Island Clean-Up, November 22-23, 2003

Volunteers Hand-Carry Debris from Two-Story House off the Island; Clean-Up Is a Huge Success, but Some Work Remains

Before . . .
A two-day volunteer effort to remove debris from the Town-owned island in Foster's Pond was hailed by organizers and participants as an overwhelming success, as upwards of 75 cubic yards of rubble were hand-carried from the crest of the island, transferred by boat to the opposite shore, and loaded into dumpsters.  The rubble came from an abandoned two-story house, which the Town demolished last year. 

. . . and after the two-day clean-up
By the end of Day 2 of the clean-up, volunteers were using hoes to scrape shards from the sagging boards on what was left of the building's ground floor, having removed a five-foot-high mound of wood, wire, and roofing material that had greeted them on the morning of Day 1.

Even the organizers of the all-volunteer effort to were astonished by the speed with which 75 volunteers -- ranging in age from pre-teenager to septuagenarian -- whittled the rubble down to size during the first day of the clean-up.

Laboring under sunny skies on Saturday, and fortified with home-made cookies and brownies, the volunteers passed the debris hand-to-hand to the island's edge, loaded rowboats and canoes for the trip to the mainland, then hand-carried the debris to a 30-cubic-yard dumptser -- filling the cavernous trash bin in just two hours.  The volunteers, drawn from around the Pond and across the entire Town, labored on for another hour, getting more than half of the original rubble pile -- which measured about 25' by 40', and was 5' high -- off the island to the mainland shore, where a second dumpster had to be called in.

High spirits and a sense of accomplishment seemed to permeate the crowd -- something like an old-fashioned barnraising in reverse.  The rubble pile came from an abandoned house on the island.  After the Town acquired the island more than a year ago for nonpayment of taxes, Town officials -- worried that the house was a fire hazard -- sent a contractor in last winter, when ice was thick enough to support a small tractor, to level the structure.  Officials had planned to let the resulting debris pile decompose naturally, but complaints that the pile was also unsightly and dangerous led to the idea of a clean-up.

A smaller group turned out on Day 2, most of them veterans of the first day but joined by a handful of fresh reinforcements.  By the time the Sunday squad's ranks began to thin, the second 30-cubic-yard dumpster had been filled, and a large mound of rubble stood on the mainland shore awaiting the arrival of a third dumpster.

 The all-volunteer approach was first suggested by Alan French (at left), owner of Moor & Mountain.  He had previously organized clean-ups of the Shawsheen River and Bay Circuit Trails.  He teamed up with Foster's Pond resident David Adilman (at right), who offered his property at 15 Foster's Pond Road as the base of operations.  The Town, meanwhile, supplied the dumpsters.

 French's idea was endorsed by Town officials and received publicity in the local press.  On November 13, the Andover Townsman published an editorial praising the project as "the type of effort every town needs."  But few expected Saturday's large and enthusiastic turnout -- and even French confessed that he had underestimated the dumpster capacity that would be needed when his all-volunteer workforce got cranking.

Among the volunteers was Jim Greer, the Town's Conservation Director.  Greer is staff to the Conservation Commission, which has jurisdiction over the island.  It will be up to the Town to determine how to remove the remaining portion of the house - including large beams under the ground floor, the floor boards, and a much-reduced pile of debris the volunteers left behind.  Greer said he would confer with other Town officials and contact FPC President Steve Cotton about the next steps.

"Fact-Finding Mission" Account of French's tour of the Island with Cotton and Adilman, September 27, 2003
Fleet of Canoes to the Rescue Townsman article on French's proposal, September 11, 2003
Island Eyesore  First Townsman article on the Island, August 7, 2003