News & Events

New: Updated Info Page for 2014 Summer Campers

June 20th, 2014

June 1: Wind Over Wings Program at UU Church

May 19th, 2014

The Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church, and Cathance River Education Alliance are joining together to co-sponsor a very special event.

Wind Over Wings
Character and Courage: Lessons Learned From Eagles
(LIVE BIRDS!)

Sunday, June 1, 2:00 – 3:00 PM

Held at the newly rebuilt Brunswick Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Middle Street.

Our event will feature the renowned and exceptionally talented Wind Over Wings founder Hope Douglas. This is a special presentation about eagles, their amazing character, and their stories of courage after injury.

Come meet the live Golden Eagle Skywalker, and hear about the two injured Bald Eagles currently being cared for at Wind Over Wings. Featured also will be three other live birds, the Eastern Screech Owl, the American Kestrel, and Zachariah the Common Raven.

Hope Douglas founded the nonprofit organization Wind Over Wings about twenty years ago. Wind Over Wings brings birds into classrooms, homes, conference centers, auditoriums, and places of worship for environmental education programs. Birds in their care are unable to survive in the wild. Each of them inspires us with their stories of courage, adaptability, and resilience. Programs are conducted by trained educators.

This program is FREE and family friendly. All interested members of the public are invited to attend. There is limited church parking. Come early to assure parking and seating. This is also a great opportunity to see the new church, which has been newly rebuilt after a tragic fire on June 6th, 2011.

Watch Hope’s interview on 207

You won’t want to miss this very special community event!

CREA Seeking Volunteers

July 17th, 2013

CREA is a vibrant, community-based non-profit organization seeking interested individuals for committees, the board of directors, or for short-term defined projects. We are looking for people with a passion for environmental education and the operation of a nature preserve. Interested persons and anyone with a questions should contact CREA's president, Louisa Edgerton, at ledge@gwi.net.

Mt. Ararat biology students to share findings from fall CREA field studies

January 24th, 2012

Article originally appeared in The Times Record.

Mt. Ararat High School teacher Glenn Evans’ honors biology students, as a part of their ecology and environment unit, visited the Cathance River Preserve and ecology center weekly last fall to conduct field study research.
Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) educator Cheryl Sleeper and several area professional mentors, including local scientists and professionals from Stantec, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine State Forest Service, worked with the students.
“Working in small groups, with help from their teacher and mentors, students designed a scientific study and collected data for their study weekly,” a CREA release states.
The projects ran for the first quarter of this school year.
To kick off CREA’s 2012 monthly Community Program series, the students will give presentations about their work at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Topsham Public Library on Foreside Road. The presentations will include a digital poster, lab report and a short, student-produced I-movie.
The eight topics that students researched include:

  • Terrestrial Insect Sampling by Jake Papa and Jake Demosthenes.
  • An ongoing study, Forest Inventory Growth Plot, conducted by Shea Nelson, Marie Ring and Zach Collins, mentored by Kevin Doran.
  • A Mammal Study, conducted by Jonah Levy, Bru Abreu and Cat Johnson, mentored by Stantec professionals Steve Pelletier and Adam Gravel.
  • Cathance River Water Level and Quality Monitoring, conducted by Ellison Etnier, Emma Vernard and Emma Cota, mentored by Glenn Evans.
  • Habitat Hole Project, undertaken by students Sam Wood and Nick Rogers, mentored by Stantec professionals Steve Pelletier and Adam Gravel.
  • A Butterfly Project, conducted by students Liz Kneebone, Jessica Wright and Danielle Krause, mentored by Sarah Sparks.
  • A Mushroom Project, led by Saree Boutin, Maggie Broughton and Connie Hodge, mentored by Cheryl St. Pierre.
  • A Dragonfly Study, conducted by Belle Fall and Izzy Leon, mentored by David Reed.

Monthly CREA programs will take place on the last Tuesday of each month and represent an ongoing collaboration between CREA and the Topsham Public Library. This year’s topics include programs on the Maine black bear, live bird presentations, vernal pools, Cathance River history, dragonflies, local geology, insects and the movie “Mother Nature's Child.”
Visit www.creamaine.org for more information.

Brunswick High School Class of 1961 Donates Underwater Video Camera

January 11th, 2012

After recently celebrating their 50th class reunion, the Brunswick High School Class of 1961 decided to give something back to their alma mater. Intrigued by an independent study in Ecology which Brunswick High School Seniors Baxter Worthing, Sam Katz, and Cece Carey-Snow were conducting, the class made a generous donation to their project after raising funds through a silent auction.
The students, in conjunction with Brunswick High School teachers Andrew McCullough, Rick Wilson, and the Cathance River Education Alliance purchased a Delta Vision Industrial underwater video camera. The camera will enable them to view and record the world of aquatic species in the Cathance River. Use of the camera is one of many field study experiences which the students are conducting.

"This independent study is a great opportunity for students to learn in a diverse environment outside the classroom where they can experience data collection in the field with professionals," says Andrew McCullough Brunswick High School biology teacher and one of the advisors for the Independent Study.

Besides their work with the camera, the students are also conducting field studies in telemetry tracking of painted turtles, grass regeneration on the Cathance River, and baiting and maintaining a remote animal camera.
"I never thought that in my high school experience I would be able to learn this much outside of the classroom. This independent study is changing my view of education," says Baxter Worthing.

Cathance River Nature Preserve Featured in Book

January 5th, 2012

See the Cathance River Nature Preserve featured on pages 32-34 in Best Nature Sites of Midcoast Maine:

http://www.bestnaturesites.webs.com/

Youth Leaders Launch Grass Restoration Project

July 8th, 2011

While most of their peers were happily sleeping away the first morning of summer vacation, four local teens celebrated the end of the school year this Friday with a 6 am wake-up call, spending the day knee-deep in river water to initiate a grasses restoration project at the Head of Tide.

Having studied the benthic zone – the lowest level of a body of water– for a science project earlier this year, Sam Katz and Baxter Worthing found their research hit close to home. And as Environmental Youth Leaders with the Cathancre River Education Alliance, a year-round program fostering ecological responsibility among area high school students, they decided to do something about it. “Many benthic marine organisms enjoy grasses on the [river] bottom because it provides a shelter many other things can’t. Because of carp, an invasive species, there’s been a major decline in the amount of benthic fauna in this area of the Cathance River,” Baxter explained. “So, we planted more.”

Put that way, it sounds simple. It wasn’t.

Together with fellow EYL members Liz Washington and Jimmy Kenyon, and with the guidance of Bowdoin professor John Lichter, they developed a plan to best remedy the situation. Using a remote camera, the students first monitored water levels to determine an area with the correct amount of exposure, before staking out three separate plots: one for high density coverage, the second for lower density, and the last to remain as a control. Friday morning was spent planting hundreds of sprouts of tide grass, a native species more commonly known as eel grass.

The four will be returning to Head of Tide every two weeks this summer to determine which planting density works best in comparison to the amount of marine life other than the grasses themselves. They will be looking at the survival of the plants themselves and also which density is better for marine organisms, such as minnows – a good indicator of the presence of different species. In the fall, the group will harvest seeds from the grasses to grow over the winter… and start all over again.

CREA thanks the Merrymeeting Bay Trust, Horizon Foundation and Davis Conservation Foundation, as well as its members, for supporting these and similar endeavors. We couldn’t do it without your help.
For more information on CREA or the Environmental Youth Leadership program, visit creamaine.org or call (207) 504-7288.

Announcing Open Hours at the Cathance River Ecology Center

June 9th, 2011

In 2000, an agreement between Central Topsham Associates, LLC and the citizens’ group Topsham’s Future established the 235-acre Cathance River Preserve. The non-profit Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) was founded at the same time to encourage the use of the Preserve for ecological education.

More than a decade later, CREA has become known for hands-on environmental education programs in the classroom and at the preserve’s Ecology Center: its Environmental Youth Leadership program and popular Vacation Nature Camp series, adult workshops at the Preserve and lecture series held at the Topsham Public Library. Over five miles of trails - showcasing a richly diverse wild river habitat – are open to the public from dawn to dusk.

CREA’s Ecology Center will now be open for all to enjoy, holding public open hours each Sunday in June from 11 am to 3 pm. A recycled Civil War era post and beam barn transported from New York, the Center boasts numerous green features, such as recycled materials and clay-finished walls. Concepts of energy and sustainability come alive while you tour our entirely off-grid facility, with a rooftop photo voltaic system and wind turbine producing renewable energy, a solar thermal sheet and bio mass stove to provide heating, and a rain barrel and gutter system to supply non-potable water.

Inside, there is plenty more to explore. The Center is a science lab, with microscopes, specimens, and skeletons; a field study outpost, with field guides, animal displays, and a remote wildlife camera; a historic site, teaching about feldspar mining at nearby quarries; and a weather station. CREA’s extensive library includes resources for all ages.

CREA is hosting Open Hours at the Ecology Center throughout the month of June: Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm. Visitors can learn about the center’s green features, explore field guides, animal specimens, and geology, or watch footage from a remote wildlife camera. Come by to say hello and discover the building that teaches.

For more information on the open hours or how to become a member, visit creamaine.org, or call (207) 891-8341.

Times Record – Grant boosts water monitoring research

October 1st, 2010

The Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) has received a $1,500 grant from Battelle Memorial Institute to further its water-monitoring efforts and wildlife studies along the Cathance River.
According to an announcement about the grant, CREA initiated water-monitoring projects along the Cathance as far back as 2000 and today continues the work with input and insight from Bowdoin College, local high school biology teachers, natural resource planners and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, among others.
Peter Lea, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences at Bowdoin College, has worked with CREA on water monitoring since 2000. He and his students helped establish the first five data collection points along the Cathance River, which have now expanded to 10, including an underwater data-logger at the head-of-tide.
CREA's environmental youth leaders use Bowdoin College's laboratory during the summer for their studies.
Data from these sites is posted directly onto the "Maine Watershed Web," a website sponsored by Bowdoin College. The underwater data-logger transmits data via cell phone all day throughout the year and the results can be seen by visiting www.creamaine.org.
Scott Libby, an environmental scientist at Battelle's Brunswick office, said: "Battelle, as one of the largest nonprofit, research and development companies in the U.S., focuses their grants toward local advancement of science, technology, and education. The CREA Cathance River study combines these aspects through their involvement with local high schools and collaboration with Bowdoin College. I am happy that Battelle has seen fit to support CREA's efforts and look forward to volunteering in this effort in the future."
CREA plans to use the grant funding to refine and expand current testing practices, according to a release from the alliance. The underwater data-logger measuring water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen saturation and concentration, among other things, will be recalibrated to assure accuracy.

CREA also plans to add additional data-loggers upstream of the Cathance River to expand the scope of the project. These additional data points will help to assess the impact of nutrients in runoff. A final part of the expansion will include installation of a new heat and motion sensor "deer cam" to help better record the activity of deer, beavers, muskrats, raccoons, otters, minks and weasels along the river banks.
"We are thrilled to have a partner like Battelle recognize our efforts and excited to improve upon our monitoring efforts," Rick Wilson, CREA's executive director, said in a statement.

The Great Outdoors: Exploring the Cathance River Nature Preserve

September 15th, 2010

Article by Michael Perry, published in The Forecaster September 13, 2010
For a bit of a Gulf Hagas “Grand Canyon of Maine” experience close to home, consider a visit to the beautiful 230-acre Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham this September. Seven miles of hiking trails comprised of five interconnected loop trails provide ample room to explore upland forests, a striking circular heath and 1.5 miles of Cathance River frontage.

The Cathance River originates in Bowdoin and flows southeast 20 miles to its meeting with Merrymeeting Bay near Bowdoinham. In the preserve the river drops nearly 90 feet, providing dramatic chutes, cataracts and rock formations. The water levels are low right now, exposing ledges and boulders not usually seen.

During the high water of spring expert “steep creek” boaters take on the formidable challenge of negotiating the Class1-III whitewater tumbling down through the preserve. When you visit now it is hard to imagine there ever being enough water to boat down through the narrow passageways lined with sharp cliff edges, hairpin turns and hull-gashing ledges.

To get to the preserve enter the Highland Green development off the Route 196 Topsham Bypass and follow the Village Road into Highland Green for 0.8 miles. Turn right onto Evergreen Circle and follow it a short distance to where the road becomes gravel. From here drive another half mile to a small parking lot on the left.

The preserve trails are well marked (in fact, this is the best-signed hiking area we have ever seen). Download a preserve map from the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust website (www.btlt.org) or pick one up at the Cathance River Education Alliance kiosk on the southeastern edge of the mile-long Barnes Leap Loop. We recently enjoyed three hours of early morning exploring, leaving only the eastern Ravine Loop for another time.

The Heath Loop encircles a unique mid-coastal fen. We were stunned by the display of cotton grass permeating the bog. The margins of the western shoreline were pure white, magnificently bordered above by the deep dark reds of swamp maples marking the change of seasons. This is one of the greatest concentrations of bog cotton we have ever seen on our hikes in Maine.

As you wind your way around the bog you will see the remains of significant quarrying operations undertaken over the years. As far back as the mid 1800s and up into the 1950s this area was mined for feldspar, used in the making of ceramics and pottery. Other interesting uses included the making of false teeth and the creation of abrasive soaps like Bon Ami. In 1927, feldspar mills in Topsham alone produced 1/8 of all the feldspar mined in the U.S. and 1/16 of the world's production.

By following portions of the Barnes Leap Trail, a loop connector trail over to the Beaver Loop, and the Rapids Trail you will meander along the river for more than a mile. There are many benches strategically placed to maximize the viewing angles. We enjoyed watching a blue heron fly out of a placid back eddy as we came around a sharp bend in the trail, and a few minutes later saw a kingfisher fly low over a large downstream pool. Beaver and muskrat can often be seen as well.

The evergreen forest is cool even on a warm day, the dark shadows eerily mysterious. The sound of gurgling water mixes with the gentle brush of wind through the treetops. Eventually you will come to a wooden fence high above the water. You will see the remains of an old bridge across the dark chasm. It is a 20-foot drop straight down to the narrow ribbon of water. A large cave has been carved out of the vertical wall by the powerful swirling spring waters.

Eventually we met up with the blue-blazed Rapids Trail and walked down onto a large expanse of gently sloping polished ledges. The sun was just poking around a sharp downstream bend in the river so we had the luxury of being either in the shadows or the sun, or half and half. Above us a series of drops plunged down and past the ledges with the water funneling into a tongue of white only a yard wide.

We walked over to a sharp chest-high ledge protruding out from the opposite side of the river and leaned out to rest on it, the water tumbling under us. We could only imagine the same spot in the spring when the drop might possibly rival the grandeur of Little Niagara Falls in Baxter State Park with its torrent of snow melt in search of the great river below.

At open spots in the preserve canopy we noted carpets of wintergreen, their scarlet berries just starting to form. Canada mayflowers, whose prolific ground-level yellow-green cupped leaves dominate the May forest floor, now are sporting small tan berries just starting to turn red. Sumac leaves are starting to add brilliant yellows and reds to the trailside palette.

We figure three more trips into the preserve are definitely in order over the next few months: to see the full flush of foliage colors, to snowshoe in to see the frozen waterfalls and ice-glazed walls of winter and an early spring trip to see the narrows swollen with raging whitewater.