NOTE: This article first appeared in the summer 2022 edition of The Conservationist, 7 Lakes' newsletter. To read the newsletter in its entirety, click here.
The front line in the fight against curly-leaf pondweed, a newly discovered invasive aquatic plant in the Belgrades, proved to be a retired Southerner with a penchant for paddling.
Responding to a 7 Lakes Alliance Facebook post inviting East Pond paddlers to serve as lookouts for invasive species, Bonnie Jones brought five plastic baggies, each filled with a sprig plucked from the Serpentine stream connecting East and North ponds.
“Oh,” a member of 7 Lakes’ invasive aquatics staff said as she inspected the last sample. “Can I keep this one?” “I knew something was up,” Jones said. “It was luck I happened to pull some up.”
Jones’ discovery was one of the first documented instance of curly-leaf pondweed in the Belgrade Lakes region. It has led to a full-throttled effort to stem the spread of a particularly aggressive invasive. The day after the plant’s discovery, 7 Lakes Invasive Aquatics Director Sharon Mann paddled with Jones to the spot where it was found. Within a week, New England Milfoil divers, milfoil removal specialists, were on the scene, summoned as an emergency response by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
“We’re hitting it hard,” Jones said. “At this point, now we just see a plant here and a plant there. It’s an everyday thing we have to keep in check. Otherwise, it will take over.”
Jones and her husband Paul are Alabama snowbirds. For a century, her family has owned a Worthley Pond camp. Since childhood, she eagerly anticipated visiting each August. In recent years, she and her two siblings each spent a month in the family camp.
Wanting to soak in more of Maine’s summertime, the Joneses traversed the Pine Tree State in 2018 for a spot of their own. They found a three-quarter-acre parcel on the Serpentine where they could park their huge travel trailer and “glamp” (glamour camp). She spends a portion of most days paddling, he fishing. Together, they like to hike the trails stewarded by the 7 Lakes Alliance.
The Joneses arrived this year in mid-April with Paul intent on seeing ice-out. (He missed it by a week.) At the time, the curly-leaf pondweed was on the bottom of the dark-watered Serpentine, seemingly dormant. Weeks later, “POOF,” Bonnie said. “It just exploded and started coming up. It grows quickly.”
Mann said curly-leaf pondweed has been “pretty well” contained and confined to a relatively small stretch of less than a mile, with minimal patches of regrowth. She called Jones’ efforts “absolutely critical” to gaining control quickly.
“I don’t know how long it would’ve been to find the curly-leaf pondweed if not for Bonnie,” Mann said. “The likelihood of someone else doing what she did is low.”
Jones welcomes others contributing to efforts to spot, contain and control invasives, suggesting that lovers of the Belgrades cannot afford to become complacent because an invasive hasn’t yet appeared in their lake. She rightly notes the waterbodies are inextricably linked.
“I’d love to see more volunteers on board,” she said.“It’s not just about East Pond or North Pond. It’s about all seven lakes.”
Learn more about 7 Lakes Alliance’s volunteer opportunities at: 7LakesAlliance.org/opportunities or by calling 207-495-6039.