They say that all rivers run to the sea. And for that matter, all lakes run into rivers. The headwaters of the Merrimack river begin in New Hampshire’s lakes region, and I like to think that with the inclusion of the Merrimack River Watershed Council as a service site this year, the Lakes Region Conservation Corps now helps protect every step of the upper Merrimack’s watershed.
A large part of my service with MRWC has been helping build connections and visibility in New Hampshire through outreach events. I am lucky to join MRWC at this time because the organization, which was founded in 1976 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, is expanding its operations into New Hampshire. The goal is to grow to be a voice for the entire watershed across both states.
At one of my first events a few weeks ago, I worked with volunteers to pull invasive garlic mustard and bittersweet in Stark park in Manchester near the banks of the Merrimack. Invasive species crowd out and kill native trees along the riverside which disrupts the river’s natural filtration systems and erosion control. About 15 volunteers turned out and we pulled enough invasives to fill five 95 gallon trash barrels. I was very impressed with the number of people who showed up and their enthusiasm. Now I am trying to plan my own invasives pull/trash cleanup at Piscataquog park, another park in Manchester.
One big issue that the Merrimack faces is CSO events, or combined sewer overflows. These are a bigger problem in Massachusetts, but they start in New Hampshire at Manchester and Nashua. One way we reached out to Manchester was by tabling before a baseball game at Fisher Cats stadium through an event with the NH Association of Conservation Districts. This was a great opportunity to make our presence known and connect with the city which is entirely centered around the river. We talked to the public about what CSOs are and where to find updates on the river’s water quality.
MRWC also strives to be a resource of information for recreating on the Merrimack. Part of our effort for that was a kayaking trip we hosted in Concord last weekend with North Country Kayaks. We had about 9 people show up and I got to talk with attendants about the unique floodplain forests along the Merrimack and the formation of meanders and oxbows that make the river a cool place to explore.
As of now, I am planning my own outreach events including the invasives pull in Piscataquog park, a champion tree walk in downtown Concord, another walk at the Muchyedo Banks wildlife management area in Canterbury, and water quality monitoring on the river’s tributaries with volunteers. I am also generating more New Hampshire based content for MRWC’s social media accounts. So far these first few weeks have been an awesome service experience. I am looking forward to doing more events this summer and helping progress MRWC’s mission to protect the Merrimack river. -Jake Yankee, NH Americorps Member