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Exploring BTLT’s Newest Conservation Success

View of the Cathance River from the newly conserved Tardiff Property.

The Tardiff Property in Topsham will soon provide diverse recreational resources to the public.

By Susan Olcott

This season, I am thankful for places that are wild and muddy. And, there’s a place just outside of town that will soon be open to the public that fits that bill – a rare combination of wetlands, rivers, forest, and even vernal pools. It is home to unusual species such as the Least Bittern and Parker’s Pipewort. Timber was cut there for many years and a 19th century farmhouse looks over it all. And, on a crisp November morning, my girls and I had a rare opportunity to explore it with Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s (BTLT) Executive Director, Angela Twitchell.

The first frost glistened on crisp leaves crunching under foot and tiny stalagmites of ice poked up from the mud around frozen pools at the base of uprooted trees. We clambered over an old road down to the shores of the river to squish on low tide mud and discover bubbles trapped in windows of ice jaggedly arranged amidst the marsh grasses.

So, where is this? You may not have heard of the Muddy River before, but you are more likely to be familiar with the Cathance River. The Cathance runs through a stellar series of trails managed by BTLT and the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). Nestled between the Cathance and the Muddy Rivers is a parcel of land in Topsham that has been privately owned for years by the Tardiff family.

The family lived in a historic home on the property and when surrounding lands began to be developed into neighborhoods, they started thinking about ways to keep their land free from development. This led them to BTLT, which has been working to conserve areas around the Cathance River for years. The Land Trust has been slowly building a network of 20 properties along the river, now totaling over 1,000 acres. These properties provide wildlife corridors and an important natural buffer to keep clean the rivers that flow into Merrymeeting Bay. The Tardiff property helps to provide a critical missing connection between two Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife properties – the Merrymeeting Bay Wildlife Management Area and the Muddy River Wildlife Management Area.

Exploring at Tardiff.

When the Tardiff Family offered to sell the 121-acre parcel to BTLT, the Land Trust was thrilled to have this opportunity. With the support of grants from Maine’s Natural Resource Conservation Program and the Merrymeeting Bay Trust, BTLT completed the purchase this fall.

As we walked down the old woods road, we began to envision how the property might be used. Perhaps a loop trail stemming from a parking area off Route 24 could lead visitors across the old farm fields, into the woods, and along the shores of the Cathance. But, this is only half the property – on the other side of the road, there could be a similar set of trails leading to the Muddy River. What a neat opportunity to explore two rivers across a historic piece of farmland.

We were lucky to get a sneak peak at the property, but it won’t be too long before it will be accessible to the public. BTLT will be working over the next year and a half or so, aiming to have trails ready for exploration in the Spring of 2019. In the meantime, this coming Spring I plan to visit it again by water, as Angela described you could do by kayak starting at the Head of Tide property, passing the Tardiff land, and ending at the Bowdoinham Town Landing. In the meantime, I am thankful for the opportunity to imagine how this property will take shape and become another jewel in the crown of protected lands around Merrymeeting Bay.

Casco Bay Wealth Advisors Volunteer at the TSCG

On a recent Saturday morning, our friends at Casco Bay Wealth Advisors came to the Community Garden to help us  by putting the Tom Settlemire Community Garden to bed for the season. The volunteers cleared garden paths, weeded overgrown plots and spread fresh wood chips.

We greatly appreciate our everything that our local businesses do for us, and thank you  Casco Bay Weath Advisors for helping to put the “community” in our Community Garden!

Pizza with a Purpose – All Month

We are very excited to announce a great fall fundraiser with the Land Trust’s Business Partner, Portland Pie Company.

Print and bring THIS VOUCHER into the restaurant in Brunswick, and Portland Pie Company will donate 10% of your guest check back to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

(You must provide a print copy of the voucher. Only accepted at the Brunswick Portland Pie location. Valid November 1 – November 30)

What a great way to have a good meal and support community conservation at the same time!

PLUS on November 30, all day long Portland Pie will donate $1 for every pizza, Maine Beer Company beer, and kamasouptra soup purchased.

Rogers property monitoring walk along the Cathance River Trail

One of the great perks of a seat on the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust board is the opportunity go out on monitoring walks in the fall. 

These are the annual visits the land trust pays to each of the properties on which it holds a conservation easement.   The purpose is to be sure that the terms of the easement are being followed and to look out for any changes or problems that may be developing on the property.

 

Our group of four set out at around 10 in the morning,  half an hour into the walk we were shedding our jackets and enjoying the sparkling, uncharacteristically warm fall morning.  The mission was to monitor the Town of Topsham’s Rogers property on which the Land Trust holds an easement.  This parcel is a key link in the Cathance River Trail, connecting Head of Tide Park to the Cathance River Nature Preserve.  If you haven’t been out on this trail, drop what you’re doing immediately and get outside!  It is beautiful, with stretches through uplands towering over the meandering Cathance and sections that hug the river’s banks, and peaceful.  With the exception of a group of 15 or so Highland Green residents out for a morning hike, we had the trail to ourselves.

We noted a blowdown or two that need removing but otherwise encountered no problems on the trail.  We marked a place where a bench would be welcome – any Eagle Scout candidates out there looking for a project??! – and promised the Highland Green residents that we would look into their recommendation that blazing along the trail be improved.  After a moment’s rest on the Clay Brook Bridge, which spans the stream separating the Cathance River Trail from the Cathance Preserve trail system, we headed back, enjoying the sound of birds in the trees and the glint of sunlight off the surface of the river below.