Volunteers and staff from the Maine Island Trail Association joined forces with staffers from the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to remove a large raft of tires that had washed up on Inner Sand Island in Western Bay, down east. Nearly 150 tires, most of them bound together by heavy-duty metal link chain, were taken off of Inner Sand and brought to the mainland for recycling. “This was a wonderful collaborative effort,” claims MITA's Stewardship Manager Brian Marcaurelle who arranged for MITA volunteer and boat support for the project. “By working together we were able to tackle a challenging marine debris issue both efficiently and effectively.”

Inner Sand is a seabird nesting island and a part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The raft of tires, presumably once belonging to an offshore aquaculture operation or fishing vessel, had washed high up on the shoreline several years ago. The motivation to coordinate the cleanup effort came from MITA volunteers who regularly monitor the condition of nearby Sand Island, which is part of the Maine Island Trail. As Marcaurelle recalls, “they said to me, ‘it'd be nice if we could plan a work party to get those ugly tires off of that beautiful island.’ So that's what we did!”

Staff members of the Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge were delighted to partner with MITA on this project, as the derelict tires were not only unsightly but also diminished the natural character of the island. The refuge supplied staff help and a large, front-loading vessel to carry the tires to the mainland. MITA volunteers provided additional labor and helpful equipment, including a torch system used to cut through the thick metal chain.

Retrieving the tires and chain from the island was just one part of the challenge. To answer the question of what to do with the debris once it was back on the mainland, MITA turned to the Maine Coastal Program which has been a strong ally in marine debris reduction efforts. MCP arranged for dumpsters to be brought to the launch ramp and a recycler, Corcoran Environmental Services of Kennebunk, ME, to haul the tires away. “One objective of the coastal program is to foster partnerships along the coast to help us successfully achieve our goal of reducing debris from the marine environment,” remarks Theresa Torrent-Ellis, a Senior Planner with the Maine Coastal Program. “This project fit perfectly with our mission and capped off a series of coastal cleanup efforts as part of Maine Coastweek.”

The project also fit perfectly with MITA's mission to preserve the character of Maine's wild islands through volunteered time of its members and through partnerships with other coastal organizations. MITA's Executive Director, Doug Welch, said “With a paid staff of only 6 and more than 160 islands under our care, we really can't afford to reinvent wheels and we don't. Partnering with land trusts, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Audubon, Chewonki and many more is the only way we can care for the islands and continue to provide access to them for our members and the public.”

The Maine Island Trail Association manages more than 160 private and public sites along the Maine coast. More information is available at http://www.mita.org.