Saturday, February 26, 2011

Late Winter Visit to Portland

This was the commanding view of Portland Harbor and Casco Bay Mrs. Trashpaddler and I enjoyed the past few days.  From this vantage point, we watched as ships entered the port, aircraft approached the airport, and a Friday storm blanketed the city with a fresh coat of snow.  Throw in a Saturday morning sunrise, some nice views of the waning "Snow Moon", great seafood, several swims (in a hotel pool), some sauna time, seeing a great movie ("The King's Speech"), and you have the ingredients for a simple New England winter getaway.  It wasn't exactly tropical but it sure was a nice time!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Welcome Sign of Spring

This Eastern Bluebird was 1 of 3 seen today while snowshoeing at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.  They were staying close to one of the few spots of bare ground alongside Puffer Pond.  I suspect they were enjoying the late winter sunshine as much as I was.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sudbury River - Little Farms Rd. to Saxonville Mills

Combining this morning's warm spring-like conditions with ample open water on the Sudbury River gave me all the ingredients necessary for a pleasant trash patrol.  At Little Farms Road the parking area was plowed out and getting to the water required trudging through only about 50 feet of calf-deep snow.  My boat easily slid over the top of the snow to the water's edge.  There was no ice shelf to deal with. 
Once launched, I paddled upriver through the small riffle between the oxbow openings and stopped at the first eddy where some wood ducks had been hanging around.  Out of my dry-box came my music-listening device and once the earbuds were in place I turned it on wondering which song would cue-up.  Appropriately, it was the late Fred Neil's song, The Dolphins starting things off nicely with "This old world may never change.  The way it's been....."
I can't put into words just how great it felt to be back on the river and gliding along its surface!
As usual, trash was there for the taking, "same as it ever was" and my rear hatch was filling at a steady rate.  By the time I'd rounded Otter Neck and the Saxonville Mills came into view I had 58 pieces of trash onboard....

This marked my turnaround point and, after doing so, I dodged several orange shopping carts lying partially submerged between the mills and Concord Street.

Just a little before reaching the Danforth Street bridge, I noticed some glass protruding from the riverbank. Checking closer revealed an old milk bottle still intact. It was a square Cream Top bottle and bore the faint markings of the Twin Maple Farm, Saxonville, and the slogan "Honest Quality Built Our Business". I would later find on the Internet that Twin Maple Farm was a dairy operation located, not far from the river, on Meadow Street and until 1966 they would, each morning, dispatch a fleet of delivery trucks to their customer's homes.  The milk bottle, posed for this photo, after it was cleaned up a bit... 

Note that the lower opening at the neck is a smaller diameter than the top opening.  This provided a chamber for the cream to reside in.  I wonder how many times this rugged bottle was filled with milk, emptied, cleaned, and re-filled again for different customers.  It was about as far from our present single-use/throw-away containers as one could get.  Maybe they were on to something.

Once back at Little Farms Road, the day's catch posed in the snow...

There were 61 pieces of trash in today's haul and it broke-down as follows: 18 recyclable containers (4 redeemable) and 43 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as 21 empty plastic bags, a bicycle tire & tube, and some styrofoam containers.  My YTD total stands at 145.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fighting "Mum Nature" in Canada

While visiting today I saw mention of a recent canoe race on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City.  On You Tube I enjoyed this account of the event.  It left me wanting to jump in my car and drive to the nearest Tim Hortons!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Massachusetts Bottle Bill and Common "Cents"

The 2 containers pictured at left are identical in their composition.  Each contains 20-ounces of liquid and in some of our country's more progressive states each is assigned a monetary value of 5-cents so that, once empty, they have a better chance of being recycled.  States such as Connecticut, Maine, New York, Oregon, California, and Hawaii understand this concept.  Unfortunately, our Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not and stubbornly refuses to assign these equal containers an equal value.  Our state assigns 5-cents value to the one containing carbonated water and no value to the one containing non-carbonated water.  Back in the last century (1983), there may have been some logic behind this inequality.  But now, 28 years later, I cannot think of any logic that would justify continuing with this system.  After all, the word "sustainable" was only in its infancy back then.
So here in the once progressive Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the manufacturers, retailers, and some consumers see no problem with this out-dated arrangement.  Thus many of the more influential politicians see nothing to be gained by rocking the boat.  I’ll grant them that it is convenient to just throw these containers out and hope for the best.  The containers will either be recycled, incinerated, or buried.  But given any serious thought, this seems absurd. We are manufacturing trash. Manufacturing these plastic single-use containers requires considerable resources such as: petro-chemicals for the plastic, water and electricity used in the manufacturing process, fuel to transport to market, and refrigeration to keep the containers ice cold in the store. When you add all this up, for just 20-ounces of liquid, how can it not seem wasteful? Do we really need to create tons and tons of polyethelene terephthalates?  Would this be considered “sustainable”?  Not to my way of thinking.

This legislative year holds hope, as it has perennially, that this might be the year the bottle bill is revisited and updated.  In these tough econonmic times, the state could realize millions of additional revenue resulting from unclaimed deposits.  Opponents of an expanded bottle bill argue that it is a tax (on the lazy) and that since many folks have access to curbside recycling programs, a bottle bill is no longer necessary.  While there is some truth to this, the problem is the single-use containers people purchase and consume while away from home and on-the-run that, all too often, find their way into the environment.  It's funny to hear expanded bottle bill opponents begrudgenly admit to how successful the original bottle bill was.  It was an environmental measure that delivered all that was promised back when beer and soda were the beverages of choice.
If common "cents" prevails and the bottle bill is revisited, I hope the flimsy plastic wrappers identifying the container as redeemable will be replaced with something more durable.  The glue holding the ends of the wrapper together seems to dissolve when wet. This results in many of the containers recovered from waterways being deemed worthless. 
Of course not everyone is sitting around and waiting for the day when logic might prevail.  In the Town of Concord, Massachusetts, resident Jean Hill is, once again, providing citizens an opportunity to go even further in bucking the trend and banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles outright. Last year, Hill proposed a similar article and it was passed at Town Meeting. However, the article was flawed in its wording and deemed unenforceable by the Town. Undeterred, Hill has re-crafted the bill in such a way that it should pass muster, this time, if adopted at Town Meeting. If so, perhaps other communities would examine the issue and adopt similar measures.  The bottled water industry should be concerned that Hill's proposal seems to have found solid traction.  I find her arguments compelling and hope she is successful.  Perhaps my town, Acton, could be the one that seconds the notion. 

So, what do you think?  Did the original bottle bill make sense?  Does it need to be updated to include the variety of non-carbonated drinks that are now popular?  Is it too much of a hassle?  Is it a tax?  Does giving an empty container 5-cents value create enough incentive for someone to redeem it or not discard it?  Do you care if these plastic containers end up in the environment?  Is sustainable the same as good old fashioned common sense?
Ealier today, after taking a sip of tap water from my stainless steel re-usable container, I scaled a large snowbank and found this very hopeful view...
Yes, it's open water.  The Sudbury River in Framingham to be exact.  Give me just a few more degrees of warmth and my boat and I will once again be afloat!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snowshoeing at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge

This cold February morning found the local rivers and any flotsam of a trashy type still buried under a deep blanket of snow.  However, while paddling was a no-go, the conditions were ideal for snowshoeing and I returned to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge to explore more of the 15 miles of trails there.  Entering from Hudson Road in Sudbury, I elected to traverse the Tri-Town Trail which had yet to see any human traffic since this week's 2-day snowstorm.   The trail is pictured at left.
At the first junction, I switched to Pine Garden Trail and followed it to Harry's Trail  which brought me to Kingfisher Trail and this spot on the shore of Puffer Pond, where some lunch was enjoyed...  

Across the pond is a canoe launch and the old chimney marking where the Carbary family once lived...

After lunch, I returned to Harry's Trail and followed it to where it ends at the Visitors Center...

The Visitor Center opened last October and is well worth a visit.  Inside I found friendly and knowledgeable staff ready to provide answers to any questions I had.  There are exhibits of all the wildlife known to frequent this 2,200 acre refuge.  There is also a Nature Store in which I found an expanded second edition of The Central Mass. published by Marker Press in cooperation with the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society, Inc.  I had thought this book was out of print and therefore purchased one of the copies they had on the shelf.  As I mentioned in my last post, this book contains some great pictures and maps regarding the role this facility played during WW II.
On the Internet, at a site maintained by the University of New Hampshire, are some historical topo maps that show the area before and after the U.S. Military built the ammunition depot.  The before map is at this link.  The map showing the facility in 1950 can be found at this link.  After clicking to enlarge the maps, look for Puffer Pond.
If you're looking for a great location to do some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge might just be the ticket.  And it is free!  For more information, visit their web site at this link.