Members of the Ellis Pond Sidekicks and Lake Stewards of Maine pose last summer at the pond in Roxbury during a Plant Paddle sponsored by Lake Stewards of Maine. The group learned about Maine’s native and invasive aquatic plants.  The event was led by Invasive Species Program Director Roberta Hill and Education and Outreach Coordinator Drew Perlmutter. From left, front, are Amy and Kurt Berg, standing, Drew Perlmutter, Carl Wahlstrom, Elisa Knapp, Nancy Wahlstrom, Nancy Lovelace, Barbara Chambers, Anita Derouche, Ross Swain, Mary LaPointe, Michele Windsor, Roberta Hill and Lora Greene. Not visible is Jim Greene behind Nancy Wahlstrom. Submitted photo

ROXBURY — Ross Swain started the Ellis Pond Sidekicks and its Facebook page four years ago to inform people how to keep the pond healthy. Sidekicks members now number over 1,000.

A resident of East Andover, Swain owns a remodeled camp on Ellis Pond that’s been in his family since the 1950s. The pond, which straddles the Roxbury-Byron town line, is also known as Silver Lake and Roxbury Pond.

Swain is administrator for the Ellis Pond Sidekicks and writes monthly newsletters to give people who enjoy and love the pond a better understanding of what can be done to help protect its water quality.

He and his wife, Christine, are volunteers for Lake Stewards of Maine, a nonprofit organization for lake monitoring. Although he doesn’t have a background in science and he describes his career before his retirement as a “jack of all trades,” he credits 27 years of picking the brains of the staff at Lake Stewards of Maine for his knowledge of the lake.

Swain visits his monitoring spot at Ellis Pond’s “deep hole” every two weeks to observe and record water clarity and depth for Lake Stewards of Maine.

In his Nov. 4 newsletter, he explained how he confirms the pond has completed its “fall turnover or mixing.” He also noted on the group’s Facebook page how members can click on links that explain this yearly event.

One point he has made the Facebook page, and which he understands is not in agreement with some lakeside property owners and other stakeholders, is he believes it’s best to have a somewhat lower water level in the pond. “If you have a water level that is higher than historical levels,” he said, the water chews away at banks, eroding banks along the shore, which also erodes the pond’s water quality.

In a graph on his Ellis Pond Sidekicks page showing water levels measured from the top of a large, submerged rock to the surface of the lake, much of this year’s level was between 18 to 24 inches, which Swain believes is best for water quality and to avoid erosion of its banks.

Ross Swain of East Andover works with an aquascope and Secchi disk in 2009 on Ellis Pond in Roxbury. The administrator for his group, the Ellis Pond Sidekicks, has recorded the water quality for the nonprofit organization Lake Stewards of Maine for over 20 years. Submitted photo

In comparison, on Sept. 29, 2020, the level 14.5 inches, the lowest recorded since 1999. The highest recorded water level on Swain’s graph is 52.5 inches on July 25, 2008.

Swain has also included a link on his Ellis Pond Sidekicks page to a page to raise $2,000 for scholarships for three students to attend the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond in the summer, for donations for lake-related, nonprofit organizations in Maine and New Hampshire and for a garden and flags on Main Street at Roxbury Pond.

In 2019, Swain was recognized in the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2019 Annual Report for his work as a ‘citizen scientist’ at Roxbury Pond. It notes, among many attributes, that he and his wife’s scientific observations of the pond of a late-season algae bloom in 2013 led to a watershed survey in the spring of 2014 and to a successful water protection grant in 2016-2018.

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