Media Archive

Tree program to teach students about forestry

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 38, September 17, 2003

By Ben Bragdon
Staff Writer

DOVER-FOXCROFT The vast forest of central Maine and its many natural resources have long been a part of the local economy. Much more than just scenery and business opportunities, the woods surrounding Piscataquis County has been a living, breathing part of the region that has helped to sustain and comfort residents here for years.

But with each generation, we become slightly more removed from the forest. It becomes less and less part of our everyday lives. As technology advances, we become more and more detached from nature, and in many ways we lose touch with basic part of our lives. More frequently, children are growing up without rudimentary knowledge of how we interact with nature, setting up a future where fewer citizens respect and understand the natural resources around us.

Part of that will change if a group of concerned citizens gets their way. The Natural Resource Education Center (NREC) hopes to foster in local students a new understanding of the surrounding environment with a program called "Kids and Trees Growing Together". Under this initiative, third-graders from the region's five school districts &Mac247; SADs 4, 41, 46, 68, and Union 60 &Mac247; will have the opportunity to plant a Christmas tree, and watch that tree grow until they harvest it during their senior year in high school. Along the way, they will leam about important lessons about tree and forest management.

The program would take place on the former property of Stephen and Elaine Law, located near the Lee Cemetery Rd. off of the Milo Rd. in Dover-Foxcroft. The Laws originally gave the land to Foxcroft Academy to use for educational purposes, but when the school felt it could not properly use the land they deeded it to NREC, and the group is determined to use it with the original intent in mind.

The donated land encompasses 115 acres, 80 of which is woodland with the remainder made up of fields. "Kids and Trees Growing Together", which is set up through the U.S. Forest Service, would take up around 35 acres, in which youngsters would test the soil, put in the required additjves, gather and plant seeds in a seed bed, lay out the planting grid, and plant and take care of the trees until they are ready to harvest some years down the road. As the program grows, NREC would like to give each school district about a half acre to tend.

The remaining part of the former farm &Mac247; the woodlot &Mac247; would become what NREC calls a "huge outdoor laboratory" for students and others who come to study a forest that includes several beaver dams, a small deer wintering range, and a number of different kinds of softwoods of all ages.

"It is an ideal area for studying and appreciating the various elements of Maine's forest resource," says NREC's program proposal. A trail system that weaves through the land, showing off the various forest resources is slated for the future.

Partnerships are currently being formed between NREC, local businesses and community organizations. Hall's Christmas Tree Farm in Sangerville will provide their expertise for site preparation, as well as in seed gathering, planting, and transplant of the seedlings. Boy Scouts will harvest the fir and spruce trees left over from previous Christmas tree operations. The Dover-Foxcroft Board of Selectmen recently voted to allow the town public works crew to help build a small parking lot off the Lee Cemetery Rd.

In the meantime. Law says NREC is waiting to hear the outcome of a grant proposal that would help get the program off the ground. He says the expect an answer sometime in October.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.