Serve, Learn, and Grow on Casco Bay
Marissa Fink, Southern Maine Sustainability Fellow, describes the Resilience Corps' Days of Service, highlighting Maine Island Trail Association.
Our Resilience Corps Cohort after a successful beach cleanup on Vaill Island.
A highlight of my experience in the Resilience Corps has been our Days of Service. Each month, our cohort gets together to spend a day volunteering for a local nonprofit. Through these service days, we have had the opportunity to learn about organizations like the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which aims to strengthen our state by enhancing the lives of its immigrants, and the Wild Seed Project, which advocates for the repopulation of Maine’s landscapes with native plants. We even got to volunteer our time to help with the parade logistics at the famous Yarmouth Clam Festival! But no service day has been quite as scenic as our most recent, when we headed into Casco Bay to volunteer with the Maine Island Trail Association.
The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) operates the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile water trail that connects over 250 islands and mainland sites along the entire Maine coast. The Maine Island Trail was born out of a need for stewardship. With the goal of keeping Maine’s islands healthy and beautiful, the trail and association were established in 1988. Today, MITA continues to promote access and stewardship of the trail, including taking volunteer groups like us out on the water to help keep Maine’s islands beautiful.
MITA owns several skiffs to transport volunteers to and from the islands.
With our PFDs secured, sunscreen applied, and sunglasses on, we headed off into Casco Bay on a small red skiff, accompanied by MITA staff member Chris and volunteer skipper Stu. It was the perfect day to be out on the water – warm and breezy with a blue sky full of puffy white clouds. We sped by Peaks Island and Long Island, admiring the views as we went. We finally slowed down as we neared the first of our two stops of the day, Crow Island. Off the coast of the much larger Chebeague Island, Crow Island is small but beautiful, with a short trail that leads from the beach to a cabin that is available for overnight camping. Our cohort spent the rest of the morning widening the trail and clearing plants that had become overgrown around the cabin, while watching out for the itch-inducing browntail moth caterpillar.
After eating our lunches on the Crow Island beach, we piled back into the skiffs and headed to our second island destination, Vaill Island. Like Crow, Vaill Island is mostly vegetated and has a beautiful sandy beach, but no cabin – Vaill is open for day use only. Our afternoon task was a beach cleanup of Vaill’s shores. Armed with our trash bags, gloves, and trash picker sticks, we set off in search of detritus. We found the kind of rubbish you’d expect to find on an island shore: pieces of foam buoys, plastic straws, rubber bands, tiny unidentifiable plastic bits. My favorite was a small, eroded, green army action figure. I wondered if a child had played with it before it ended up in the ocean. How long had it floated around in the sea before washing ashore? After filling our bags, we ended the afternoon beach cleanup with a dunk in the water before piling into the boats and heading back to the mainland.
A beautiful day for a beach cleanup.
A tidepool full of mussels on Vaill Island.
This Day of Service with MITA gave me a renewed sense of wonder in exploring such a beautiful part of the world through Resilience Corps. This program has allowed many of us to experience the beauty of Casco Bay for the first time, or to return and appreciate it in a new light. Our Days of Service help me feel more connected to my cohort and to the wider community of the greater Portland region. Although the conclusion of our service term is rapidly approaching, this Day of Service with MITA proved that there are still many new experiences to be had, people to meet, and lessons to learn. I am so grateful for these opportunities to serve, learn, and grow.
Marissa grew up in Holmdel, New Jersey, before moving across the country to Salem, Oregon to double major in music and environmental science at Willamette University. While in college, Marissa participated in a month-long sustainability-focused study abroad program in Kawagoe, Japan. After graduating from Willamette in 2020, Marissa worked as an outdoor educator for the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire, as well as working for the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. In their free time, Marissa enjoys crocheting, running, biking, and making music with friends. As a Resilience Corps Fellow, Marissa is excited to help municipalities prepare for how climate change will continue to affect their communities and build toward sustainable futures.