By A.M. Sheehan
OTISFIELD — Otisfield has a quiet ecowarrior of its own.
Since 2003, 53-year-old Todd Eachus has been single-handedly cleaning up Greeley Brook where Bonney Hill Road and Yeaton Swamp Road meet at the bridge.
One year, he removed 200 tires from the brook and its banks, he says.
He frequently removes deer carcasses – bones and entrails – dumped in the brook in black plastic garbage bags on an annual basis. Gallon jugs filled with oil-based paint (five of them). Empty worm containers. Computers. PVC pipe. Rugs. Furniture. And piles and piles of trash.
Eachus says the deer remains are from poachers who salvage the meat and dispose of the rest so as not to get caught.
Although he doesn’t much like fish, he says his mother does. In fact he had just caught five trout that would “make a tasty dinner tonight!”
The trout, he explains, were from the stocking of the brook about a year or so ago. He says Fish & Game didn’t stock the brook this year because of the garbage dumped in it.
Greeley Brook appears to begin where Lombard Brook splits into Greeley and Sargent brooks, which originates at Mud and Sand ponds in Norway and flows to Thompson Lake in Oxford.
The bridge, where he does most of his cleaning, is on the Otisfield/Oxford town line on a dirt road.
While Otisfield doesn’t have a police department of its own, Oxford does and Eachus has found a champion in Lt. Mike Ward of the Oxford Police Department.
“It’s nice to have someone who can help us clean,” says Ward.
Ward says Eachus has brought him piles of trash with the hope that the police could identify the dumpers. They could not.
“We even got an hand gun out of there,” says Ward. The gun was sent to the ATF to trace, according to Ward, but it was deemed untraceable.
Eachus says both the towns of Oxford and Otisfield used to clean Greeley and other waterways but don’t any more.
“They just focus on roads now,” he laments.
Ward recalls how when he was a kid towns would all have “clean-up” days “where you would adopt a road and clean it up. They don’t do that much any more.”
Ward says he used to clean Hebron Road when he was young.
Eachus thinks that the somewhat secluded site is used for a dumping ground because “people are so lazy they can’t go to the dump.”
Eachus takes all the nontrash waste to the Casco dump.
Often, he says, he dons hip-waders to get in the brook and retrieve trash.
“You don’t want to go in there in shorts and beach shoes,” he laughs. “I did that once … .”
You sink to your waist when you step on the deceptive brook bottom, which is actually very soft mud, and furthermore, he warns, there are three kinds of leeches in the brook.
He leads the way down a brook-side trail and points out a dead 6-foot tall tree stump.
“Someone girdled that,” he says, “so they could fly fish.”
Girdling a tree means removing the bark in a circle around the trunk. Girdling results in the death of the area above the girdle over time and when the main trunk of the tree is girdled, the entire tree dies.
After the tree died, the upper part toppled into the brook during a storm. In the broken top now sits a soda can. Around the tree’s base are cigarette butts.
Eachus points to an upholstered recliner sitting at an angle in the middle of the brook. If he could get it out he would take it to the dump.
“I’ve tried to get that but it is wood and metal and soaking fabric – heavy. The bank is too high, I can’t get it out myself.”
He says he has thought about bringing his ATV with a winch but the steep 4-foot bank is more than the ATV or a Cumalong can handle, he says.
“It’s a shame people have to be such idiots.”
“Fish & Game used to stock this with a thousand trout such as rainbow or brook,” Eachus says. “Now they don’t.”
He tells of a time when he first began cleaning the brook when he found someone gill netting. Possession and/or setting of a gill net is illegal on all inland waters in Maine.
Eachus explains gill nets catch fish by the gills “and in essence drowns them.” He says the nets also catch beavers, waterfowl, muskrats and other wildlife.
One of his major concerns about the brook is pollution. He cites lead in computers and oil paint as well as other toxins.
“This flows into Thompson!”
Eachus has made calls to the Warden Service hoping that it will help clean up the brook and increase patrols in the area to help catch offenders.
Until then, he plans to continue his one-man war against the trashing of Greeley Brook.
“He goes above and beyond,” says Ward.