Island Clean-Up: October 13, 2007

With the Help of Young Volunteers, Rock Island Sees the Last (Almost) of That Old House

beforeaVolunteers swarmed over Rock Island, in a final push to remove tons of debris from a two-story house which once dominated its craggy crest. When they were done, only fragments of the old dwelling remained at the edge of a shallow cellar hole. On the opposite shore, where the debris had been taken, the door swung shut on a nearly-full 30-cubic-yard trash container.

downhillIt took 30 volunteers nearly six hours to clear the junk, which included just about everything and the kitchen sink - rusty pieces of a wood stove, three metal bed frames, broken glass, and tons of rotting wood. They labored in perfect fall weather in a picture-postcard setting. Rock Island - the only island owned by the Town of Andover - is a one-acre conservation reserve with towering white pines, lovely Pond views, and granite outcroppings which give the island its name.

beforebWhile the setting was dramatic, it was the work which left the volunteers at times gasping for breath. They filled trash barrels and 42-gallon plastic bags to overflowing, then wrestled the nail-studded cargo down a steep hill to the shoreline, where other volunteers heaved the contents into a rowboat. When that was filled, volunteers on the mainland pulled on a tow rope, easing the boat across a 200-yard channel to the beach, where they unloaded it and carried the contents to the huge trash container. And then they did it all again, and again, and again.

Students from Phillips Academy's 'Service Saturdays' program hand debris uphill from a crevice in the island's outcroppings. The pile then had to be carried over the top of the island, downhill to a boat, for transport to the opposite shore.

The stars of the show, as far as local residents were concerned, were the 16 Phillips Academy students and their supervisors, who arrived in two vans to help out. The students - participating in the school's "Service Saturdays" program - fanned out across the island, enthusiastically teaming up to haul down some of the heaviest objects. Others got down on their hands and knees to pick up the broken glass and splintered wood, one piece at a time, filling bag after bag.

The kids also mined the rubble for hidden treasures, setting aside some small animal skulls and an old coin as souvenirs.

Part of the team from Phillips Academy's 'Service Saturdays' program pose at the door of the 30-cubic-yard container holding debris they helped remove from Rock Island. Note the container is almost full.

The Foster's Pond Corporation rallied residents from around the Pond to finish a job that began in 2003, when a phalanx of volunteers hauled away most of the wreckage from the old house. The Town, having taken the island for back taxes years earlier, had arranged for a contractor to demolish the structure, leaving behind a huge pile of debris. Residents deemed the pile unsightly and dangerous, and wanted to get rid of it. The 2003 clean-up effort succeeded in removing debris down to the first floor, but the 2003 volunteers did not have equipment on hand to deal with heavy foundation beams and floor supports. They left those for another day.

In July, 2007, a small crew of volunteers sawed the beams into more portable pieces, and pulled the remains apart, preparing the way for later work crews to get the small mountain of junk off the island. Volunteers from Andover Youth Services spent a day moving some of the heavier pieces from the top of the island to the shore, but getting it all down, and across to the mainland, was the task confronting the volunteers on October 13.

Rock Island - the eye of the flying duck (look at the FPC logo, above, on this web page) in Foster's Pond - is a lovely site for a picnic. But the debris has long posed hazards, particularly for children, and rendered the crest of the island something less than an attractive place to contemplate nature. With this clean-up, that has largely changed.

October 13, 2007: When the clean-up was over, the top of the island looked like this. Note the piece of chimney, visible in the top center of the picture, just behind the cellar pit. That same piece is almost obscured by debris in the picture of the cellar pit taken before the work started (go to the top of this page).

The one-acre island is open to the public. It is easily reached by canoe or kayak from the Foster's Pond Dam, which has recently been turned into a little "pocket park" by its owner, the Foster's Pond Corporation. The FPC is a non-profit community-based organization dedicated to protecting the Pond and its environment.

Residents from all around the Pond volunteered for the clean-up. They came from Foster's Pond Road, Glenwood Road, Azalea Drive, White Oak Drive, and Pomeroy Road. Foster's Pond Road resident David Adilman coordinated the event. He and his wife, Lisa Walters, allowed their shorefront property to be used as the base of operations. Andover Conservation Director Bob Douglas was on hand to oversee the effort and pitch in.

Island Clean-Up, July, 2007 Stage 2: Volunteers demolish the last remnants of That Old House
Island Clean-Up, November 22-23, 2003 The first massive effort to remove the rubble of an old house
"Town Wants to Try Volunteer Clean-Up of the Island"  Town Manager approves idea
"Fact-Finding Mission" Account of Al French's tour of the Island with Steve Cotton and Dave Adilman, September 27, 2003
Fleet of Canoes to the Rescue  Townsman article on Al French's proposal, September 11, 2003
Island Eyesore  First Townsman article on the Island, August 7, 2003