The protesters yelled at the president’s motorcade as it traveled Route 1.

WELLS (AP) – In a state known for environmental activism, more than 250 people gathered Tuesday to criticize the Bush administration’s environmental record before the president spoke at a nearby nature reserve.

Protesters held up signs (“More Trees, Less Bush”) and chanted (“We want solutions, no more pollution”) along U.S. Route 1 for several hours as passing motorists honked their approval. The group shouted “shame on you” in succession when the president’s motorcade drove by on its way to Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, where Bush spoke.

“I’m concerned for the environment, our future, our children, our health,” said Ellen Froncek of Brunswick as she stood in protest. “It’s not an abstract.”

Prior to the protest, environmental groups held a mock awards ceremony in a nearby parking lot in protest of the administration’s policies.

The rusty tailpipe stood for Maine’s being at the receiving end of the nation’s air pollution as it blows east. A three-foot fish cut out of plywood stood for mercury-tainted fish. An inhaler represented Maine’s high asthma rates.

Some protesters wore gas masks, fish costumes and stovepipe hats, which depicted smokestacks.

The Sierra Club’s Maureen Drouin said it’s ironic that the president chose to celebrate Earth Day by coming to Wells, which recently failed the federal government’s new ozone standards.

“The purpose of this rally is to set the record straight on Bush’s environmental policies, which protect corporate polluters, not the Maine environment,” Drouin said. “The Bush administration has done nothing to stop soot, smog and mercury from coming to Maine.”

Andy Burt of Edgecomb is a member of an ad hoc group called the Environmental Dirty Laundry Project. Members strung up a clothesline with canvas cutouts in the shape of shirts and pants with descriptions of Bush’s environmental policies written on them.

“Unfortunately the clothesline is going to grow because every day there’s more dirty laundry to hang out,” she said.

Maine has a long tradition of environmental activism. But it is also where President Bush’s parents have a summer home, and where the president spends large chunks of time, just five miles away in Kennebunkport.

Shortly before Bush’s motorcade passed by, a group of 50 or so Bush supporters gathered on property near the protest. Some waved American flags and others shouted “USA” to the protesters.

“I’m supporting the office of the president and the country in general,” said Leigh Wood, who carried a large American flag on a pole.

AP-ES-04-22-04 1549EDT

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