This is the 15th anniversary of the annual celebration of the Marstons Mills River.

It all began in 1997 as the inspiration of environmentalist Kris Clark. She was shellfish expert with the town of Barnstable, now the working for the Wampanoag tribe. At the time she was also board member of Barnstable Land Trust (BLT), the leading private conservation organization in town.

BLT was looking for a way to get Marstons Mills people interested in conservation. Kris came up with the idea of focusing on our main asset, the river. BLT’s director, Jaci Barton called the owner of the Inn at the Mills, Bill Henry, to ask if they might pitch a tent on his lawn overlooking the Mill Pond, and invite the public to come and celebrate the river. Bill at once replied, “Anything to help the river!”

This was a free event, hoping to attract whole families. A featured attraction was guided kayak and canoe rides on the river. The “Salties”, local fishermen, put on a fishing demonstration on the banks of Mill Pond, and sponsored a catch and release derby for kids under 16. Barnstable High School biology teacher David Gorrill did a show-and-tell survey of the pond, dipping his net into the water, and displaying the variety of life that he caught. Paul Caruso of the state fisheries seined for fish in Middle Pond. Al Brewster of Trout Unlimited demonstrated how to make a fly-and-tie lure.

Marstons Mills Men’s Club provided lunch and cookout of hotdogs and hamburgers. A big tent sheltered educational displays, T-shirts with maps of the watershed provided by the town. Lindsey Counsell of Three Bays organization, which works to preserve the waters fed by the river, led an interpretive tour of the herring run, where the alewives were running.

Fifty people showed up the first year, so BLT did it again in 1998, with greater success. They added canoe trips on Prince Cove with Tom Marcotti. Marsha Alibrandi got a grant four year grant funding “River 2000” to support high school students’ study of the river environment. Blue signs now mark the borders of the Marstons Mills watershed

The death of Bill Henry in 2000 did not end River Day. His partner Peter Erceg still lives on the pond, and the new owners of the Marston House, Kevin and Judy Galvin were hosts for seven years until the event was moved to Burgess Park in 2008. In 2001 the Marstons Mills Civic Association and the Cape Cod Conservation District took over sponsorship of the event, led by Donna Lawson.

River Day has put the Marstons Mills river on the map. When the students began their study, one young man said, “Where’s the river?” It’s no longer unknown. The event sparked interest in youth like Heidi Pye, who went on to get a PhD in lobster management. The Marstons Mills community has been brought together in its annual celebration.

Come and join the fun down by the riverside on May Day 2011.

Barnstable Patriot 24 April 2011


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