Vassalboro students put knowledge of native plants & stream ecology in practice at Masse Dam site

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VASSALBORO, Maine. (WABI) Fifth graders from Vassalboro Community School got a history lesson on the Masse Dam site in town Friday.

As part of their ongoing efforts to plant the area, students put their knowledge of native plants and stream ecology into practice.

The Alewife Restoration Initiative removed the Masse Dam last fall from a deteriorating sawmill in Vassalboro in an attempt to bring alewives back to the state's lakes in record numbers.

The group worked with students from Vassalboro Community School and China Middle School to plant Maine native seeds last winter to bring more plant life to where the mill pond once was.

"They planted a bunch of wildflowers and various vines and seeds and things that are all native to this area in little pots back in the classroom," said Matt Streeter, Project Manager for the Alewife Restoration Initiative.

Those plants were then set outside over the winter.

"I personally thought that they wouldn't survive, but we checked them this morning and we have many sprouts," said fifth grader Brooke Blais.

"We're going to let them grow all summer long and they're going to come back and plant those plants in the fall," said Streeter.

On Friday, the Vassalboro students planted native shrubs along the stream and got a history lesson on the dam and former mill.

"And this used to be, where we're standing, used to be a pond. It was about 10 feet deep right here, and so now it's a stream. You can see the channel, it's restoring itself and the stream banks are all regrowing with whatever happens to be here. Some of them are native, some of them are invasives," said Streeter.

"Invasive species are not supposed to be here. They were either brought here over boat or planted from somewhere else," said Blais.

They also learned about the creatures that inhabit the site, both on land and in the water. Students expanded their knowledge of alewives and their role in the food chain.

"Alewives are important because many animals will eat alewives and then other animals will eat those animals," said fifth grader Noah Bechard.

"We've got six dams on this little stream here and we're either removing or building fish passage on all six of them. We're hoping to be done by 2020. Come back and see the alewives. There should be - we're expecting once the run builds up - up to a million alewives in this little stream," said Streeter.