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Upper Fore River Sanctuary

Welcome to the Upper Fore River Sanctuary!

The Fore River Sanctuary is a nature preserve containing a cattail marsh (or brackish tidal marsh) in Portland, Maine (Maine Natural Areas Program). The sanctuary is owned by Portland Trails, which maintains the area. They have created trails for hiking, snowshoeing, and mountain biking within the sanctuary which are completely free and open to the public. While Fore River Sanctuary seems secluded from within, it is surrounded by mixed development, which poses challenges to the wetland, due to the large amount of runoff which it receives from the surrounding impervious surfaces. To make it even more challenging, the area is still recovering from the Julie N oil spill which occurred in Portland Harbor in 1996, and was restored using restoration funds from that incident (Portland Trails 2012).


Wetland characteristics 

Soils
The Area of Interest (AOI) within Fore River Sanctuary in Portland, Maine contains thirteen different soil types, including three different types of hydric soils. While all three of these soils are considered hydric, their properties still vary. The tidal marsh (Tm) soils are the most poorly drained soils, which means that they are probably the darkest in color out of all three of the hydric soils, and the least decomposed. The scantic silt loam (Sn) and swanton fine sandy loam (Sz) soils are probably more similar to non hydric soils than the tidal marsh soils, but still exhibit anoxia and other hydric properties for at least certain portions of the year (NRCS Web Soil Survey).

Hydrology
The three hydric soils within the area of interest have the lowest depth to the water table, which is to be expected. All of the other soils have a much deeper water table. The flooding frequency class and ponding frequency class of the soils also make sense in terms of what you would expect. The tidal marsh soils have both a flooding and ponding frequency class of “frequent”. However, the other two hydric soils (scantic silt loam and swanton fine sandy loam) are never flooded or ponded, nor are any of the other soil types present in the Fore River Sanctuary (NRCS Web Soil Survey).
The Fore River Sanctuary has three streams which flow into it and converge inside the sanctuary, and then flow out into Casco Bay. However, the marsh inside the sanctuary is a tidal salt marsh, which means that some of the time tidal water from Casco Bay advances into the marsh area. There are no ponds or Figure 1: Jewel Falls                                             lakes inside Fore River Sanctuary itself, but there are a few ponds nearby which feed                                                    feed the sanctuary by means of streams.




Vegetation
In the wetland section of the sanctuary (the part of the wetland which I visited, north of congress street, was more similar to a freshwater forested / shrub wetland than an estuarine and marine wetland). Narrow-leaved cattails were the dominant species (Figure 3). However, most of them were dead and dry, with their seeds ready for dispersal. Another dominant species in this area (although the plants were all dead) was one which I was unable to identify. Besides these two dominant species, there were a number of more rare species evident in the wetland section of the sanctuary. One of them was Spartina alterniflora. It was evident, but very sparse, with only a few sprouting patches visible in the more saturated soils along the very edge of the stream. Salt grass was also evident in sparse, sprouting patches, but further from the river than the Spartina alterniflora. There were also two other species of plants in very sparse patches near the river which I was unable to identify, one of which was dead, and one which was maturing. However, both of them occurred in basically the same abundance. Although there were a few patches of these other species scattered throughout the wetland, narrow-leaved cattails were by far the dominant species.









Figures 2-4: Vegetation found in the wetland section of Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, ME.  Top Left - spore-containing stalk of a sensitive fern, Top Right - cattail, Bottom - unidentified (abundant)



Table 1: Expected and Observed Plants in Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, ME. Sources: Maine DEP and USDA . March 30, 2012

Wetland Types

Common Name

Scientific Name

Growth Form (shrub, tree, herb/forb/non-woody plant)

Wetland Indicator Class

Observed?

Abundance Based on Site Visit (rare, common, dominant, ?)

E2EM1P

(Estuarine and Marine Wetlands)

Smooth cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

Non-woody plant

OBL

No



Salt hay cordgrass

Spartina patens


FACW+

No



Salt grass

Distichlis spicata

Non-woody plant

FACW+

No



Salt marsh bulrush

Scirpus robustus


OBL

No



glasswort

Salicornia


OBL

No



Baltic rush

Juncus balticus


FACW+

No



Salt marsh sedge

Carex glareosa



No



Seaside arrow-grass

Triglochin maritima



No



Narrow-leaved cattail

Typha angustifolia

Non-woody plant

OBL

Yes

dominant


Seaside goldenrod

Solidago sempervirens



No



Prairie cordgrass

Spartina pectinata



No



Common reed

Phragmites australis



No


PFO1R, PFO1/4R

(Freshwater Forested / Shrub Wetlands)

Silver maple

Acer saccharinum



No



Green ash

Fraxinus pennsylvanica



No



American elm

Ulmus americana



No



Ostrich fern

Matteuccia struthiopteris



No



Sensitive fern

Onoclea sensibilis



Yes

Rare


jewelweed

Impatiens capensis



No



False nettle

Boehmeria Jacq.



No



buttonbush

Cephalanthus



No



Broad-leaved meadowsweet

Spiraea latifolia



No



steeplebush

Spiraea tomentosa



No



Speckled alder

Alnus incana



No



Sweet gale

Myrica gale



No



Mountain holly

Ilex montana



No



Northern arrowhead

Sagittaria cuneata



No



maleberry

Lyonia ligustrina



No



Red osier dogwood

Cornus sericea

Shrub

FACW+

Yes

common


Silky dogwood

Cornus amomum



No



Highbush blueberry

Vaccinium corymbosum



No



Common winterberry

Ilex verticillata



No



Skunk cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus



No



False hellebore

Veratrum L.



No



Flat-topped aster

Doellingeria umbellata



No



New York aster

Symphyotrichum novi-belgii



No



Marsh fern

Thelypteris



No



Cinnamon fern

Osmunda cinnamomea



No



Red maple

Acer rubrum



No



Black gum

Nyssa sylvatica



No



larch

Larix



No



Black ash

Fraxinus nigra



No



Yellow birch

Betula alleghaniensis



No



Gray birch

Betula populifolia



No



White pine

Pinus strobus L.

Tree

FACU

Yes

common


Black willow

Salix nigra



No



Sheep laurel

Kalmia angustifolia L.



No



Black chokeberry

Photinia melanocarpa



No



Common elderberry

Sambucus canadensis



No



jack-in-the-pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum



No



Canada mayflower

Maianthemum canadense



No



Royal fern

Osmunda regalis L.



No



Northern white cedar

Thuja occidentalis



No



hemlock

Tsuga Carrière

Tree

FACU

Yes

Common/dominant


Balsam fir

Abies balsamea



No



goldthread

Coptis Salisb.



No



Northern arrowwood

Viburnum recognitum



No



Atlantic white cedar

Chamaecyparis thyoides



No



Red Oak

Quercus rubra L.

Tree

FACU-

Yes

Dominant


American Beech

Fagus grandifolia

Tree

FACU

Yes

Common


Wildlife and Other Interesting Facts

There were organisms present in the sanctuary, but not many. There were tadpoles in the stream just below Jewell Falls (Figure 5), and people using the park for hiking and viewing the waterfall. However, there were not nearly as many people in the sanctuary on that day as there generally are. I only noticed one group of four or five people, which is unusual, due to the fact that the sanctuary is surrounded on all sides by mixed development.


Figure 5: Tadpoles in the stream in the marsh section of Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, ME. March 30, 2012


There are many neighborhoods surrounding its exterior, as well as some busier roads and commercial development. Due to the impervious surfaces present in these areas, the sanctuary receives a large amount of runoff laden with a variety of substances. There is a substantial amount of forested area surrounding the sanctuary to help filter some of this runoff, but the portion of the runoff which enters the stream before the stream enters the sanctuary still mostly makes its way into the wetland area.


Visiting the Wetland


The Sanctuary can be accessed from multiple points, but the two most common points of entry are Congress Street (only one mile from the Portland International Jetport) and Rowe Avenue (right off of Brighton Avenue / Rte 25) (Figure 6). It is completely legal to access the Sanctuary, as it is now owned by Portland Trails, who intend for the public to be able to utilize it free of charge. The sanctuary is completely family friendly, and does not require any special equipment or permits to access (Portland Trails).



Figure 6: The view from the Rowe Avenue parking area of the trail leading into the Fore River Sanctuary, Portland, ME. Train tracks can be seen cutting through the sanctuary. March 30, 2012

References


Maine Audubon. Milestone Agreement Signed: Maine Audubon Transfers Ownership of 85-Acre Fore River Sanctuary to Portland Trails." 22 Jan 2012.



Maine Natural Areas Program. (2010). Natural community classification key.     


Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hydric Soils.


Natural Resources Conservation Service. Plants database.


Natural Resources Conservation Service. Web soil survey.


Portland Trails. Fore River Trail. 22 Jan 2012.

Reilly, T. J. (1998). 


Julie N preassessment data report. Industrial Economics, Incorporated.

 


Reilly, T. J., Csulak, F., Van Cott, P. (1999) Selecting a preferred restoration alternative for the Julie N oil spill. 1999 International Oil Spill Conference, 163.




Wetland information and photos by Ryan Messier, Department of Environmental Science, Class of 2013
Last updated on 9 May 2012 by RM
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