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BATH — It was a joyful practice that brought residents together.
Today it might traumatize environmentalists.
“Taking Out the Garbage in 1957” is part of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust’s ongoing History Spotlight series, held this year as the Bath-based organization celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Where was that trash dumped? The Kennebec River, among other places that have since come under the protection of groups like KELT.
The land trust is sharing historical stories and photos as part of this and other history spotlights, which show the strides people have made in recent decades to appreciate, protect and restore the Kennebec Estuary region’s waters and lands.
One notorious trash-dumping site along the Maine coast was Bay Point in Georgetown. In what was at the time considered “a regular activity and a great social event,” according to the land trust, summer and year-round residents alike would haul their household waste to established dumping sites, waving along the way to their neighbors, who were doing the same thing.
“You had to walk through other people’s property, across their lawn, to get to the designated spot,” KELT Program Director Kolak said Jan. 21 in an interview that also included Executive Director Carrie Kinne. “So you would pass people sitting out on their porches, and you would smile and wave, stop to chit-chat.”
That garbage would flow down the river, into the Gulf of Maine.
“This documentation of such casual, unintended-yet-harmful pollution serves as a valuable reminder of the progress that Maine’s rivers have made in the past 50-plus years,” a recent KELT press release said.
Kinne said she wants to demonstrate that “citizens can take action, and human behavior can change. And this is a great example.”
The land trust is exploring other sites where the dumpings occurred. Among those was Kennebec Point in Georgetown, which is said to have had a “trash chute,” Kinne said.
That chute, if it truly existed, is “one of the pictures I’d love to lay my hands on,” Kinne said.
The practice ended between 1955 and 1960, about a decade before the 1970 launch of Earth Day, thanks to Georgetown opening its transfer station and beginning to outlaw residents from dumping garbage into the Kennebec, according to Kolak.
She and Kinne hope putting the word out will drum up historic photos and stories about this and other topics related to the estuary, Merrymeeting Bay, and surrounding lands, as part of the History Spotlight series.
Such anecdotes, along with older maps, can be shared with Kolak at [email protected] or by calling 442-8400.
KELT, which since its 1989 inception has protected more than 3,700 acres, holds its annual meeting in April. Kinne expects a presentation on the trash tossings could take place closer to the land trust’s birthday in September.
Kate Swift, left, and Ruth Norton, circa 1957, on their way to Bay Point in Georgetown to dump garbage. The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust is looking for photos and stories related to the once-common practice as part of its History Spotlight series.