Valley in person.  The municipalities which abut our section of the river, the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, the Municipality of Central Huron, and the Town of Goderich have each committed $2,000 to this project.  We are also applying to the Huron Economic Development Partnership Community Economic Development Fund for funding, and expect to know if we are successful by the middle of May.

We have also sent out a Request for Proposal for the production of the video which can be used online through various media.  We want it to advance public appreciation for the Maitland River and have it be emotionally compelling, such as from the perspective of a bald eagle flying along the river.    Components will include features of the Maitland River valley such as wildlife (bald eagle, queensnake, fish, birds), four seasons, recreational activities (swimming, hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking), good environmental agricultural practices, and endangered species.  All photography will be of and from the Maitland River and Maitland River valley.

Once our funding is in place, the producer will be hired and volunteers from the Lower Maitland Stewardship Group will guide the videographer to suitable areas of the Maitland River.

Here is a link to an article about the video in the Goderich Signal Star:

http://www.goderichsignalstar.com/2015/04/14/goderich-to-support-video-aimed-at-promoting-maitland-river

Late Sept scenery

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MTA Membership Renewal Event – November 28th, 7 pm

Did you miss your chance?  No way!  Visit the Huron Stewardship Council’s website to download the presentation.

Want to learn more about the ecology of the Maitland River? Join us on Nov 28th for the Maitland Trail Association membership renewal event, where Jen McCarter (NCC) and Rachel White (Chair, LMSG) will be talking about the wild and wonderful features of the Maitland! Huron County Museum (Goderich) at 7 pm.

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Fall Hike along the Maitland, Oct 18

On a wet October morning, 24 hikers converged at Barrie and Stella Elliott’s property along the Maitland River.  For over an hour, the crew toured around the beautiful woodlots on the 47 acre property to learn about wildlife (such as black bears, which have visited the Elliotts in the past), and endangered species such as the butternut tree.  The hikers then learned from the Huron Stewardship Council and Nature Conservancy of Canada staff members about local reptiles, and how you can move turtles safely across the road (in the direction they’re already headed!).

Thank you to the Elliotts and to those who made this event so much fun!

Hikers view cedar bark stripped by black bears.

Hikers view cedar bark stripped by black bears.

An endangered butternut tree.  Butternut trees are at risk in Ontario due to a fungus called butternut canker.  Some trees, such as this healthy tree, show more resistance than others to the disease.

An endangered butternut tree. Butternut trees are at risk in Ontario due to a fungus called butternut canker that, once infected. eventually kills the tree. Some trees, such as this healthy tree, show more resistance than others to the disease.

Beautiful view of an inland,  spring-fed pond.

Beautiful view of an inland, spring-fed pond.

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Spring Hike at NCC Property

A group of 24 hikers embarked on the John and Mary Lo Graham Nature Reserve on June 14th for a guided wilderness hike.  The property, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, had lots of things to see including large maple and willow trees, and interesting interpretive signage.  Cara Copeland, Conservation Biologist with NCC and member of the Lower Maitland Stewardship Group, led the way.  Cara pointed out some challenges the NCC has been having with controlling the invasive Garlic Mustard, and with ATVs on the property.  After a couple hours hiking, the group celebrated with a barbeque along the Maitland River.

Cara Copeland talks about the ongoing battle with Garlic Mustard.

Cara Copeland talks about the ongoing battle with Garlic Mustard.

Hikers smell some Wild Ginger that was found along the way.

Hikers smell some Wild Ginger that was found along the way.

Some of us got more tuckered out than others...

Some of us got more tuckered out than others…

... but we made it!

… but we made it!

Sharing a delicious barbeque by the Maitland River.

Sharing a delicious barbeque by the Maitland River.

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Fall nature hike 2013

On October 21, 2013 members of the LMSG met at Barrie Elliot’s property for a fall hike.  Despite some rain (and even hail!), everyone had fun learning more about the interesting plants and animals that can be found in the Mailtand River Valley.  Highlights of the walk included a seeing healthy butternut tree (endangered in Ontario), catching sight of a deer, a beautiful view of the Maitland River, a Blue Beech tree (rare to the area) and of course some delicious treats.

Hikers stand under a Blue Beech tree - a rare sight in this area.

Hikers stand under a Blue Beech tree – a rare sight in this area.

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El Camino 2013

Hosted by the Maitland Trail Association, the ‘El Camino’ was a hiking journey from Auburn to Goderich along the entire length of the Maitland Trail. The event was held the
weekend of June 22nd—23rd, 2013. The Lower Maitland Stewardship Group participated by hosting a checkpoint along the trail for tired hikers who needed a rest and a snack. Hikers were greeted by Barrie Elliott, Tom Lobb, Beth Ross, and Carolyn Williams with homemade treats and ‘souvenir’ LMSG postcards showing the unique and sensitive plants and animals that can be found along the Lower Maitland River.Hikers with postcard - Jim Walters, John Thompson, Joanne Cicchini

The LMSG checkpoint at Cherrydale was 27 km in to the 30 km hike, and was voted the best rest stop on Day 1 by the MTA.  Eighty-nine hikers participated in the event, both from the area and out of town. The checkpoint gave us a chance to spread the word about our group, showcase the rare species that rely on the Maitland, and promote good stewardship!

 

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Riverbank clean up 2012

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup took place across Canada between September 15 and 23, 2012, involving hundreds of sites and thousands of volunteers (over 56,000 in 2011). On Saturday, September 15, a small but keen group of volunteers did their bit along about half a kilometre of the shore of the Maitland River, near the Menesetung Bridge and golf course. In two hours we collected about sixty pounds – three bags of garbage and one of recycling. Interesting findings included:

30 golf balls (which we left in a pile for the golfers)
89 food wrappers/containers
26 bottles (plastic and glass)
31 plastic bags
53 pieces of Styrofoam
315 cigarette butts

Of particular interest were the six full doggie poop bags. It boggled our minds that somebody would stoop and scoop, tie up a bag, and then toss it in the river.

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