Where Land Conservation Meets the Sea
Land Trust’s annual meeting considers their role in the working waterfront
Written by Susan Olcott
I was recently struck by how much land in Midcoast Maine is actually under water. Perhaps this was in part because we were trying to put our boat into the water and weren’t quite yet in the mode of watching the tides. Not wanting to make our two little girls trek the hundred yards or so back from our mooring or heave them through the mud ourselves, we waited out the tide a bit so we could make it in to the dock. It made me think of this mucky area more as land, dimpled with mud snails, clam holes and new sprouts of eelgrass, than as ocean. This is all part of the landscape of our town and can be considered right along with the shore-side lands that abut it. Of course, it isn’t that simple when for the majority of hours of the day, it is covered by water and is a strange mysterious place to most.
There are any number of activities going on in that intertidal area including people clamming, kayaking, kids playing in the mud, and any number of structures that are a part of it as well like floating oyster aquaculture cages, lobster buoys, or wharves. All of these things happen at the intersection of the wild ocean and where we humans meet it most of the time from the shore. The difficulty lies in how well we understand the resources there and how we figure out the best way to take care of them.
An unlikely-seeming partner is becoming more involved in this discussion. While you might think that the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) would be focused on land, they are, in fact, stewards of a number of coastal properties. Their geographic range includes the towns of Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin and their total acreage of conservation areas is roughly 2,500 acres. So, the scope is large, as is their mission, which is essentially three fold – providing access for recreation, protecting and stewarding cherished landscapes and natural resources, and supporting local agriculture and other traditional land uses, which includes waterfront access for commercial purposes. Most people likely know BTLT’s role in the Saturday farmer’s market, but likely don’t know how they are helping local clammers as well.
One of their most recently acquired properties, Woodward Cove, is a perfect example of this. Located off Gurnet Road, the 18-acre site provides access for bloodworm harvesters and clammers to valuable mudflats in upper Woodward Cove. Executive Director Angela Twitchell noted that, “The land trust had been talking with the town and marine resources folks, trying to locate places in town that are historic access points for clammers and conserve them so clammers don’t lose access over time.” Through an unusual partnership between Maine Coast Heritage Trust, BTLT, and the Unitarian Universalist Church, which purchased the land after their downtown building burned in 2011, this coastal access point has now been protected for the long term. This is just one of several coastal properties that are protected by the stewardship of BTLT.
Given their dedication to coastal lands and water access, it makes sense that BTLT has entitled its upcoming annual meeting, “Coastal Conservation and Community Impact”. The meeting, which will be held on June 22nd at the Topsham Public Library, features Dan Devereaux, Brunswick Marine Resource Officer,
and Monique Coombs, Seafood Program Director at Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association (MCFA), both of whom will talk about the values and challenges of maintaining access to coastal resources and the role land conservation can play in maintaining a healthy working waterfront. The event is open to the public and designed to stimulate a discussion about the best way for the Land Trust to support coastal stewardship moving forward.
In any discussion of the management of coastal resources, it is critical to understand the connectivity between land and water and having BTLT involved in this discussion helps to bridge that gap. By hosting this presentation at their annual meeting, they have opened up a new dialogue between a non-profit, managers, and harvesters in order to determine solutions that achieve multiple goals and demands from our coastal areas.