Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 7, 2015 and Island Ad-Vantages, May 7, 2015 and The Weekly Packet, May 7, 2015
Local student helps UMaine professor write wood bank guide
With the snow finally melted, firewood may be the last thing Maine residents want to think about, but according to University of Maine professor Jessica Leahy, spring and summer are the best times to start a wood bank, and her new guide shows communities how, according to a news release.
Leahy, an associate professor of human dimensions of natural resources at the University of Maine School of Forest Resources, wrote the guide with Sabrina Vivian, a senior in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program who grew up in Surry and Blue Hill.
Wood banks are similar to food pantries, but instead of providing food for those in need, they provide firewood at little to no cost. A Community Guide to Starting & Running a Wood Bank provides guidance for establishing a wood bank, as well as topics to be considered, including types of wood banks, location, legalities, security, eligibility, firewood sources, volunteers, processing, distribution and equipment.
The guide includes profiles and contact information of New England wood banks, as well as a checklist designed for community members to use when holding an initial wood bank planning meeting. In 2013, when Leahy and Vivian began researching wood banks in New England, they found 12 wood banks throughout the region, with only one in Maine—the Cumberland Wood Bank. All the wood banks started as grassroots organizations without knowing about each other and having to navigate on their own, Leahy says.
In November 2014, they wrote an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News. The op-ed generated a lot of interest, and many phone calls to Leahy asking how to get started and how to donate wood. Residents in Waldo County and Bucksport were inspired by the piece and started their own wood banks. Blue Hill also is in the process of creating an organization, Leahy says.
Leahy and Vivian decided an online community guide would be helpful for those getting started, and Vivian spearheaded the project as part of her senior capstone. The guide is available online at jessicaleahy.weebly.com/wood-banks.html.