Linda Rice made a name for herself on Broadway and TV working with wigs and hair, but in Maine she’s become a tireless, self-taught crusader against another kind of growth – the invasive plants that choke local lakes.

Rice, 64, has logged 10-hour days as a boat inspector, making sure that watercraft entering her beloved North Pond aren’t carrying milfoil or some other threatening invasive plant. She also volunteers to visit lakefront property owners to help them figure out how to slow erosion and runoff into the lake; runoff carries phosphorus into lakes, which causes algae blooms and harms water quality. Rice has logged a lot of time in canoes and kayaks on area lakes, as part of a patrol that looks for invasive species. In addition to serving on the board of the North Pond Association, she’s volunteered or worked with 7 Lakes Alliance, Maine Lakes Society and Lake Stewards of Maine.

“She’s passionate and hardcore about what she does,” said Doug Woodsum, who worked with Rice on the North Pond Association. “Last summer when some vegetation was planted (as a buffer) between the road and the pond, she was out there every day watering it, to make sure it would grow.”

Rice’s love of Maine lakes goes back to her childhood and happy times spent at her family’s North Pond camp. In 2013, she moved to Smithfield from New York City full time, spending summers in her North Pond cottage and winters in a nearby apartment.

Linda Rice, winner of the Lakes Lobbyist Award from the 2020 Source Sustainability Awards, at North Pond in Smithfield. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Rice’s father was a professor at the University of Maine at Orono, teaching courses on family and marriage. But he also wrote books about fishing, and was attracted to the seasonal camp on North Pond because of its excellent fishing.

Rice attended the University of Maine at Orono, where she got a degree in theater. She ended up in New York City working as a hair and wig designer, on Broadway shows like “Tommy” and “Beauty and the Beast.” She also spent 14 seasons working on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” where she and her colleagues had just days to design wigs for all the show’s characters each week.

It was during her time on SNL, beginning in the late 1990s, that she began volunteering a lot around North Pond; she had the time, as she was able to spend entire summers in her cottage. Her pond days are drawing to a close, as she’ll soon move to Rockland as part of her retirement. But she intends to continue her conservation work, perhaps switching from lakes to oceans.

Rice has loved swimming and paddling around on Maine lakes her whole life. If invasive species are left unchecked, her beloved lakes will become choked with vegetation, a dire fate that motivates her to preserve them. Swimming, fishing and boating would all be in danger, not to mention the beauty of a lake’s crystal clear waters.

“Every body of water in Maine is precious, and an important part of the economy,” Rice said. “I’ve just always believed we have to do what we can to protect them.”

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