HARRINGTON, Maine — The late Charlie Parker was a high school science teacher who loved the outdoors and was passionate about conservation. And as much as he loved nature, Parker also loved his students. So, in his role as mentor, he often combined his two passions and used the outdoors as a classroom.
For years, Parker’s students worked with the Downeast Salmon Federation monitoring water quality and improving fisheries.
It was fitting then when an intimate gathering of Parker’s family and friends joined conservationists in the woods of Harrington on Wednesday night to dedicate The Charlie Parker Memorial Conservation Reserve at Redmond’s Brook.
His family said Parker, who died from complications from leukemia in 2008, would have been thrilled.
The 8-acre reserve was purchased by the Downeast Salmon Federation to ensure that the public permanently could use the area, which contains prime smelt fishing grounds, a freshwater brook and waterfalls, and an important salt marsh.
“When the property came on the market, we were afraid someone would buy it and build here, cutting off public access,” Dwayne Shaw of the salmon federation said. Even as he spoke, the smelt were pooling in nearby Redmond’s Brook, which empties into the Harrington River and then the sea.
“To our knowledge, this is the first conservation property where smelts are the focus of the effort,” Shaw said. Smelts are designated a species of concern by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“They are in decline everywhere but here in Maine. We are fortunate to have a healthy population,” Shaw said.
“We are losing our access to traditional fishing holes,” Alan “Chubba” Kane of Gouldsboro, president of the Downeast Salmon Federation board of trustees, said. “It is critical that we leave a little bit for Mother Nature to help foster healthy fisheries.”
“We support a lot of different conservation projects throughout the county, but this one is right in the middle of the community,” Shaw said.
Shaw said that on dark nights in the spring of the year, generations of local fishermen have come to Redmond’s Brook with dip nets and flashlights to scoop up smelts.
“Despite the harvest pressure, Redmond’s Brook has continued to be one of the most productive smelt brooks in the region,” Shaw said. “Knowing the ecological, cultural and food importance of this resource, DSF acted quickly to purchase the property and ensure access forever.”
“The federation is more than just about salmon,” Kane added. “We are about community and that provides a sense of pride for us.”
Kane said the establishment of the Harrington preserve was the salmon foundation’s way of thanking the public that helps support the group’s mission. Assisting in the fundraising for the preserve purchase were the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Downeast Coastal Conservancy and the Pleasant River Wildlife Foundation.