Friday, March 30, 2018

Public Form educates and engages lake area watershed residents by Lorraine Glowczak

Dr. Wilson Powerpoint showed 2018 summer plans
The Highland Lake Association hosted a Public Forum for Highland Lake residents and the Lake Region communities on Wednesday, March 21 at the Windham High School Auditorium from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The primary purpose was to discuss what is currently known about the lake, to address the issues faced regarding the lake and ways for area residents to be actively engaged in the health of the watershed. A question and answer session followed. Approximately 80 people attended the event.

The Forum was facilitated by Craig Freshley, founder of Good Group Decisions, Inc. and Makeshift
Coffeehouse. It included a panel of four area experts in the field of water quality who each presented up to date information. The presenters for the forum included Wendy Garland of the Maine Department of Environment (DEP), Dr. Karen Wilson of the University of Southern Maine (USM) as well as Gretchen Anderson from the Town of Windham and Heather True of Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD). was the first to present, providing background information of the lake. She shared that Highland Lake has experienced a gradual decline in water quality over the past four years as a result of an increase in algae; the cause due to the excess input of phosphorus. This growth is referred to as Pico cyanobacteria bloom (also referred to as picoplankton bloom.) 

The lake has a high phosphorus level due to camp road runoff, soil erosion, fertilizer use, pet waste, septic issues and development. The phosphorus in the atmosphere also plays a role. 

Dr. Wilson, who has worked with the Highland Lake watershed in her role as associate research
professor with USM’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy discussed the unknowns. She is an expert in the field of Limnology – the study of the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water. 

Wilson stated that that Highland Lake has the most households in comparison to other Maine lakes. She discussed the importance of the food web and how the Pico cyanobacteria bloom can potentially harm that web. She explained that the bloom occurs at the same time every year, late July and most of August.

Wilson explained that scientists don’t fully understand or aren’t able to identify the source of the Pico cyanobacteria bloom. In an attempt to do so, surveys and studies will occur this summer, 2018. The focus will include, but is not limited to, the physical structure of the lake. 

Keeping soil out of the lake is imperative because soil easily binds to phosphorus. With that in mind, both Anderson and True identified ways for residences to protect the lake. This includes the goal of mimicking the natural shoreline by establishing a vegetative buffer, planting native trees and shrubs in the upland areas, explaining that root structures hold the water in place that prevents excessive runoff. 

Installing a dripline trench to absorb roof runoff, installing rain barrels, planting a rain garden and repairing roads and driveways were other suggestions.

Most residents who attended the event gained a deeper understanding of what is occurring and are ready to act to help rectify the problem. 

“Having just moved into the community this summer, the Forum provided my fiancĂ© and I with a lot of background information and context for what has been happening with the health of the lake in the past, and plans going forward,” stated Richard Qualey. “Between the information presented, and the information available at the door, there was a good amount of material available as to what sources contribute to the pollution of the lake, and what we can do as homeowners and community members to reduce our impact.”

The Public Forum inspired some residents to engage and act immediately. “I learned that dog feces (not picked up) runs into the lake and the phosphorus from their feces hurts the lake,” stated Barbara Jessen “The next morning after the meeting I explained to three dog owners on my road about their dogs’ feces. Even kicking the poop into the woods does not stop the feces from entering the lake rain storm, etc. On Sunday I went on a mission: to find dog pick-up bags. After some research, I found that Dollar Tree sells 80 bags for $1.  I bought seven packages, brought them home and gave one to each of the dog owners on my road.”
during a

Resident, Tonya Heskett stated that she plans to participate in the volunteer efforts as well as do their part to protect the shoreline. “Our goal is to take advantage of the information provided about the buffer zone to protect the shoreline and runoff into the lake at our property,” Heskett stated.
Qualey and his fiancĂ© have plenty of landscaping plans also. “Our plans should help reduce the impact on the lake our property, and hopefully help with some of the runoff from surrounding properties as well.”

Mike Fasulo, a former Highland Lake Association board member, was most impressed with the involvement of the towns of Windham and Falmouth. He stated he was very happy to see the municipalities’ dedication to the issue. Fasulo highly recommends all lake residents to become members of the association and to get involved.

What can you do to create a healthy watershed?
There are many ways an individual can become engaged. One way is by volunteering, with many options to choose from. They include the following:

Watershed Survey – Forty people are needed to complete a survey on Saturday, May 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No experience necessary. Contact Chantal Scott at 207- 899-7641 or

Water quality sampling transportation volunteers – Drivers are needed to drive samples to University of New Hampshire. The roundtrip to UNH is about 140 miles. Contact Chantal Scott for more information.

Buffer Protection Volunteers – This includes planning shrubs, bushes, perennials, cleaning out ditches and helping with the road improvements. Again, contact Chantal Scott for more information

Alewives counting volunteers – From May to June, Alewives that come up the fish ladder into the lake need to be counted. Contact Rosie Hartzler at 207-415-3727 or at

Lake Depth Calculation Volunteers – Volunteers with boats are needed to re-calculate the depths of the lake. Equipment and training provided by Lakes Environmental Association. Contact Rosie Hartzler for more information.

The health of Highland Lake is not only a concern to its residents and the towns that are part of the lake but is an overall concern for maintaining the health of all lakes in the Lakes Region. Whether or not one is a resident of Highland Lake, the information that was offered at the Public Forum can be used by all area watershed residents.

For more information, contact Highland Lake Association President, Rosie Hartzler at 207-415-3727 or at

100 years young - The Elizabeth “Betty” Stetson story by Lorraine Glowczak

Stetson being interviewed by local TV during her birthday celebration
What does Nelson Mandela, Billy Graham, Sam Walton, Betty Ford and Raymond resident Betty Stetson all have in common? They were all born 100 years ago - in 1918!

In case you missed the local pages of last Saturday’s Portland Press Herald or Portland’s television stations’ interviews of the local icon - Elizabeth “Betty” Stetson was the Guest of Honor when she celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday, March 21 in the Roosevelt Room at the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Windham from noon to 3 p.m. 

Present were over 50 people, wishing Stetson well including family, friends, Raymond Board of Selectmen who awarded her the Boston Cane Award and Slugger from Portland Seadogs to name a few.

It may come as no surprise that she has a story or two to share with a century of life behind her.

Born in Herkimer, NY to parents who immigrated from Czechoslovakia during World War I, Stetson has seen many life changing innovations and has lived and experienced much throughout her lifetime. Stetson was born in a time when the postage stamp cost three cents, the average weekly income was $25.61, a gallon of gas was only 23 cents per gallon and a new Ford Town Car cost $595.

She, along with her two sisters Anna and Millie (Mildred), grew up on a farm in Western Massachusetts in the town of Hatfield. Tobacco was their main agricultural industry, but they also cultivated and sold onions and potatoes. Her parents’ farm included three pear trees, two plum trees, six Baldwin Apple trees, over 60 chickens, six cows and a pig. “My father was so kind hearted he could not butcher an animal on his own,” explained Stetson. “So, he hired a butcher to come to our place to do the job for him. We [she and her sisters] would run and hide because we couldn’t bear to
see our animals die, either.”

Stetson was only five years old when she began the task of delivering milk to neighbors who were within walking distance from their home. “We sold the milk for 10 cents a quart,” she explained. “I delivered the milk in pails.” 

She reminisces about her milk delivery days. It was usual custom that the neighbors, most of which were French Canadian or of Irish descent, would feed her. “On one occasion, a French-Canadian neighbor gave me a Codfish Potato Pie,” Stetson remembered. “I would probably really like that pie now, but when I was five, I was not fond of it. I usually ate up everything she would offer me when I delivered milk to her, but could not eat another bite of that pie. I told her that I was in a hurry and would eat the pie on my way to the next neighbor. At the bottom of the hill between those two neighbors was an old tobacco shed. I threw the pie in there.”

You could also find Stetson and her sisters out in the tobacco fields on their hands and knees, pulling weeds. When asked if she resented having to work on the farm at such a young age, she replied that work was as normal as breathing. “It was just what I did in life,” she said. “It never occurred to me to be resentful.”
There is one thing she didn’t like about farming, however. “Picking horn worms off the plants and killing them was my least favorite thing required of farming. I did not like horn worms then and I still can’t stand them now.”

Her family spoke in the traditional Czeck language at home, but Stetson was able to learn English by listening to others. Her older sister, Anna, did not learn English as quickly and was having difficulty in school as a result. “Anna’s teacher told my parents that I should go to school with my sister to help her with her studies,” Stetson recalled. “So, I went to school at the age of five, which was a young age to start school back then.”

Stetson’s father, despite being a relatively new immigrant to the U.S., was able to make a very good with the farm. In fact, Stetson states she didn’t experience much of the setbacks that many people experienced during the Great Depression. “With the farm, we were self-sufficient, and we had everything we needed,” she began. “The only way it affected our family is that people would pay us as they could, otherwise, I experienced no direct hardship.”
and successful living

Stetson was active during her teenage years, playing basketball, where she was the captain of her team. She graduated from Smith Academy around 1935. “Smith Academy was started by Sophia Smith, the founder of Smith College,” Stetson said. “Sophia initially wanted the college to be in Hatfield, where she lived in the 1800s, but the locals didn’t want to build a campus there because it would take land away from the farmers. That is why the college is in Northampton.”

All graduates from Smith Academy were offered free tuition to Smith College and Stetson attended for one year, majoring in business courses.

A couple years after her time at Smith College, Stetson met her husband, Maurice Nelson, at a square dance. They married soon after when she was 24 years old. Not long after their marriage, Nelson joined the World War II efforts and Stetson moved to Winchester, NH to live with his parents. After the war and when Nelson returned, they made their home in Tamworth, NH with time also lived in Newport, NH, a two-hour drive south.

At home in Raymond posing with her Boston Cane
During the next 20 years or so, Stetson was busy raising her family and working in the community. But that did not stop her from socializing. She was an active member of the Onaway Bridge Club, the Federated Garden Club and the Congregational Church. 

Tamworth is a town that attracts many well to do families and was the location of President Grover Cleveland’s summer home. “I never got to meet President Cleveland, but his son attended the same church we did, and I was very impressed with him. He was a very nice man.”

From the town of Tamworth, Stetson and her husband moved to Corbin Park - a “fashionable” nature preserve that drew in industry and finance magnets for sport, game and other outdoor recreation. Nelson was hired as the superintendent of the park and Stetson served as its manager.

While working and during her retirement, Stetson made sure to see the world. She has traveled extensively across the U.S. and has visited a number of European Countries such as England, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Greece, Holland and Italy. But she had a favorite spot. “One of my most memorable travel experiences was my trip back to my family’s homeland in Czechoslovakia; I enjoyed meeting my relatives and being a part of a culture that my parents once knew.”

She loves adventure in many forms. Stetson shared the times she salmon fished in Brunswick, Canada and deep-sea fished off the coast of Florida (catching the biggest sailfish, having to return in back to sea.) She loved the outdoors and hiked many of the mountains in New England including Mount Washington.
Stetson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50, has been cancer free for 50 years. She is also the first patient at Maine Medical Center to receive a heart valve transplant at the age of 93.

When asked if she has advice for a long life lived well, of which she gets asked often, she quickly
answers, “For longevity - make sure you eat your greens. Oh! And fruit. Fruit is good for you too.”
But if anyone has spent even just an hour with Stetson, one quickly realizes that eating healthy is not the only thing that has contributed to her long life. Happiness and laughter fill the air in her presence.

Part of her laughter stems from the fact that she enjoys playing a joke or two. Her favorite holiday is April Fool’s Day and she takes every chance she can get to pull a prank on her daughter, Becky Almstrom and son-in-law, Bob - who share their home with Stetson. 

“Every April Fool’s Day, we try to avoid her because we know she has something up her sleeve,” Becky stated. “This year, since turning 100, Bob and I decided Mom can do whatever she wants.”
Stetson smiled at her daughter with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Black Box Teens brings focus to local teens

In a time when we hear more and more stories about kids in trouble, the Schoolhouse Arts Center is endeavoring to bring focus and direction to local teens through participation in community theater.  
The Schoolhouse Arts Center, a local community theater and educational organization, has occupied the old Standish high school building since 1989. Over 15 years ago, they converted a large second-floor room into a small theater space to supplement their main theater which seats almost 150. This small secondary theater was intended to accommodate smaller audiences for one act plays, stand-up comedy shows, and kid’s plays.  

A small stage was built then the walls and floor were painted black. It became known as the Black Box, referring to the type of venue it was expected to become. But the Black Box saw little use except as a rehearsal area when the main stage was in use.

https://www.egcu.orgBut in 2015, a few of Schoolhouse’s teen-aged performers re-discovered the Black Box and decided that it would be a perfect forum for them to develop skills - not only in performing but organizing, directing and presenting their own shows. They revived a theater club for teens known as the Black Box Teens, originally formed by Francine Morin in 2013. They converted the old Art Room into a Green Room (dressing room) for future Black Box performances and painted folding chairs black to create a more professional look in the underutilized theater space.  

But, this was just the beginning. Their long-term plans for the Black Box included lighting and new risers. But those plans required additional funding.

In March 2016, the Black Box Teens organized and produced their first fundraiser which was a cabaret-style show called “Truly Talented Kids”. The show was a great success and generated more interest and support for the teen program. One by one, new teenagers heard about Black Box Teens and joined the group. They began recruiting the support of adults who were impressed by their enthusiasm for the project.  

In 2016 Board President, Cristina McBreairty took on leadership of the teen program as the group began to focus on their long-term goals. When a new lighting system was purchased for the main theater, the old lights were committed to the Black Box. The teens’ enthusiasm for their Black Box Theater became even stronger.  

Local director Jerry Walker was impressed with the enthusiasm and determination of the Black Box Teens and helped them design a new floor plan for the Black Box. In January 2017 the original small stage was dismantled, and lumber was re-used to construct risers. This would enable the theater to accommodate larger audiences. Eventually permanent theater seats, which the Schoolhouse has in storage, will replace the folding chairs. Throughout the project, the Black Box Teens pulled nails from old lumber, helped assemble the new risers and repainted everything black. The new layout provides more flexibility for the space and comfortably seats about 60 people.  

Many of the Black Box Teens have grown up in acting classes and shows at Schoolhouse Arts Center. In addition to their work on the Black Box Theater, many have taken on more challenging roles in recent main stage plays like “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, “Beauty & the Beast” and “Peter Pan”. As their confidence on the stage grew, it led to a desire to learn more about directing, costuming, props, lighting and other technical aspects of theater. 

When the Black Box Teens are not on the stage, they are often seen at the back of the main theater running the lighting and sound systems. They help paint signs, build sets, organize props and assist with costuming for the main stage shows.  

In 2018 the Black Box Teens spent January and February planning their third annual “Truly Talented Kids” show. They conducted auditions and selected which acts they felt were best for the show, as well as organized rehearsals where more experienced members helped new teens understand how to polish their performance skills. The Black Box Teens wrote scripts for their show narrators, Josh Macri and Reid Anderson. They choregraphed dances and organized props and costumes that would be needed for their various acts as well as painted signs for the show and even designed and printed programs.“Truly Talented Kids” will be performed on March 30 and 31 in the newly restored Black Box Theater. Board member Danny Gay recently installed theater lights in the Black Box. This will be the Black Box Teens’ first time that “Truly Talented Kids” will be performed with the new lighting system.

The Schoolhouse Arts Center takes great pride in the Black Box Teens.  But they admit that its success is mainly due to the energy and enthusiasm of the teens themselves.  “All that we did was provide them with a place where they can focus their energies and build their own dreams” says project sponsor Cristina McBreairty. “Then we just step back and watch the magic happen.”
In an age when we are bombarded with stories about teens in trouble, this is a refreshing success story of kids on a mission. The Black Box Teens are a beacon of hope for all of us to believe in.  Given the chance to excel and express themselves, our teenagers are capable of wonderful things. They will always be “Truly Talented Kids”. 

For more information about the Schoolhouse Arts Center or the Black Box Teens, please contact Cristina McBreairty or Black Box Teens’ teen advisor Ashley McBreairty at

A group of people standing in front of a crowd

Description generated with very high confidence
Truly Talented Kids 2017