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Finding small treasures during Lyndeborough’s clean-up

  • Isla Duck, 4, Raleigh Duck, 2, and their father Graham Duck, of New Boston, stop to admire a salamander found by Sharon Akers of Lyndeborough during her road-side clean-up efforts. Photo by Sharon Akers

  • Sharon Akers of Lyndeborough filled the back of her car with bags of roadside trash to deliver to a town trash truck this weekend. COURTESY PHOTOS

  • While picking up roadside trash, Sharon Akers of Lyndeborough also accidentally scooped up this salamander, which she later returned to its habitat.

  • A hubcap filled with plant debris gives off an unexpectedly artistic flair.  —Photo by Sharon Akers

  • Sharon Akers



Monday, April 23, 2018 5:48PM

Every year that I do the Lyndeborough roadside clean-up in the week leading up to Earth Day, I find an interesting object mixed in with the litter along the road, out of place because it is not trash. Things such as a china serving dish with no visible chips, reusable for holding a houseplant since you don’t know what else it has held.

This year, I emptied the full trunk of bags from my car into the town truck and reflected that I hadn’t found anything, unless you count a hubcap artistically stuffed with leaves. The spokes overlaying the organic gave it a sort of steampunk feel, if you ignored my other trash bags piled around it.

My mother and I put about five and a half hours into cleaning up New Road this year, three and a half of them Friday when most of the snow finally melted and we did the section of road between our house and the turnpike. Three and a half miles in three and a half hours gives you an idea of how much there was to pick up, and it really wasn’t as bad this year.

Anyway, as I cleared the last bag from my trunk, there was a treasure after all, staring up at me from the beery puddle left on the rubber-mat floor of the Element. It was, I became fairly certain from looking it up later, a Northern Red Back Salamander. He or she was smooth and shiny with a long reddish stripe on top and brown along its sides, less showy than the Red Efts that you see everywhere when it is warm and wet out. I took the creature out of the trunk to show to some little boys playing in the town hall parking lot and explained where it had come from.

The kids were fascinated and gentle and when I told them I had found it at the bottom of the litter that I had picked up, they said knowledgeably, “like for Earth Day?”

Finally, it was time to get this little being back in water and I decided that going back to New Road and choosing a safe place there would give it the best chance. So, back we went, my passenger riding contently in a little puddle I made for it on the dashboard in the shade.

Looking up from the task of taking it out of the artificial habitat to reintroduce it to the natural one, I saw a family walking down the road toward me. As I had done at town hall, I showed the children the Salamander and they were fascinated. The 4-year-old Isla Duck, her 2-year-old brother Raleigh, and their father Graham had set out walking with their dog from Lyndeborough Road, where their car was parked into the trails on the Rice Preserve along Senter Falls. Instead of looping back after admiring the falls they had followed Cold Brook through the woods and ended up on New Road, walking all the way up to where they were now, covering much of the ground mom and I had picked up yesterday. They wanted to know if they were going the right way to get back to their car. I shook my head and offered them a ride. The kids were tired and hungry but incredibly cheerful after what must have been close to six miles of taking turns on dad’s shoulders.

We released the salamander together on a sandy bank of what my family likes to call the “Squaghegan” Brook, which meanders through our conservation land. Then we piled into my car, dog and all. The Duck family, it turned out, was from New Boston and knew all about Earth Day, too. They would be participating in their town’s roadside clean-up the next day.

I like finding treasures, but I have enough (too much!) stuff. Finding these living treasures, the salamander and the human family enjoying the route that I, and so many others, had helped make cleaner for them both through litter pick-up and conservation efforts were so much better and reminded me that all the work is worthwhile.

Sharon Akers is chairwoman of Lyndeborough Conservation Commission.