What a 75th celebration it was!

Hog Island is Audubon’s “True North,” said David Yarnold, CEO of National Audubon, at the 75th anniversary celebration on August 20, 2011. In the Audubon camp’s Fish House, David Yarnold’s inspiring and heartfelt words and commitment to Friends of Hog Island and to the island and camp itself, which dates back to 1936, left attendees bubbling like a freshly opened bottle of champagne.

Not only did Mother Nature provide signature Maine sun and bright skies for the event, but also calm seas for an eye-popping tour around the island.  Abundant wildlife including close-up views of Harbor Seals and a mature Bald Eagle, which when it took off caused an outburst of “oohs” and “aahs” among the passengers as if at a 4th of July fireworks. Nature has a way of eliciting such awe.

Lobsters, clams, corn, potato salad, and fresh blueberry cream puffs by Janii Laberge, the camp’s chef, left everyone sated and looking for an empty hammock or Adirondack chair to relax and enjoy the scenery.

The celebration spilled over into Sunday with a reunion of former alumni and friends. Tom Schaeffer, FOHI board member, started the full day by leading a walk down to Bingham Cottage to see the restoration inside and out.

Then Jay Collier’s presentation about archiving Hog Island’s history moved many to sign up to help with copy-editing documents that had been scanned. A break for lunch was followed by Bruce Poland, lobsterman and co-owner of Bremen Co-Op, talking about the local lobster industry. He had to be rescued from the many eager questioners after the presentation so that he could get back to the traps!

A lively, amicable discussion about the future of FOHI followed against the backdrop of hope and enthusiasm for the new leadership at National Audubon. All were greatly taken by David Yarnold’s address to the 75th anniversary group on Saturday and felt confident of a promising future for Hog Island.

The day’s presentatons culminated in a moving talk and DVD by Dur Morton. But not to have everyone feeling sad on the last night Sue Schubel organized a rousing game of Bird Jeopardy with three teams: The Wild Turkeys, the Woodcocks, and the Terns. Friendly competition ended with  surprise rally by the Terns. Much laughter prepared us for a restful night’s sleep.

Hog Island Reunion attendees 2011
Hog Island Reunion attendees 2011

Over 80 people enjoyed the weekend’s festivities – old Hog Island friends and alumni, neighbors, and new friends; Peggy and Dur Morton, Steve Kress, Mike and Margie Shannon, Mary Alice Knox and her daughter Elaine, Brita and Don Dorn, Susan Clancy, Roz Allen and Paul Landry, and Marilyn Smith to name but a few. New friends, included the NAS staff that wanted to see Hog Island for themselves – Susan Lunden, Anne Brown, Susan Houston, and Susan Ketterlinus. Leigh Altadonna, NAS board member, extended his Chapter Leader participation to include the 75th anniversary.

Yes, this was, indeed, a memorable 75th anniversary full of promise for a bright future for an island that has given so much to so many.

The memorable second choice

In the summer of 1982 I was not quite 11 years old and I was excited. For the first time I was going to get to go away to Boy Scout Camp. My mom also told me that she had signed me up for the Audubon Youth Ecology Camp at Hog Island, Maine. I would be going there for 10 days then coming home for a week, then going on to Boy Scout camp for a week.

I was not that excited. It seemed like an obstacle between me and Scout camp, something to be endured while waiting to go to that awesome place where I’d get to swim, play games, participate in archery, earn merit badges, etc..

When the time to leave rolled around we packed up a foot locker and loaded it into the car for the drive up the coast from Massachusetts to Bremen, Maine. I was prepared to endure my time while thinking of all the fun things I’d be doing in a few weeks when Scout camp finally arrrived.

The truth, of course, was exactly the opposite. Nearly 30 years later I still recall my first glimpse of Hog Island across the mist shrouded bay as I was dropped off on the shore with the other kids. It’s seemed like another world, and it was. There was hiking, learning about the coastal ecology, boat trips, exploration, amazing meals, and nightly presentations and singing songs in the Fish House.

In the end, I can’t recall much of what I did at Boy Scout camp, to which I never returned, but I did go back to Hog Island in 1983 and 1984. After that I was too old for the youth camp, but I never forgot it.

Years later I thought to look it up again in hopes of sending my daughter in a few years. I was sad to see this camp is no more. I would pay dearly to have her go and experience the magic of that island in Maine.

Good news to share

Christmas and the holidays are almost upon us. Here in Maine, lush greens have turned to shades of gray and dark greens. Our beloved Audubon Camp at Hog Island is wrapped up for the winter – final maintenance projects have been completed, windows are shuttered, floats are in, and water is shut off.

By Juanita Roushdy

We hope you’re in the mood for good news, because we have a lot to share with you!

  1. Under innovative leadership from Steve Kress and Project Puffin, the 2010 programming was a huge success. More than 160 adults and teens enjoyed classic programs and new offerings. By all indications and current registration numbers, 2011 promises to be an even bigger success, and two additional sessions, for educators and Audubon chapter leaders, have been added.
  2. A flurry of activity in the past three months by FOHI has resulted in its application for 501(c)(3) tax exemption. The action was precipitated by news that National Audubon was in negotiations with Camp Kieve, a private local camp, for imminent transfer of ownership of the Hog Island buildings and peninsula. The good news: National Audubon has deferred its decision in order to give FOHI time to prove that it can provide an endowment and supplemental income for the camp. For articles and background, visit fohi.org, where you’ll see my favorite description of our role in this drama: “FOHI came charging over the hill.”
  3. We have located missing camper lists back to 1969 and are busy putting that information into digital format – approximately 5,000 names.
  4. National Audubon’s highest recognition, the Golden Egret Award, has just been given to Steve Kress “who by his continuous and consistent effort over the years displays leadership qualities and is an example to other employees of helpful, supportive, caring, and dependable service.” We already knew that! Congratulations, Steve! (His work with Hog Island was singled out for particular mention.)

Hog Island takes hold of you. There are many beautiful places – this one will change your life. – Scott Weidensaul

We hope you share our energy and enthusiasm for this new era in Hog Island’s long and storied history, which marks its 75th year in 2011. FOHI has been pivotal this year and will play a key role in the island’s future. We have a committed board, a vision, mission, and a set of goals to guide us:

Vision: To see the day when, under Audubon ownership, the Audubon Camp at Hog Island is financially self-sustaining with a substantial endowment to assure its future.

Mission: The mission of the Friends of Hog Island is to preserve the legacy and support the conservation, nature programs and activities of the Audubon Camp at Hog Island, Maine.

Goals: The Friends of Hog Island, through openness, social media, technology, and personal contact pledge to:

  • Build a sense of community among campers
  • Build partnerships with local conservation and environmental groups
  • Build upon and further the mission of National Audubon
  • Build trust and support within the local community
  • Build a stable, financial annual income stream through fund-raising and an endowment
  • Build a nationwide volunteer base to work at the camp during sessions
  • Build a collection of historical materials to keep alive the conservation legacy of the Audubon Camp at Hog Island for future generations

By doing this, we hope to assure a sustainable future for Hog Island. We believe that all the Friends of Hog Island will generously support the camp in an ongoing, reliable manner, ensuring that National Audubon will continue its ownership of the island and its programming there.

We anticipate approval of our 501(c)(3) status early in the New Year, and will be writing you then to ask for your support to assure a sustainable future for Hog Island.

In the meantime, please visit our website (fohi.org) and provide us with stories and feedback, sign up for email updates, and spread the word of our new direction. And come back to join us! For information about the 2011 programs, visit www.hogisland.audubon.org.

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Steve Kress receives National Audubon honor

The Golden Egret Award is for a staff member who by his or her continuous and consistent effort over the years displays leadership qualities and is an example to other employees of helpful, supportive, caring, and dependable service.  The candidate must have a minimum of ten years service at Audubon.

Steve Kress

The 2010 Golden Egret Award has been awarded to Steve Kress, Vice President, Bird Conservation, Seabird Restoration, ME

Steve is known by some as “the puffin guy,” others as Audubon’s rock star scientist, and others as that humble but passionate protector of seabirds and a great believer in the power of education.

Steve has had a long and distinguished career with Audubon.  He is internationally known and celebrated and has produced conservation results that are legendary not only in Audubon, but far beyond our borders.  Steve doesn’t just save birds — he’s a passionate educator who inspires and empowers others. Steve, with his 30-plus years of directing the Seabird Restoration Program, continues to demonstrate a record of leadership, team building, and financial ingenuity that is remarkable to all those who work with him.

After starting a small field program on one island, he has now grown the program to include seven Audubon-managed islands, where more than 8,000 pairs of mixed Terns and 1,000 pairs of Puffins nest each summer. Steve is a master of innovation, inventing ways to solve problems that may not have been used before, while building leadership among others who work with him.  For example, since he started his work with puffins and seabirds he has trained more than 500 college students who have served as “seabird island stewards.”  Many of these interns have gone on to successful careers in conservation, cherishing their unique experiences with the “puffin project” and Steve Kress.

Steve is not only a role model for so many of us at Audubon, but is truly an inspiration to anyone who cares about conservation and building the next generation of leaders.

Steve is known to his colleagues as having a wonderful sense of humor, and is thoughtful, wise, and an entrepreneurial leader who continues to create new opportunities that grow and promote the Audubon mission.  Since the late 1980’s more than 75,000 people have participated in this Audubon-sponsored venture.  With every trip, Steve and his team of interpreters inform, inspire, and entertain future conservation constituents who often go on to be Audubon members and supporters.

Steve has written books about birds, bird watching, and gardening for birds and wildlife.  And he’s organized a cadre of highly-motivated volunteers and staff who are currently helping to restore Hog Island programming and operations for new generations.  And the list could go on and on.

Steve is not only a role model for so many of us at Audubon, but is truly an inspiration to anyone who cares about conservation and building the next generation of leaders.