BELGRADE — Audrey Kolloff knelt toward a sloping patch of soil and quickly noticed its potential for harmful runoff into the flowing water below.

After a two-hour Zoom training last week for volunteers, the Belgrade summer resident knew the warning signs for erosion runoff into her beloved Long Pond.

“This one seemed to me like sheet runoff,” Kolloff said, “especially with the evidence of rock collecting.”

Wendy Garland, nonpoint source program coordinator for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, assured Kolloff of her correct intuition. “It’s probably a combination of water flow and foot traffic,” Garland said. “You can see there’s material going down.”

Kolloff, a volunteer, and Garland, a technical leader, were among more than a dozen pairs to begin the two-day Long Pond Watershed Survey this past week.

Due to 30 years of declining water quality, Long Pond is at risk for impact by algal blooms, which are a rapid accumulation in algae population in freshwater. A group of more than 50 people, clad in neon yellow shirts, took the initial steps to fixing it Tuesday.

Each pair of people went from property to property looking to identify and categorize sources of soil erosion and stormwater runoff on developed land in the watershed. With a survey sanctioned tablet in hand, Garland recorded the “small to medium risk” site located at Peninsula Park, next to the dam off Main Street in Belgrade.

Coordinator Jen Jespersen, center, gives instructions to volunteers who met Tuesday at the Belgrade Town Office to begin work on the Long Pond Watershed survey. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Kolloff and Garland politely knocked on doors of residents and businesses who already approved of the survey. A chilly morning on Tuesday did not distract the duo from detailed observations.

Long Pond and nearby Great Pond are both members of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s list of impaired lakes. Long Pond encompasses 2,600 acres, 31 miles of shoreline and reaches depths of up to 106 feet.

 

A DIRE NEED

Last surveyed in 2002, the Long Pond watershed was long overdue. In order to get funding to solve the problem, a watershed must be surveyed within the past 10 years. Further, a watershed management plan must be developed as part of the application process for grants through the environmental department. The most recent plan expired in 2018 and developing a new one comes after sifting through survey results.

Lynn Matson, water quality committee chair for the Belgrade Lakes Association, said 40% of algal bloom causing phosphorus comes from sources in the watershed, like erosion from driveways, yards, parking lots and more.

“Too much phosphorus in our lakes and we’ll hit a tipping point when the algae will explode and we’ll have a massive algae bloom, which will turn the lake green, Matson said. “The bottom line is that we have to keep the dirt out of the lakes.”

Volunteer Audrey Kolloff, right, talks Tuesday about factors that contribute to soil erosion as she and Wendy Garland, also a volunteer, left, survey the shoreline of Long Pond in Belgrade. The area shown is near the dam where Great Pond empties into Long Pond. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Participation in the survey was voluntary. Of the 1,345 property owners along the Long Pond watershed, just 45 asked to not be a part of the survey. The watershed was split into 14 zones for field survey work.

A Great Pond survey conducted in 2018 led to identification of more than 100 properties that contributed phosphorus into the water. This survey is funded by the Belgrade Lakes Association, with a cost of over $15,000. The majority of the cost is to hire Jennifer Jesperson, principal of Ecological Instincts, whose team carries through the entirety of the survey process along with the volunteers. She led a survey of nearby Great Pond two years ago.

Long Pond Watershed survey volunteers Barbara Barrett, center, and Pam Mackill review survey material Tuesday as they meet with other volunteers at the Belgrade Town Office to begin work on the Long Pond Watershed survey. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel) Buy this Photo

Barbara Barrett, a Belgrade resident who participated in the Great Pond survey, was back for the Long Pond version.

“It’s important so that we can save our lakes,” Barrett said. “Water quality is dependent on land owners and users around the lakes. It’s dependent on land owners and managers to do repairs and keep erosion out of the lakes.”

 

SURVEY IN ACTION

Kolloff and Garland collaborated in tandem like longtime coworkers. Garland has worked at the Department of Environmental Protection for 25 years, and anticipates conducting approximately 100 of these lake surveys over her career.

Kolloff, a retired fashion designer from New York City, paid attention to the Zoom training. She and her husband, Lawrence Kolloff, a retired architect, have owned a summer residence at Lower Long Pond for 13 years. However, they maintained a summer residence from the mid-1980s in the Long Pond area.

Lawrence Kolloff volunteered for the survey as well with a different technical leader. The Kolloffs live in Manchester, Vermont, during the winter.

Upper Long Pond and Lower Long Pond are divided by Castle Island. Audrey Kolloff first heard about the survey at Belgrade’s annual Town Meeting and felt an immediate desire to help out.

“Now that we’re really retired and have time to spend here, we were like, ‘Let’s do what we can to be involved,” she said.

Volunteers Audrey Kolloff, right, and Wendy Garland survey the shoreline of Long Pond at Peninsula Park in Belgrade on Tuesday. The area shown is near the dam where Great Pond empties into Long Pond. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Audrey Kolloff and Garland’s first property was the public Peninsula Park, a popular summer fishing and picnicking spot next to the dam where Great Pond flows into Long Pond. Kolloff quickly noticed a larger patch of dirt with no buffer to stop it from flowing into the water when it rains or snows.

Kolloff suggested adding a timber barrier, and Garland agreed.

Getting residents to survey their own lakes comes with a heightened willingness to find and fix any problems.

“Even if you’ve lived on the lake for many years, you can see things from another perspective, Garland said.

Garland handled the tablet and took photos of the problem area. She and Kolloff categorized the type of erosion and then rated the level and size of it on a 1-10 scale. They continued to dozens of property throughout the day, at least an eight-hour job.

Wendy Garland, a volunteer with the Long Pond Watershed survey, records data on an electronic notebook Tuesday while surveying the shoreline of Long Pond in Belgrade. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Next door at Day’s Store, they noticed the business long ago took action in curbing any sort of erosion problem. The store planted a rain garden to catch the water before sliding into the lake and also used sediment-filled water infiltration steps at the end of their parking lot.

Erosion control mix presented itself at a handful of nearby properties, but they need an extra dose.

 

‘EROSION CONTROL LEADERS’

In an address to the group before the survey, Matson spoke about the importance of taking action with the results.

It takes several weeks to compile results for field surveys, and a final report will not be available until January 2021. There may be additional surveying done throughout the next week.

Water infiltration steps, center, and mature landscaping help control soil erosion at a residence along the Long Pond shoreline in Belgrade. The area shown Tuesday is near the dam where Great Pond empties into Long Pond. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Nonetheless, after the Great Pond survey, not much was done. There is a youth conservation corps, but need arose for a sort of control officer.

In stepped Art Grindle, the 7 Lakes Alliances erosion control coordinator. His job is to work with landowners to decrease erosion on their properties and help formulate the watershed management plan.

“The bottom line is stabilization of erosion, but it takes a while to get there,” said Grindle, who also served as a field leader.

Jesperson, who organized the survey, made it known the importance of the volunteers who stepped forward.

“It’s a big deal to get back out there,” Jesperson told the group before the survey. “You’re the erosion control leaders.”

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