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Coffin Students Visit Land Trust’s Community Garden

120 First Graders plant seedlings for their community.

Taking advantage of recent a rare sunny day, six first grade classes from Coffin Elementary School set off on foot for Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG).  Their goal was to transplant approximately 240 squash, pumpkin, sunflower and nasturtium plants that they had seeded earlier in the spring.  With this goal in mind, along with the opportunity for outdoor, experiential learning, they dug into this task with gusto.

TSCG is located on Crystal Spring Farm, a property owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Through the Garden, the Land Trust strives to provide intergenerational gardening opportunities, increase the availability of locally grown food for area food pantries, and offer experiential gardening opportunities for the community.

With the help of a dedicated crew of volunteers, the young students transplanted all of their seedlings into the Garden. The squash harvest will be donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, while the pumpkins and sunflowers will be harvested for further study by Coffin Students in the fall.

Staff from the Land Trust, Nikkilee (Lee) Cataldo and Caroline Elliot, were on hand to give tours of the Garden, including the composting and solar powered watering facilities that are on site.  “We love having kids in the Garden!” said Cataldo. “It is import to our mission as a land trust to have young folks get their hands dirty doing something good for the community, and to just enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing community asset.”

As this school year nears its end, students were able to stay engaged in their learning while participating in a service project for their community.  First graders have spent time this spring learning about plant life cycles, plant parts, and growing requirements.  Coffin teachers appreciated the opportunity for their students to experience the next phase in the gardening process by transplanting the plants they had grown in the classroom.  Most students enjoyed digging in the dirt and finding earthworms, but eating watermelon was a unanimous success.  First grader Sylus Pillsbury beamed as he said, “This is really fun!”

Chase Reserve Grand Opening

We opened a new trail for National Trails Day!

A new hiking trail at Chase Reserve on Bunganuc Road in Brunswick officially opened for business on National Trails Day (Saturday, June 3rd). Twenty-five adventurous souls showed up for guided walks on Saturday, curious for a look at this 193-acre property that is part of the largest undeveloped block of forestland in coastal Cumberland County. We hold a conservation easement on the property and built and manage the trail now open to the public.

On Saturday, several groups were guided along Jack’s Trail, a mile-long journey over rolling terrain through woods dominated by white pine, hemlock, and red oak, interspersed by small openings from a timber harvest. Pointing to decaying piles of branches from the harvest (slash), Land Trust Associate Director Caroline Eliot noted the benefits of leaving this material on site. It provides cover for small animals and nutrients for the next crop of trees. She added, “While it’s not pretty initially, it’s amazing how quickly the land recovers from the harvest.” Eliot pointed out how quickly ferns and wildflowers are reclaiming the herb layer and directed attention to dense spruce, fir, and white pine regeneration in small openings created by the harvest.

The trail has many small ups and downs as it winds through the hummocks and hollows of the forest.  Eliot remarked that deer tracks indicate wildlife is enjoying the trail as well. Hikers marveled at a 5-acre area of majestic, 100-year-old white pine and hemlock near the rear of the property. The easement designates this and several other areas for special management to protect particularly valuable or sensitive resources. Hikers were also fascinated by a moose rub on a six-inch diameter conifer at the edge of a clearing.  Large sections of bark had been scraped away up to seven feet above the ground by a moose’s antlers. One group observed a beaver in the beaver-created impoundment at the rear of the property. Here, at the trail’s end, the adventurous can cross an old beaver dam on the Little River (proceed with caution!), and pick up Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail.

The property, which is privately-owned, was conserved by Jack Henshaw in 2011. He was determined that the property, owned by his family since the 1940s, remain much as he experienced it growing up. Henshaw conveyed a conservation easement to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust ensuring the property will never be developed but allowing continued agricultural and forest management. At Jack Henshaw’s request, the Reserve was named for Benjamin Chase, owner of the property in the 1700s and Revolutionary War soldier.

Henshaw’s two daughters, Anne and Betsy, and a granddaughter, Lila Davies, attended one of the Saturday walks. His son, John Henshaw, lives nearby and is also actively involved in the family’s management of the property. Anne Henshaw said of her father, who passed away in 2013, “I know Dad would have been thrilled with the trail and the knowledge that these woods are being enjoyed by the community, especially dogs.  He loved to walk the property over the years with the many generations of dogs who called Chase Reserve home.” Dogs are allowed on leash on the trail at Chase Reserve and several were in attendance on Saturday.

The easement protects valuable coastal habitat abutting Maquoit Bay, to the benefit of clammers, wormers, boaters, fishermen, and others. It also protects streams and forested wetlands important to water quality in the bay. The property’s diverse habitat, which includes fields, small forest openings, and mature forest, and proximity to other undeveloped properties, makes it attractive to many birds and forest-dwelling animals.

The property’s many natural values and proximity to other conserved properties made it a top candidate for conservation. The conservation easement was funded primarily by a federal National Coastal Wetlands Grant, with additional financial support from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Open Space Conservancy, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, and Jack Henshaw.

Located just before the Freeport town boundary, Chase Reserve is marked by a small parking area on the upland side of the road. Public access to the property is limited to the trail which is marked by a white blaze. Visit this property soon and experience the deep quiet and rich bird song of this woodland!

The Land Trust has been working for over 35 years in the Brunswick-Topsham region to strengthen their community through conservation. With over 2,500 acres in conserved, the Land Trust also manages over 17 miles of trails, the Saturday Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm, Tom Settlemire Community Garden, Labyrinth in the Woods, along will a diverse array of events and programs.

 

2017 Bylaw Update

This year at our annual meeting we will be voting on an update to our Bylaws. Please review these edits and come to our Annual Meeting on June 22 to vote.

AMENDMENT OF BYLAWS

To read the full BTLT bylaws, click HERE.

The BTLT Board of Directors has undertaken a review of our Bylaws, last updated in 201O.  A number of editorial and substantive amendments are proposed for approval by the BTLT membership at the June 22, 2017 Annual Meeting. The attached annotated Bylaws shows specific suggested amendments.  The significant changes we wish to draw to members’ attention are:

  • The Purposes section includes more explicit reference to community benefits and added language on our general commitment to good governance and compliance with IRS requirements.
  • Require all Officers to be Directors. This is our practice but not required by the existing Bylaws.
  • Eliminate provisions for life members. We have never appointed a life member and do not expect to adopt this practice.
  • Provide flexibility to change the timing of the Annual Meeting if the Board of Directors determines this to be desirable.
  • Make procedure for resignations of Directors more flexible. Notification to any of the President, Vice President, or Secretary would be allowed, which reflects current practice.
  • Require written terms of reference for standing committees established by the Board beyond those mandated in the Bylaws. This has been our practice for the Development Committee and Community Engagement and Programs Committee.
  • Clarify provisions that allow the Board of Directors to authorize the Executive Director to sign checks and transfer funds on behalf of the Land Trust. With our larger staff and internal controls this authorization makes financial administration more efficient.
  • Strengthen language of Article XIII on prohibition of private gain. Now that we have a conflict of interest policy the Bylaws should make this a more explicit requirement.
  • Add to Article XIV on Dissolution recognition of the possibility of Merger. There have been increasing number of mergers among conservation organizations and this change will provide clarity of how such a situation would be handled.

 

 

Community Conservation on MPBN

Mark Ireland filming the fog lifting above Rangeley Lakes at sunrise

May 25th at 10:00 pm, and May 27th at 11:00 am MPBN will be showing “Community Conservation, finding the balance between nature and culture” a new film created by Mark Ireland of MI Media.

This documentary, shot throughout four seasons, profiles four active land trusts in different regions of Maine, demonstrating their efforts in making conserved lands available to all members of their community.

Practitioners of community conservation look deeply at the traditions and needs of their own community members to forge access to preserved lands and create projects that address those needs.  The four land trusts filmed provide great examples of community conservation:

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) works with gardeners, both local and from away (Africa!)  BTLT projects also range from supporting shellfish harvesters to supporting the faith community.

At Downeast Lakes Land Trust, community members served include school children, local crafts people, hunters and fishermen.

The Androscoggin Land Trust partners with various organizations to create access and programs for the immigrant community.

The Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust runs an Eco Camp which helps fund the cost for struggling local families with tourist dollars and the trust also runs a local campground.

The beauty of Maine, from coast to mountains, farmland to deep forests is captured in this documentary featuring hikers, kayakers, kids fishing, farmers, balsam tree-tippers, canoe-builders and many more, captured in all four seasons.

A Morning Birding at Crystal Spring Farm

by Kris Ganong, BTLT Board Member & Volunteer

On Friday, May 12 at 7:30am a group of 16 gathered at CSF to bird watch with expert birder, Jan Pierson.   The morning was gray and cool but not rainy.  At first we noticed the plentiful bird song while standing in the parking lot and slowly made our way down the East Trail to a pond.   I cannot begin to list all of the names of the birds we saw and heard, but Jan is truly amazing.   He can stand quietly listening and then list the birds we just heard.  He breaks down their calls to make them recognizable and knows many facts about each bird.  Most incredible is how far some of them travel!

We saw male bobolinks, solitary sandpipers in the pond, a scarlet tanager, and a blue bird nesting in a box.  We heard an ovenbird and tried hard to catch sight of him.   We walked from the pond past the farm buildings and onto the Quarry Trail listening and observing as we went.  Jan had a scope which he would focus on a bird and we could get a very good view.  Many of us had binoculars and reference books as well.

This calm insightful activity was a wonderful way to start the day.  Don’t miss an opportunity to bird watch on one of BTLT’s properties – it was terrific!

This event was part of our annual Spring Birding Extravaganza, a free series of birding events held in partnership with Merrymeeting Audubon, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, and Harpswell Heritage Land Trust.  Read more about this annual series and the upcoming events at www.btlt.org/spring-birding-extravaganza-2017

Accreditation – Your Input Needed!

We are Seeking Public Comment on Accreditation Renewal

The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands. Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is pleased to announce we are applying for renewal of accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. Executive Director Angela Twitchell notes that accreditation has been a positive force for the Land Trust. “Accreditation has brought a discipline to core aspects of our program. We have institutionalized best practices and are a stronger organization as a result.”

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, in a letter congratulating the Land Trust on its initial accreditation in 2012, stated, “It’s important that land trusts use best practices to ensure the sustainability of their organizations….It speaks to the strength of your ongoing commitment to serving our communities and future generations.”

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending accreditation applications.

Comments must relate to how Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust complies with national standards addressing the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 112 Spring Street, Suite 204, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s renewal application will be most useful by July 21, 2017.

Parking at Cathance River Nature Preserve

The status of Hiker Parking at Cathance River Nature Preserve remains in flux due to active development in the vicinity.  We will try to post updates as things change.

Please note that Ecology Center parking will be closed for paving at some points in the coming week (April 22-29), most likely on Tuesday.

Please respect roped off areas – cars will be towed by the contractor! No parking is allowed along the roads of Highland Green.

So what to do if you were hoping for a nice hike along the Cathance? We encourage you to use the parking at Head of Tide Park, which is plentiful and easy to access along the Cathance Road in Topsham.

Head of Tide Park is a just 1.4 mile hike from CRNP. From the Park, the Cathance River Trail (click for trailmap) snakes along the river and through its uplands, providing views of the pristine river and its undisturbed natural surroundings. The trail leads to the impressive 60-foot aluminum Clay Brook pedestrian bridge which was locally designed and fabricated and provides a trail connection to CRNP. Click HERE to read more about how this great trail connection was made possible.

Another option is to park at the golf clubhouse at Highland Green and walk on the sidewalk to trails. It is about half a mile to the golf cart path across from Sparrow Drive, which provides access to the Heath Trail. It is about ¾ mile to the trailhead at the Ecology Center.

Happy hiking!