The Maine Audubon and Scarborough Marsh is celebrating their 50-year anniversary with a number of events this summer. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer, with boat parades, family-fun days and more.

“The whole summer we’re partying,” said Linda Woodard, director of the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center. They’ll be kicking the celebration off Memorial Day weekend with “some fun things,” including their annual road race on Memorial Day.

The Audubon Center at Scarborough Marsh. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

“It’s not the Maine Audubon celebrating it,” Woodard said. “It’s the whole community of Scarborough.”

The Scarborough Marsh is “a great draw” from near and far and an asset to the community, said Karen Martin, executive director of Scarborough Economic Development Corporation.

“It has a huge international draw as well because of the birding aspect,” she said. “People come from all over the world.”

It is a frequent destination for birds as they migrate, Woodard said.

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“When the birds are flying north, I tell the kids that it’s like a McDonald’s and Motel 6 rolled into one,” she said. “They have to stop here to fatten up for about a week and then they keep going.”

The marsh is featured in the book “Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die,” cementing its place as one of the most notable birding locations in the world. The 3,100-acre marsh – the largest salt marsh in Maine – attracts over 10,000 visitors per year, Woodard and Martin said.

The Audubon Center has played a large role in that, said Steve Pinette, chairperson of the Friends of Scarborough Marsh board.

“The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center has been a leader in introducing people and students to the marsh and helping them to understand its importance,” Pinette wrote in an email to The Forecaster.

There’s much to teach about the marsh, Woodard said, including the fact that it supports the vast majority of the fish southern Mainers eat.

“Seventy percent of all the fish food we eat depends on the marsh in one way or another,” Woodard said. “Some for a nursery, some for feeding.”

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The marsh is also a key player in protecting Scarborough from environmental hazards, such as filtering out pollution in the mud and mitigating the damage from floods.

“If we have a big flood, it’ll really suck up a lot,” Woodard said. “In New Orleans, several years ago, they were flooded out. Well, they filled in every (marsh) so it’s really, really important not to do that because the water has nowhere to go.”

 The center has been a continuous source of education for many Scarborough students. Woodard estimates they make up about up about 1,000 of the marsh’s 10,000 annual visitors.

It’s important for future generations to “understand what this resource is,” Martin said, as the duty to preserve and care for the marsh will eventually be theirs.

“They reach out to the Scarborough schools; they have classes come and visit,” she said of the Audubon. “Hopefully, almost every student in Scarborough at least spends a little bit of time at the marsh, understanding its importance.”

The marsh would not be a tourist attraction, educational resource, or maintained without the center’s volunteers, Woodard said.

“We need a lot of volunteers to make this run,” she said. “We usually have the equivalent of 80 hours of volunteer time a week.”

To learn more about the events this summer, including a celebration at The Landing on Pine Point in July and a Snowy Egret Family Fun Day in August, visit maineaudubon.org.

Those interested in volunteering can email [email protected].

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