Greening Up Curtis Pond

I wrote this several weeks ago, but forgot to post – better late than never! Since writing this post I’ve paddled my new kayak on Lake Champlain, Wrightesville Reservoir, Marshfield Reservoir, Curtis Pond, Greenwood Lake, Number 10 pond, and maybe a few other spots – often picking up the odd piece of trash, but not as extensively as my first week on Curtis!

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This spring I fulfilled a life long goal of owning a fabulous sea kayak! After a bunch of research I found a great deal on a second hand, 17 foot Necky Looksha Sea Kayak (Thanks to Sail Your Kayak, it’s even custom altered to accept a sail and outrigger, which I may add on later!).  Weighing in at just over 60 pounds it is a tad longer and heavier than I’d had in mind, but it paddles like a dream and I couldn’t be happier.  The first three days I owned it I paddled every day on Curtis Pond just to test it out.  With the rudder down you can steer by twitching your toes and never have to alter your paddle stroke to maintain a straight line, even diagonally crossing a strong headwind.  By far the best paddling boat I’ve used, I’m excited to plan some kayak-camping expeditions in the very near future.

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My New Kayak! From the look of things, my front yard could use a little “greening up” as well! Good thing it’s spring cleaning time of year!

One of the things I noticed on my first day out on Curtis, once I was able to look beyond the gorgeous glow of my new toy, was a Bud Light can floating near the edge of the pond.  Eeeew!  I quickly paddled myself over to it, pulling up my rudder and testing my new boats maneuverability in the shallows.  I used my paddle to pull the can to my side and secured it under a bungee cord on my front deck.  Sadly, before I’d even returned to deep enough water to lower my rudder, I saw a floating label-less brown beer bottle. What the heck?  How did our fabulous pond get so gummed up with guck?

I continued my slow progress along the western and undeveloped shore of Curtis, picking up anything I could reach with my paddle.  By the time I got back close to the island, every bungee cord within reach of my cock-pit was occupied.  I landed on the Island, borrowed one of the trash bags we so handily keep in the shelter, and unloaded my haul.  13 beer cans, 10 glass bottles, 2 glass liqueur bottles, 4 large pieces of foam, 2 fishing lures, 2 fishing bobbers, 3 plastic shopping bags, 3 fast food wrappers, a chip bag, a fully rotten except the brim baseball cap, and several other unidentifiable items.  While on the island I walked to each of the three spots used for unloading boats and found another entire trash bag’s worth of beer cans, bottles, liqueur bottles, and miscellaneous trash.

Fully loaded, and fully disgusted, I decided to call it a day.  I loaded the two full trash bags on my boat (they were too big to fit in the storage hatches and had to be lashed to the deck) and headed for the boat launch.

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As I loaded my kayak on my car, which I thankfully am able to do myself, I looked around the boat launch.  Seeing as it was less than two weeks after Vermont’s “Green Up Day,” I was surprised to see just how much trash was present.  Once you start seeing garbage, apparently you see garbage everywhere you look.  It would have to wait for another day.

My second day of paddling was just as lucrative.  I set out with a handful of garbage bags in my cockpit, wearing sandals and shorts so I could easily hop in and out to grab things up on shore that I couldn’t reach with my paddle.  There was a strong wind whipping down the pond from the North end, so I got good practice maintaining balance and direction with my rudder.  I picked up along the shore where I’d left off the day before and found just as much junk.  When I made my way all the way around to near the waterfall I thought that maybe the end that was more inhabited and more used by people who lived right there, would equal less trash – not so much. I continued to collect and periodically get out of my boat in the shallows to empty my bungees into trash bags tied to the bow and stern.  I was fairly heavily loaded when I saw the end of a tire sticking out of the water not far from shore.  I paddled over and wiggled the tire – it was firmly implanted in the mud.  No way was I getting that out, oh well.  I was about to abandon it for another day when I got an idea.  I stuck my paddle through the center and started to gently pry it up.  It was looser than I’d first thought.  What followed was a ten minute balancing act, alternating between prying, pulling, wiggling, and reaching down to scoop away the mud, all the while teetering on the brink of a very cold swim.  In the end, I got it!  I leaned my body weight far to the right as a counterbalance as I pulled the full size car tire out of the mud and water onto the left side of my boat.  I balanced it on top of the pile of litter already occupying my front deck.  I held my paddle like a tight rope walker trying to find a center of gravity with my now top heavy load in the gusty wind.

Deciding it was too dangerous to brave the open water between me and my car so I abandoned the tire on the Heise’s dock (thanks Don and Bev!) and headed back to the boat launch with the rest of my load of trash. Once again out of time to clean up the boat launch, I drove over to get the tire and headed home to unload my bounty in the now growing pile of trash at my house!

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Paddle day three was a quick visit to the island to replenish Privy Supplies I’d noticed were low the day before, and a nice paddle around the lake without so much as picking up a cigarette butt.  Some days you just have to enjoy yourself and not worry about anything else!

Though knowing how trashed the boat launch was I couldn’t stay a way from the pond for long.  I returned a few days later without my beloved boat.  Instead I brought a box of trash bags and was glad I did.  Wading through the swampy waters around the boat launch, often above my knees in mud and goop, I thought several times my foot would emerge without it’s sandal!  At one point both feet were in above the knee and I had a momentary image of getting stuck and gradually sinking into the pond.  I added to my pile dirty diapers, cigarette butts, an old metal sign, broken glass, yards and yards of mysterious sheets of plastic wrap, and much more.

All in all I completely filled my Subaru with trash out of the waters of Curtis Pond alone.  As someone who often picks up trash when I’m out on walks, I’m constantly shocked at how much trash is laying around.  I think of Calais and especially Maple Corner as an incredibly civilized, environmentally conscious community.  I just have to wonder – what makes a person throw their beer can over the side of their canoe. Or avoid the $3 disposal fee by dumping a tire into the lake?  Do those same people notice trash floating in the water when they swim and think it’s gross?  Are they completely oblivious? Perhaps I’ll never know.

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