The second annual Fish Fadder Restoration Celebration was part of Pumpkinfest this year. Both events took place during Columbus Day weekend last year and it just made sense to bring these fun-filled fall activities together. In Midcoast Maine in October, giant pumpkins have reached maturity and juvenile alewives have grown big enough to leave fresh water, run down the fish ladder, and head out to sea. The juvenile alewives mature at sea for four years before returning to the fish ladder to spawn in Damariscotta Lake.
The Fish Ladder Restoration Celebration took place at the Fish House in Damariscotta Mills on Saturday October 10th and there were fun activities for all!
Homemade soups were served, including Tom Wriggins’ famous Pumpkin Soup, throughout the day (or until the soup or mugs run out!). Soup was purchased in a fish ladder mug with bread and a cookie for $10 or in a cup (with bread and a cookie) for $5. There was also cider, homemade pie, and other goodies for sale.
Back by popular demand was the 2nd annual “Running of the Alewives”. Damariscotta Mills neighbor Leigh Morrill made 250 handmade wooden fish this year. The individually numbered fish were available for $5 each and there will again be a decorating table where fish can be personalized. At 3 pm, the fish will be thrown into the water at the base of the fish ladder and they will race to the 215 bridge. The winner of the race was Louise McIlhenny of Nobleboro and she won a $100 gift certificate for Renys. There were a number of other prizes, all of which were awarded by our referee, Russ Williams.
During the Celebration, there was live music at the Fish House from 12 – 2 pm and a bake sale from 11 am until the food runs out. There was also a slideshow of historic photos of ladder and fish harvesting as well as photos of the restoration efforts. And, there was fish goods and gear for sale at the fish house, including short and long sleeve t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, notecards, postcards, and many other items that would make great Christmas presents while supporting the restoration efforts.
The fish ladder in Damariscotta Mills, Maine has been in operation for over two hundred years. Built in 1807 by the combined efforts of the towns of Newcastle and Nobleboro, the fish ladder was constructed to allow alewives to bypass the mills blocking the falls between Damariscotta Lake and Salt Bay. Alewives are members of the herring family and they are important to the ecology of freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems.
Through the years, the fish ladder has undergone many repairs and renovations but none have been comprehensive or designed for efficient fish passage. The Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle and the Nobleboro Historical Society, backed by a solid community-based initiative, embarked on an ambitious rebuilding project in 2007. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Marine Resources provided design services and technical support. Even though only about one-fourth of the fish ladder has been restored to date, the results have been impressive. Nearly 400,000 alewives passed into Damariscotta Lake to spawn this year, in contract with 150,000 alewives last year.
To date, approximately $200,000 has been raised for the restoration. The Damariscotta Mills community has raised money through events such as bean suppers, art shows, and festivals such as the Fish Ladder Restoration Celebration. Other funding has come from the sale of alewives for lobster bait by the Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle, and by grants and donations. It is anticipated that another $450,000 to $600,000 is needed to complete the restoration.
Donations are currently being sought to help fund the fish ladder repairs. For more information or to make a donation call Deb Wilson at 563-1383 or visit www.damariscottamills.org
Look for more news this year in the right column.