TOPSHAM — Merrymeeting Bay, a historic place where six rivers meet and borders that reach into three counties, has inspired a local filmmaker to work with the Cathance River Education Alliance and other sources to create a 48-minute documentary about the body of water.
“Merrymeeting Bay: The Rising Tide of Stewardship” airs on MPBN at 11 a.m. April 9 and again at 10 p.m. on April 14.
Producer Mark Ireland, who runs MI Media and whose Topsham home is on the bay, grew up in Brunswick, but barely saw the bay during that time.
“I’ve talked to other people who grew up in this area,” he said Tuesday. “Unless they were sportsmen who duck hunted or fished, (the bay) was really not that well-known. It was kind of like this hidden little secret, almost.”
Merrymeeting Bay stretches into Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Cumberland counties, and the Kennebec, Androscoggin, Cathance, Eastern, Abbagadasett and Muddy rivers contribute to it, according to the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay. It drains 38 percent of Maine’s fresh water and is the biggest freshwater estuary system north of Chesapeake Bay. It is biologically classified as freshwater tidal riverine and is geologically an inland delta, as noted at friendsofmerrymeetingbay.org.
“One of the things that I really love about the bay … is the amount of changes you see seasonally (and) tidally,” Ireland said.
Moving onto the bay brought him in contact with sportsmen and people like John Lichter, an assistant professor of biology and environmental studies at Bowdoin College, who has done ecological research on the bay. Lichter is among those featured in the film.
Ireland also met Rick Wilson, executive director of the Cathance River Education Alliance, with whom he worked on a film about the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Ireland later spoke with Wilson about a film about the bay.
“That idea really was kind of simultaneously hatched by both of us,” Ireland said, “looking at preservation on the bay.”
Ireland added that “the word ‘stewardship’ was sort of our guiding overarching direction that we followed, looking at people who were in some way helping to educate, or study (the bay) themselves.”
CREA, a non-profit organization that promotes ecological education, the best use of the Cathance River Preserve and preparation of future stewards of the Cathance River, is featured in the film.
The architects of “Confluence: Merrymeeting Bay” – author Franklin Burroughs and photographer Heather Perry – are also included.
“The book has done a lot to help people understand the bay,” Ireland said.
The film also touches on the bay’s history through anecdotes from older residents.
“I hope that the message really comes through strongly of stewardship and preservation,” Ireland said. “… Those messages of getting out there, learning about the bay, helping in any way that you can.”