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Volunteers help spruce up Sunkhaze Meadows Wildlife Refuge

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
John Bajkowski of Spectra Energy (right) and Roger Chandler of the Inland fisheries and Wildlife work on clearing a trail at the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Milford Wednesday afternoon, June 29, 2011. They were among the 14 volunteers who worked on the trails to get some much needed clearing done.
By Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff

MILFORD, Maine — Even though a few bugs were swarming around a porch where volunteers had just finished a lunch break Wednesday afternoon, Caitlyn O’Connor could only help but smile.

“I wasn’t expecting this many people,” said the analyst with Spectra Energy Corp. “I was expecting five or six.”

Approximately 14 volunteers from Spectra Energy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gathered at the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge to spruce up some of the trails.

“The guys and gals were cutting down some fallen trees, clearing the path and pulling out all the trees and branches that they had cut down,” O’Connor explained.

The volunteers spent much of their time working on the 1.6-mile long Carter Meadows Trail, and faced some obstacles along the latter 0.9-mile section of the trail late in the day.

“The other half of the trail is pretty muddy and impassable,” O’Connor said.

Spectra Energy, a natural gas infrastructure company, has a pipeline in Maine that runs from the Milford area east to Baileyville in Washington County.

The company, whose headquarters are in Houston, has Maine offices in Richmond and Brewer.

This summer marked the first time the Spectra crew has done volunteer work at this particular location.

“We do this every year,” said volunteer and Spectra Energy mechanic Jim Bryant, who added that the company has volunteered for cleanup projects in Acadia National Park as well.

Bryant is employed at Spectra’s Brewer office.

O’Connor, along with fellow Spectra analyst Lara Bailey and area supervisor Ken Sokoloski, organized Wednesday’s cleanup, which started at 10:30 a.m. and lasted into the afternoon.

“We organize a couple projects every year. We like to get involved in the communities that our pipeline runs through,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor and her crew set up the cleanup through Jan Beckett of the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows, and after two snow-ridden winters, fellow Friends of Sunkhaze member Rod Johnson knew clearing the trail for summer use would be a pivotal task.

“We had two winters where there was a lot of trees down,” he said.

The crew featured eight Spectra Energy volunteers, while the others were from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It’s important for them to come out here and do a little bit to help clean it up,” said O’Connor, a resident of Waltham, Mass., who has a degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire.

Even Bryant was impressed with Spectra’s volunteer turnout.

“We have a lot more people now than in the past,” he said.

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