2012-10-05 / Front Page

Group plans environmental outline

Anniversary of ‘Silent Spring’ spurs citizens to consider town’s future
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

A group of citizens concerned about the future of the environment in Scarborough met at the Scarborough Public Library Oct. 1 to chart the next 10 years of environmental work in town. The group made hiring a conservation officer at town hall its top priority. (Michael Kelley photo) A group of citizens concerned about the future of the environment in Scarborough met at the Scarborough Public Library Oct. 1 to chart the next 10 years of environmental work in town. The group made hiring a conservation officer at town hall its top priority. (Michael Kelley photo) Susan DeWitt-Wilder, a member of Citizens for a Green Scarborough, said Scarborough might be a different place if Rachel Carson, a scientist and founder of the modern environmental movement, had never existed.

Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” which was released 50 years ago last month, helped force people to rethink how they treated the natural world around them.

To honor the release of the book and to plan for the town’s own environmental future, 30 individuals convened at the Scarborough Public Library on Monday, Oct. 1.

“If there hadn’t been a Rachel Carson, we might have taken a different course,” said DeWitt-Wilder.

The goal of the meeting, DeWitt-Wilder said, was to create a “working paper” that could be distributed around Scarborough, including to the Town Council, Planning Board and Long Range Planning Committee.

“We have generated the discussion,” she said after the meeting, “and we don’t want the impetus to die.”

The meeting, which was sponsored by Citizens for a Green Scarborough, comes 10 years after another group of residents first met to discuss the future of the environment in town.

“We have the opportunity to review their work and examine the challenges that are still out there, what has changed in the last 10 years and what are the new challenges we’ll face in the next 10 years,” Dewitt- Wilder said.

Before coming up with its own environmental vision, the group reviewed the notes and environmental priorities from a decade ago.

Some of the ideas have been fulfilled, including offering curbside recycling, creating the Eastern Trail through Scarborough, opening a farmers market, creating more town parks and using green practices in new school designs.

Other ideas, however, never materialized. These included hiring a conservation officer and being named a Tree City USA. Many of the ideas are things the town is still working on, including making the town more pedestrian and bike friendly, implementing stronger shoreland zoning and subdivision and site plan reviews and protecting critical wetlands and open space.

After reviewing the previous environmental vision, the group convened in small groups to come up with top environmental priorities.

Members then whittled the list to four. The break-out groups were led by C.D. Armstrong, former president and cofounder of Friends of Scarborough Marsh; Paul Austin, president of the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust; Dan Bacon, Scarborough’s town planner and former town councilor Karen D’Andrea.

Jim MacMahon said his group, which was led by Armstrong, would like to see a review of the comprehensive plan to see what has changed and see how appropriate some of the plan’s recommendations are, especially in terms of natural resources, marine resources and sewer expansion west of the Maine Turnpike.

He said the group would also like to see village subcommittees formed to review environmental concerns in their neighborhoods.

MacMahon said his group would like make progress on hiring a conservation officer for the town. The group led by Bacon also had this as one of their top priorities.

“We need some way of getting a voice of conservation in the decisions being made at town hall,” MacMahon said.

Bacon’s group said it would like to see the Eastern Trail connect to South Portland, a costly and laborious process, as well as see more bike path and bike facilities in town, using Portland and South Portland as models.

Finally, the group said it wanted townspeople to take a closer look at stormwater and protecting the watershed, and possibly tying that review in to the work that is already being done on planning for the anticipated sea level rise.

Peter Slovinsky, a member of the group that was led by Austin, said his group would also like to see better bike, pedestrian and alternative transportation possibilities in the center of town, as well as increased environmental and climate change awareness in all educational levels kindergarten through adult education.

Slovinsky said the group would also like to see a better balance between environmental protection and economic development.

“The town’s effort and focus is much more on economic development and less so on environmental issues in town,” he said. “We feel they need to be balanced much better.”

D’Andrea said her group wanted to see continued education and outreach on the dangers of synthetic pesticides, an increased look at how to regulate business growth and zoning, better protection of agricultural resources in town and continued focus on climate change, alternative transportation and the effects of light and noise pollution on the environment.

In the end, the group as a whole decided that hiring a conservation officer was the top priority, followed by increasing biking and pedestrian safety and increased environmental education in kindergarten and beyond.

Continuing the effort to get away from using synthetic pesticides was the final environmental priority, the group determined.

These priorities and the other suggestions made will now be passed off to town boards and committees, as well as citizen groups to be put into place.

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