Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adopting an Island

Often, on our evening paddles, without giving a lot of thought to our destination, we head straight out on a route that takes us first to Steves Island. There, after two miles of paddling, floating among the boulders on the south end, I like to pause and catch my breath, deciding where to go next. It’s a good place to pause. I’ve found myself admiring the island more and more: its pocket beaches and boulders, some with spruce trees growing on impossibly thin soil. From a distance, Steves’ profile is distinct, the trees tapering in height toward the prevailing winds of the southwest. That’s what you see before even getting out of the boat, and the island is so small, you can see quite a lot of it from the water.

Steve’s is state-owned and part of a network of islands managed by the Maine Island Trail Association, which maintains a network of publicly accesible islands, some with campsites. While the organization relies on membership dues and donations, most of the work is done by volunteers. One such opportunity is the Adopt an Island program. Island adopters regularly visit their island “as casual island caretakers and ambassadors of responsible recreational use”.

Peter and Marilyn are stewards for Rock Island, a natural choice, since they can monitor the island from their home with a pair of binoculars, and they enjoy using its beach to practice rolling. They obviously enjoy doing their part to look after the island. As I took my breaks off of Steve’s, I started thinking maybe this was something we could also do. So we signed-up as stewards of Steve’s. I was surprised no one else had already claimed the island; after all, it is very popular, and a short trip from Stonington.

A few evenings ago, Rebecca and I made our first visit as island stewards. A sailboat was anchored off the north end, where a family was camped, but the other campsites were empty, and mostly clean. I picked up a tiny amount of garbage... the most egregious in the form of a plastic bottle. Even the beaches were free of man-made debris. According to law, we left the washed-up lobster buoy there. Apparently, the people who camp in Steves’ four campsites take pretty good care of the island. So this gives us a good excuse to get out of the boats and spend a little more time on an idyllic island, as well as a chance to give back a little for all the enjoyment the islands provide. If it goes well, maybe we’ll adopt even more.

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