Deer Island Could Become Outdoor Classroom

Deer Island's value as a natural resource has sparked interest in how children can learn more about the environment with only a short boat ride. At a meeting later this week, representatives from the Department of Marine Resources will sit down with people from J.L. Scott and the Ohr-O'Keefe museum. Each entity has an interest in education, preserving history and drawing visitors to the area.

Deer Island's coastline is where land meets the sea and where nature meets history. Along her walk, J.L. Scott administrator Sharon Walker picked up pieces of pottery left by the Native Americans who once lived there.

"Just to think about the culture and the heritage in teaching our children and the public about that," Walker said.

Educators feel Deer Island's diverse landscape of beaches, marshes, and forest makes it an ideal place to teach children and adults about wildlife. Building benches, piers and boardwalks would give people more access to the island and protect the island from people.

"You just can't have people tread through it over and over again without doing damage to the habitat. So by having some elevated walkway over the area, people can enjoy and learn about those habitats without doing damage," Sheila Brown said.

Preventing major damage is also DMR's concern

"Our primary goal is to maintain them as natural area, but we also want to provide access. But [we want to] provide access in a manner that minimizes any negative impact to the environment and we think can have that out here."

Making the island more accessible could also benefit the area's number one industry, tourism. Therefore, giving visitors another reason to come to the coast.

"We're all looking for what we can do on our coast to extend the stay of our guests, so I think activities like this certainly would be meaningful," Walker said.

Since most of Deer Island is part of the coastal preserves program, DMR officials say they'll have to obtain permits from the Secretary of State's office before doing any construction.