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Executive Director Cathy L. Ramsdell is retiring

A letter from Cathy:

Dear Friends,

I have news to share with you today. I have decided to retire.

I am elated to have spent the better part of the past two decades serving as Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay. When I say “the better part of the past two decades,” I mean that in every way. Friends of Casco Bay has been my top priority and I am delighted to have been able to play a part in making a difference; together we have accomplished so much.

It won’t surprise you to know that I tried to plan the timing of my retirement in a way that would be optimal for Friends, not just for me. That moment is now.

Our three Continuous Monitoring Stations are positioned strategically to monitor water quality hourly, year-round, allowing us to hear what the Bay is telling us about how conditions are changing. We have a fund dedicated to supporting this work over the next decade, and it is gratifying to know that we will continue to “listen” to the Bay for years to come. Our Casco Baykeeper is tackling the regulatory environment in unique ways to improve water quality and help build coastal resilience in the face of climate change. And, community members around the Bay are becoming citizen steward Water Reporters, documenting all kinds of issues and changing conditions, and their reports are getting the attention of environmental and enforcement agencies.

Our mission is durable, our approach is collaborative, and our efforts have led to many wins for the Bay while we have built a resilient, responsive organization that knows how to evolve. The balance sheet is strong, and the staff and board are working together better than ever.

I cannot imagine a more wholesome time for my departure, or a more dedicated and experienced group of people than our board and staff to guide Friends of Casco Bay into the next phase of its organizational life.

Let me take this moment to Thank You. Each person who has worked with us in any capacity has helped make my job easier and more fulfilling. My heart is full of gratitude for the special moments, the challenges and the accomplishments that together we have been able to experience.

It is impossible to imagine what each day will be like not interacting with my colleagues on the staff and on the board. I have learned so much from each one over the years.

I will express my appreciation by continuing to invest in the work of Friends of Casco Bay, both by contributing financially on an annual basis, and by joining the Anchor Society to make Friends a beneficiary of my estate. The Anchor Society has many ways we can make planned gifts that make good sense, so please consider joining me in this.

As Friends of Casco Bay begins to envision new leadership for this next exciting phase, I too am beginning to try to envision life in the future without Friends of Casco Bay top of mind.

I look forward to seeing what adventures lie ahead. Maybe I’ll start by watching the fall migrations, or sitting down to write more often, with whimsy or intent. I have pieces of poems everywhere, and maybe I can get back to work on those books, the one on my dad’s investigations into metaphysics and the other on the challenges of our remote work on seabird colonies in the Bering Strait. I’ll have time to follow the development of big weather fronts if I feel like it, and time to have long talks and go on long walks in special spots around the Bay. And then there is simply being instead of doing . . . I think I’ll start there.

In the meantime, I’ll know Friends is in good hands.

With much love,
Cathy

Cathy L. Ramsdell
Executive Director
Friends of Casco Bay

Congratulating Cathy

If you would like to share words of congratulations or a favorite memory with Cathy, please do so here. We ask that you share your thoughts by August 15, so we have time to assemble these messages into one booklet to present to Cathy.

Congratulate Cathy

A message from our Board President

On a recent evening while Cathy and I were discussing her retirement, Cathy reflected that looking back on all of her years with Friends of Casco Bay, it feels good to think that she may have made a difference. In response, I retorted that this comment may have been the understatement of her career. 

Cathy’s leadership over the past 18 years has brought more success to our organization and to the health of Casco Bay than I could ever summarize. As Executive Director, Cathy ushered Friends toward our exceptionally strong financial footing and organizational structure, while leading our staff and infusing our program work with her lifelong passion for the marine environment. Today, Casco Bay is cleaner, more protected, and healthier thanks to Cathy’s dedication to our work. 

Cathy’s retirement timing is impeccable. Organizationally, we are stronger than ever: our finances are sound, we have a team of interdisciplinary staff producing incredible work, and our visibility is at an all-time high. Cathy’s presence and perspective will certainly be missed, and we are so grateful that she has waited for our organization to reach its current state of maturity and stability before moving on to the next phase of her life. We will launch a search for our next Executive Director after taking some time to reflect on what we have achieved together and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. 

Thank you, Cathy, for your service to our organization, our community, and above all else, the marine waters that define our home: Casco Bay. 

Andrew “Sandy” Marsters
President, Board of Directors 
Friends of Casco Bay

Save the Date! Cathy’s retirement party

In honor of Cathy and her leadership, we are throwing a celebration and we would love for you to join us.

On Thursday, August 26, we will gather outside at Portland Yacht Services for our first in person gathering in 18 months! We will be sending out more information about Cathy’s party soon. In the meantime we welcome you to RSVP online, here.

RSVP

Congratulating Cathy

Share your words of congratulations or a favorite memory with Cathy below. We will be collecting all of these messages in one place for Cathy. Please send your thoughts by August 15 so that we have time to assemble these into a booklet for her.

Alternatively, you can share your thoughts by sending an email to keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Sharing your congratulatory message with Cathy

Contact Information

The following fields will be used to contact you if we have questions about how to best share your thoughts with Cathy.
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Celebrating Cathy Ramsdell

After 18 years of serving as our Executive Director at Friends of Casco Bay, Cathy Ramsdell is retiring. In honor of Cathy and her leadership, we are hosting a celebration and we would love for you to join us. 

Celebrating Cathy Ramsdell – A Retirement Party

When: Thursday, August 26, 2021
5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Remarks at 6 p.m.
The evening will begin with a cocktail hour, with catered hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. A reading by Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless will follow, as well as remarks from our staff, board, and of course, Cathy herself. 

Where: Portland Yacht Services, 100 West Commercial Street, Portland
The event will be held outside and in person. Recommended dress code is summer casual. Please note that the terrain in the boatyard is rocky and uneven, so wear stable footwear.

RSVP by Monday, August 16

We are thankful to Portland Yacht Services for hosting our celebration at their boatyard – our party tent will have water views of Portland Harbor. Ample parking is available at the venue. 

 

Under Cathy’s leadership, we garnered a federal No Discharge Area designation for the Bay, helped reduce nitrogen pollution from effluent wastewater, launched our volunteer Water Reporter program, and completed the $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund to operate three Continuous Monitoring Stations across the Bay for the decade ahead. In short, in the wake of her retirement, Cathy is leaving behind a stronger, more resilient organization.

Here are three ways you can help us celebrate Cathy’s leadership:

1. Attend Cathy’s retirement party
Join us at our first in-person event in 18 months to raise a toast to all Cathy has helped us accomplish and to her life ahead. RSVP using the form above.

2. Join our Anchor Society
As she announced her retirement, Cathy also shared that she is joining our Anchor Society by making a planned gift to Friends of Casco Bay. We ask you to consider following her lead. You can find more information about making a planned gift at cascobay.org/anchor-society. Your legacy will help secure the longevity of our organization and the health of Casco Bay for years to come.

3. Make a one-time gift in honor of Cathy
Use the form above or go to cascobay.org/donate to make a donation in Cathy’s honor. Your tribute will be commemorated in our Annual Report to the Community, which will be released later this year.

Thank you for working with us to keep Casco Bay blue. We hope to see you on August 26.

You’re invited to our Members Annual Meeting

Friends of Casco Bay will be hosting the Members Annual Meeting on Tuesday July 20, from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

We will celebrate our collective victories for Casco Bay over the past year, vote on term renewals for some members of the Board of Directors, and together consider the work ahead as we continue our efforts to protect the health of our coastal waters. We will share details about an in-person event we are planning in August — our first in-person event in more than 19 months.

Register Now

What: Friends of Casco Bay 2021 Members Annual Meeting

When: Tuesday, July 20, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Where: This will be an online event. You must register to attend.

Materials for the event:

990 Friends of Casco Bay
Financial Statements
Annual Report
Our Financial Information
2020 Annual Meeting Minutes

Thank you for caring about Casco Bay!

Celebrating Data From Our New Continuous Monitoring Stations — A Casco Bay Matters Event

We are hosting an online event to share data from all three of our Continuous Monitoring Stations and to celebrate the ways the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will enhance our efforts to improve and protect the health of the Bay for years to come.

On Wednesday, June 16, from 5:30-6:15 p.m., Staff Scientist Mike Doan will share and compare, for the first time, data from all three continuous monitoring stations.

He will be joined by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to talk about how these new data sets are informing our work. Following a year of unprecedented challenge, we will take the time to commemorate our collective work to keep Casco Bay blue.

We hope you join us!

Register Now

Our top 10 moments of 2020

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year:

1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We are heartened that the plan sets a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045 and includes important mitigation measures to help coastal communities adapt to looming changes.

2.) Our volunteer Water Reporters were chosen as CommUNITY Champions. More than 240 volunteers are helping us keep watch over the health of the Bay.

3.) Gulf of Maine Poet Gary Lawless wrote the poem, “For Casco Bay, For Us,” in honor of our 30th anniversary. You can read the poem here and hear Gary read it at our Celebrating Water event in July, hosted by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell.

4.) The South Portland City Council passed a groundbreaking fertilizer ordinance to promote soil health and to protect Casco Bay from nitrogen pollution.

5.) In October, Staff Scientist Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shared what they saw on the Bay this field season during What Casco Bay is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event.  Ivy also hosted a Casco Bay Matters event earlier this year about the Maine Climate Council.

6.) Knack Factory made this short documentary about our work in honor of our 30th anniversary. If you liked that film, watch this behind the scenes montage about how it was made!

7.) We were delighted that Royal River Conservation Trust selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of their Conservation Champion Award.

8.) On Facebook, this huge lion’s mane jellyfish and this beautiful rainbow were our two most shared images from this year.

9.) We launched the public phase of our $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. We are now less than $15,000 from crossing the finish line! And we will soon be launching two more continuous monitoring stations, thanks to the Fund!

10.) While we couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary in person, we were honored to have these community partners reflect on our success over the past three decades. We also took a trip down memory lane by scrolling through this timeline of our biggest victories and milestones.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

More good news for the Bay

Nuisance algal blooms, such as the one seen this summer along the Fore River in South Portland, can be caused by excess nitrogen. These blooms can degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

Casco Bay received an early holiday gift: the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters.

Friends of Casco Bay applauds South Portland for taking this first-in-Maine step to protect our marine resources. The ordinance, which updates the City’s groundbreaking pesticide regulations, was passed on November 17. Any fertilizers used must be organic and free from synthetic chemicals, and a soil test is request before any use is allowed. There are special provisions for high performance such as playing fields, and new construction. The ordinance focuses on best practices for promoting soil health.

South Portland began working on this ordinance because nitrogen, which is found in lawn care fertilizers, can be washed downstream into the Bay. Once in marine water, excess nitrogen can cause nuisance and harmful algal blooms, which degrade water quality and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification. Friends of Casco Bay’s water quality data, including sampling for Total Nitrogen and pesticides, have been pivotal for helping the city understand the need to limit the use of lawn care chemicals.

South Portland’s City Council appointed Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell to the Fertilizer Working Group, which was tasked with drafting the protections. For a year-and-a-half, Cathy served alongside local residents, city officials, and landscaping business owners, to develop the ordinance.

“This is great news for the Casco Bay! South Portland has shown tremendous leadership in its efforts to protect our marine resources,” says Cathy, reflecting on the Working Group’s effort. “Whenever we hit a roadblock in the drafting of the ordinance, work group members found a way forward by reminding ourselves of the need protect the health of the Bay and the importance of healthy soils, especially in light of climate change.”

While South Portland’s fertilizer ordinance is the first of its kind in the state, we hope it will not be the last. Local ordinances such as this can lead to changes at regional and statewide levels. The City’s pesticide ordinance, for example, has been used as a template by other municipalities in Maine, including Portland.

As a Friend of the Bay, you probably know that we launched our BayScaping program nearly 20 years ago to help residents and businesses grow green lawns that can help keep Casco Bay blue. We have worked with local residents, Master Gardeners, landscape professionals, and state agencies to encourage the use of ecological approaches to lawn care rather than depending on fertilizers and pesticides. As BayScaping has taken root in our communities, more towns around the Bay have considered ordinances to reduce lawn care chemicals.

Helping municipalities develop ordinances is just one of the many ways Friends of Casco Bay is working to limit nitrogen pollution in the Bay. We continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to reduce sewer overflows, address stormwater pollution, and enforce the Bay’s No Discharge Area status.

Announcing the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. In the two minute video above, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell announces the public phase of our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. We are creating a $1.5 million fund to be used over the next ten years to understand the ways in which our waters are threatened, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change.

The great news is that we are 86% of our way to our goal! You can help push us over the top!

We invite you to make a donation to our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund.

Working together as a community to take care of this place may be our only hope to address climate
change; the cavalry is not coming to help. It is up to us.

If you would like to learn more about the Fund, you can read about our 10-year plan and make a donation here.

Conservation Champions

We are delighted to share that Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) has selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of the Conservation Champion Award. Each year, RRCT selects a person or an organization doing exemplary conservation work for this award.

RRCT presented Cathy and our organization with the Conservation Champion Award at a small gathering* at the Littlejohn Island Preserve in Yarmouth Thursday evening.

In his remarks, RRCT Executive Director Alan Stearns said, “Every time I ask people, ‘How can we do a better job? What else should we be doing? What’s important to you as far as the environment and Maine’s conservation community?’ Overwhelmingly, from the beginning, people say, ‘Do you work with Friends of Casco Bay? I wish you’d work more with Friends of Casco Bay.’ Cathy and I have had discussions over the years. We have had big successes and small successes and we have come to realize our work is complementary.”

Alan then gave beautifully-inscribed wooden paddles representing the Conservation Champion Award to Cathy and to Friends of Casco Bay Board Member Ann Thayer, who has long volunteered as our liaison with RRCT.

Royal River Conservation Trust highlighted Friends of Casco Bay’s work in winning a No Discharge Area status for the Bay and upgrading Clean Water Act classifications for parts of our waters, among the reasons why we are Conservation Champions.

“It takes a community to take care of the Bay,” reflected Cathy, as she accepted the award. “The synergy between the work that Royal River Conservation Trust and all the land trusts around the Bay are doing combined with the work those of us are doing on water quality is really important. When we work together we get so much more done. With climate change impacting our communities, the more we do to inspire good land stewardship, the healthier our coastal waters are going to be. It is our collaboration that gives me hope that together, we can continue to confront the impacts of climate change.”

 

Royal River is one of the five major rivers flowing into the Bay. The river originates in Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester and flows into Casco Bay at Yarmouth. RRTC helps protect the natural, recreational, scenic, agricultural, and historic resources of the Royal River region for current and future generations. Friends of Casco Bay has long monitored water quality in the tidal portion of the Royal and our Continuous Monitoring Station is located in Yarmouth close to the mouth of the river.

Past Conservation Champion Award-winners include Gulf of Maine Research Institute and its President/CEO (and founding President of Friends of Casco Bay!) Don Perkins (2018), and State Senator and former Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Brownie Carson (2019).

 

The RRCT event was a small, socially-distanced outside event. Given the pandemic, here are the precautions we undertook:

  • Everyone at the event wore masks.
  • The event was outside.
  • Except for a few photos during extremely brief periods of time, we were 6 to 20 feet or more away from each other the entire time.
  • The photographer always had a mask on and took all the photos from 6+ feet away.
  • We used hand sanitizer before and after holding the awards together.  
  • And finally, RRTC collected RSVPs of attendees so that in the unlikely event that something did happen, it will be easy to contact trace.

Casco Bay is heating up

Seem hotter than usual? Yes, indeed.

Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years.

Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in the water.

This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to this month. The lavender-colored line represents the daily averages for this year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “The data are concerning. This summer’s temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”

You can find the most recent data for all the parameters we measure at our Cage of Science here.

In addition to collecting hourly data, for nearly 30 years, we have been spot-checking sites in the Bay. The temperature data from our three Sentinel Sites (see graph below for annual average, data collected May through October each year) show an upward trend as temperatures in Casco Bay have risen by 2.4° Fahrenheit [1.3° Celsius].

annual temperatures graph 2019

“Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly,” reports Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “That’s why we have launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund, which will help us put two more Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, one near Portland and one near Harpswell, and operate all three stations for ten years.”

The $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will be used over the next decade to understand the ways in which our waters are changing, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change. Friends of Casco Bay has raised 87% of its goal for the Fund. You can read more about the Fund, our 10-year plan, and make a secure donation here.