Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Planning for a Greener Sandy Island

Ellie Goldberg Jan 2008
Sandy Island http://si.bostonycamps.org/

Many veteran Sandy Island families have fond memories of the deer that used to share the island with us.

Many of us have favorite photos of a deer family or two in a soft shaft of afternoon sunlight taken near the Chapel or Juliet's Point. In my family movies, taken at Sandy twenty years ago, my daughters are hand-feeding Vanilla Wafers to a faun and her mother among the trees behind our cabin.

But the deer were not good for the island. In 1998, students from the University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources did an audit of Sandy's Island's natural resources. After evaluating Sandy's forest and wetland management practices and doing an inventory of vegetation, trees and wildlife species, the researchers concluded that the island's 66-acres could not support even a small population of six deer. The deer were eating the understory of bushes and trees.

So the deer had to go.

The report also documented serious erosion and damage in high use areas from vehicle and foot traffic. It recommended a list of changes and improvements to preserve and protect the island, including ways to stabilize the soil by better management of water drainage and soil run-off.

These improvements have been ongoing but are often an invisible and unappreciated part of island operations and management. More visible are the recent infrastructure upgrades and repairs required after the extreme storms that caused major damage in the past few years.

No doubt about it – the climate is changing. The winters in the region are warmer and the duration of ice cover on New Hampshire's lakes has decreased.. On Lake Winnipesaukee, for example, the average ice-out date now occurs eight days earlier than a century ago and the lake ice cover is thinning. This limits the time that trucks and loads of supplies necessary for major repair projects have access to Sandy Island during the winter months.

As you may have read in the past few Grains of Sandy, the Sandy Island Camper Improvement Committee has been discussing our island's ongoing and long term conservation needs – related to people as well as the weather.

We are talking about involving campers and staff in preserving the "nature" of Sandy by reducing our impact on Sandy's fragile ecosystem. According to the 1998 inventory, Sandy was home to twenty species of trees, fourteen shrub species, and a variety of herbacius species such as cinnamon fern, sensitive fern, Canadian dogwood, wood sorrel partridgeberry, sheep laurel, redberry wintergreen, woolgrass, and Virginia Bugleweed. (How many of these are still there? Scavenger hunt, anyone?) To see the amazing list of Sandy Island species look for the UNH report on the shelf in Sandwall Lodge.

We know we can keep costs down by conserving water, electricity and fuel just as many of us doing in our homes and communities. We are also working on quality of life issues. We will be starting a new campaign to promote the "Sandy spirit," the sense of caring and responsibility that we hope will lead to less litter, trash and waste and will better protect the facilities such as the courts and expensive equipment from misuse and damage. Watch for more improvements in our food service, camp store, and many other camp areas and activities.

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Grains of Sandy Newsletter articles 2007

Grains of Sandy Newsletter
Sandy Island http://si.bostonycamps.org/

Volume 1, Issue 2  2/2007
“Recycling on Sandy Island. . . A Challenging Possibility” by Ellie Goldberg, Week 7

Most of our home communities save money through municipal programs that divert glass, metal and plastic from the trash. For many of us, the recycling programs have been around for so long that separating recyclables is second nature.

I always wondered why there was no recycling at SI. It seems out of sync with the natural beauty we enjoy and the ecological values I live by at home. So last year I started asking about the possibility of recycling with a few other campers and with new staffer Jim Sullivan who has worked on community recycling projects in his "real life."

In September I proposed that the Sandy Island Camper Committee set up an "environmental issues subcommittee" to conduct an audit of SI's trash system and to survey campers' and staff's attitudes and suggestions about starting to recycle at SI.

Obviously, Sandy Island presents unique challenges to recycling. An audit would ask: how much trash does SI produce? How much does it cost (time and money) to dump it? How much of the trash is recyclable? How much might be saved by re-engineering the waste system at Sandy? Is it possible to reduce waste and trash?

What we know. . . . .Jim Sullivan reported that cardboard is SI's heaviest recyclable material. It is currently burned so it is not part of the trash that is hauled off island. SI's other recyclable materials that now go into the trash include plastics, tin, aluminum and glass -- mostly food containers. SI waste/trash is combined with North Woods and Pleasant Valley's trash and Casella Waste Systems, Inc. hauls it to a Wolfeboro site. They do not provide pickup of any recyclables but it is in their future plans.

There aren't any other companies that offer pickup and hauling of recyclables in that area. There are recycling drop-off centers in Wolfeboro and Meredith, where the city trash drop-off centers are located. However both of these locations would be a 30-minute haul from either North Woods or Harilla.

Stay tuned for additional news when a trash audit and a camper/staff survey are developed. If you have comments or suggestions for the environmental issues committee, please send them to Ellie Goldberg, at ellie.goldberg@gmail.com.

Protecting the Sense of Wonder at Sandy Island
By Ellie Goldberg, Week 7

For many of us, Sandy Island provides a week-long sustained immersion in nature that we don't get anywhere else. Sandy Island has a magical quality that creates deep sensory memories that nourish us and our children all year long.

That "Sandy Sensation" reminds me of what author Rachel Carson wrote about as "a sense of wonder." She wrote, "Not only does nature sustain us physically, it can also engender in us, if we allow it, a... sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against .. alienation from the sources of our strength.

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964) was a scientist and celebrated nature writer. She wrote several books including The Sea Around Us, Under the Sea Wind, and The Edge of the Sea but she is best known for her 1962 book, Silent Spring. It was a call to action that created such a sense of urgency to protect the fragile ecosystem from toxic chemicals that it started the "environmental movement. Carson's life was dedicated to helping people understand the web of life, the intimate connection between health and the quality of the environment.

Now, as I look forward to another summer at Sandy (and with evidence of climate change growing by the day) I am thinking about the fragile ecology of Sandy and the larger environment Sandy is part of. At the last camper committee meeting, Anna Young was talking about the special joy of sharing Sandy Island with parents and children, and mentioned the new book by Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Louv describes how the broken bond between children growing up today and the natural world causes extensive personal and cultural losses. Like Rachel Carson, Louv's believes that "Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self interest…because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends on it. The health of the Earth is at stake."

Ever since participating in discussions about the overpopulation of deer several years ago, I have been interested in learning more about the ecology of Sandy and wondered how I could help preserve it. Since writing about recycling in the last Grains of Sandy, several people have told me or Jim Sullivan that they also are interested in being on an "environmental issues" committee. Our first task will be to draft a survey to help identify and prioritize issues and educational needs and to develop recommendations to assist the camp administration in targeting efforts.

I invite anyone who has an interest in ecology, recycling, environmental health and safety to contact me. Ellie Goldberg, Week 7, (617) 965-9637, ellie.goldberg@gmail.com

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” Rachel Carson

Our Beautiful Isle of Sandy: by Ellie Goldberg (Week 7) with thanks to Beth Howell (Week 2) and Jim Sullivan (Staff)

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long aslife lasts. (Rachel Carson)

Sandy Island is a fragile ecosystem. The Sandy Island Camper Committee has been discussing how we can preserve what we treasure most about Sandy Island. Sandy Island does not consume a lot of material resources compared to most other vacation lands. However, we need to protect water quality and reduce erosion. And we can lower or slow the increasing cost of fuel and improve our "ecological footprint" by planning to conserve electricity and to reduce waste.

An Inspiring Example

Beth Howell (Week 2), describes how a resort on the island of St. Johns in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a superb model -- it promotes guest comfort and protects the island's ecosystem at the same time. Some of the ideas that work on St. Johns might not apply to life on Sandy Island, but perhaps the most impressive thing is that they have looked closely at what they use and what they abuse. For some guests it is enlightenment.

On St. Johns there are elevated boardwalks and walkways to protect the vegetation, to prevent soil erosion and to allow the animals to contiue to live in their natural environment. The tent cottages remind me of Sandy, writes Beth. The building construction techniques minimize the removal of vegetation. The walls and roofs are made of a waterproof recycled tarp-like material.

The rainwater catchments on almost every building supply water to the laundry, housekeeping facilities and the bathhouses. They use aerators on faucets and spring action faucets and showers to save water. They have clean and odor-free waterless urinals. Waste water is pumped intoa large aeration tank where nature's own bacteria go to work. They have organic gardens and orchards.

Because they were generating a lot of glass and there is no recycling, they created a program called "Trash to Treasure." There is a glass blowing studio with equipment and staff training. The glass-art makes a profit! Guests make art paper from the pulp of shredded office paper and other fine arts and craft projects such as ceramic pendants and wind chimes. Departing guests leave usable items for newcomers such as shampoo, suntan lotion, groceries, Kleenex, magazines, and paperbacks books about the island. It creates a feeling of personal connectedness with other like-minded individuals and kindred spirits.

Put Your Thinking Caps On. (Here is a starter list from your SI Camper Committee. Throughout the summer your Camper Committee reps will be asking for your suggestions and feedback.)

• To reduce disposables, use and refill personal travel mugs, ceramic mugs, water bottles and other beverage containers.

• Provide sinks outside the dining hall where campers can wash their hands and also wash refillable travel mugs.

• Purchase biodegradable hot and cold cups.

• Purchase from local food producers.

• For staff and camper health, purchase "green" cleaning products without perfumes and toxic ingredients.

• Unplug cell phone, computer and iPod chargers. (Did you know they still draw energy even when not charging?)

• More bat boxes for mosquito control.

• Report to campers and staff how much water and energy we use.

• More programming for children and families about the ecology of Sandy Island.

• Investigate possibilities for recycling.

Education and Communication

In the last two summers, Jim Sullivan introduced the kids at the Little Red School House to the flora and fauna at Sandy Island. The kids were given a short island tour including some easily identifiable trees and plants, the lagoon, and the water tank. This summer, Jim will be develop similar age-appropriate programs for the CAVE and Junior programs focusing on how the island works – from water and kitchen to plants and paths.

Did You Know?

Did you know that a power line runs to the island from Long Island in a conduit on the bottom of the lake? You can see the conduit at the bottom of the lake if you are swimming by North Dock. Sandy Island is also replacing an old water storage tank where the water is kept once it comes up out of the ground before going to the bathrooms for use. New tanks behind the shop will make our water system more efficient.

Jim suggests developing a comprehensive land-use plan including erosion control, forest management, and protection of native vegetation and wildlife. All of the un-vegetated ground around the center of camp could be planted with vegetation or covered with gravel or mulch to prevent the tons of soil going into the lake each year.

New programming will include island tours early in each week to introduce newcomers to the ecology and history of the island and give "old-timers" a chance to reconnect and share favorite stories and memories. Future plans include creating eco-teams -- groups of campers or families joining one or more staff members for brief or extended time periods to work on eco-projects around the island.

In every out-thrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is a story of the earth. (Rachel Louise Carson)