Purpose Prize

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Maggie Shannon

Maine Congress of Lake Associations
Purpose Prize Fellow 2012

Shannon advocates for and protects Maine’s 6,000 lakes and ponds through stewardship and teaching others the importance of caring for the vital waterways.

Writer and former English teacher Maggie Shannon knew she wanted to spend her golden years on Maine’s “Golden Pond.” In childhood she had spent every summer on Great Pond, which inspired the play and movie, and her heart drew her back.

So when she was in her 60s, she and her husband, Roger, packed up their life in North Carolina and headed north. Shannon soon learned about a serious threat to lakes all over Maine: an invasive plant called milfoil that turns pristine waterways into plant-choked swamps. It threatened more than Shannon’s memories: Maine’s lakes account for $3.6 billion in economic activity annually.

Shannon joined the local lake association, marshaled teams of “courtesy boat inspectors” to check for milfoil at public boat launches, and lobbied the state legislature. In 2001, after impassioned testimony from “Milfoil Maggie” and others, the legislature made it illegal to transport any aquatic plant on the outside of any vehicle.

That success sparked Shannon’s encore career in 2003: as executive director of the Maine Congress of Lake Associations (Maine COLA), which represents 120 grassroots groups working to protect the state’s 6,000 lakes and ponds. Maine COLA:

  • Leads a ground-breaking incentive program encouraging lakefront property owners to help preserve the lakes
  • Teaches young people about lake preservation on a 30-foot floating classroom
  • Presents scientific information to lawmakers for lake-related decisions
  • Runs an annual forum on lake protection

“Protecting lakes is vital to Maine’s future, to the well-being of her people and to the vitality of many Maine municipalities,” Shannon says.