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BTLT in the News, “Maine Voices: Maine Land Trust Network helps support ‘the way life should be'”

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is featured in the Portland Press Herald today! Angela Twitchell, BTLT Executive Director, and Nick Ullo, Boothbay Region Land Trust Executive Director, wrote this informative article on the many benefits of Land Trusts in Maine.

“The Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee has been studying Maine land trusts since October. As leaders of the Maine Land Trust Network, we welcome the study and the chance to highlight the many ways we make Maine “the way life should be.”

Last summer, the Maine Land Trust Network surveyed our members and published the findings in a report titled “Land Trusts Work for Maine.” This report highlights the most important benefits that land trusts contribute to our local communities and to the state. For example, hikers can explore more than 1,250 miles of trails that wind through land trust properties in every corner of Maine. These range from family-friendly nature paths in communities like Freeport, to more challenging routes ending atop bald summits in rural corners of Oxford County, and everything in between. Motorized recreational enthusiasts also benefit from Maine’s statewide collection of land trust conserved lands, which are home to over 345 miles of ATV trails and 570 miles of snowmobile trails.”

To read more of the article, click the link below.

Maine Voices: Maine Land Trust Network helps support ‘the way life should be’

Mindfulness in the Woods

By Susan Olcott

I loved the calm that followed the October wind storm – no sounds of machines or even music playing in our dark house, save for the whooshing of falling leaves – and only the flickers of candles to see by once the sun had set. I wanted more of the simplicity that being without electricity had provided. Our girls also felt a bit shortchanged when the power came back, bringing an end to unexpected family time spent playing board games by the fire and evenings carrying lanterns up to bed. It encouraged our family to focus on each other – my husband and I couldn’t work without the internet and many of our daily routines like bathing ourselves and washing clothes and dishes were suspended without hot water and the use of our electric machines. We were all truly present in the moment and it got me thinking of ways to replicate this in our daily lives.

Mindfulness is becoming a common term in more circles than just yoga studios. In school, even in first grade, our girls practice breathing techniques to calm down and focus their brains on the learning that they need to do. And, in a recent meeting of a nature playgroup that we are a part of, one of the mothers led a lesson on mindfulness in nature. Each child walked along a short stretch of trail by him or herself in silence. And us parents had a chance to stand quietly in the woods along the trail by ourselves as well. Rain dripped off of leaves, birds chirped, clouds moved – there was much to observe. Then we shared that one of the reasons we adults love to be outside is nature’s ability to settle our often-busy minds. In addition, the motion of walking keeps our bodies busy so that our minds can become calm. This is particularly true of children who can often focus better while in motion!

Lili and Phoebe in the Labyrinth

This led me back to the labyrinth. I had walked the labyrinth with my girls before – at events like its opening ceremony and the lantern-lit solstice walk, and several times in between. But, I wanted to do it again since they had been working on the practice of mindfulness. This time, as before, they silently walked back and forth. They looked carefully for the stones, many of which were covered in wet leaves. But, when they reached the center, they each picked a different bench and sat quietly. They continued to be silent even after I reached the center, not seeming overeager to see what might happen next and what I might have brought in my bag (which often contains goodies). After a few moments, I motioned them over to sit on either side of me and I was the first to break the silence – amazing! We shared some cider while we also shared the thoughts we had while walking. Lili daydreamed of tiny fairies that could bring back to life those we have lost in our lives; and Phoebe thought of how grateful she was to have food and a warm house to live in – serious stuff for six year olds! Phoebe reminded me that mindfulness included looking outward as well as inward, so we spent a few moments looking and listening. Lili noticed that the trees that had fallen made the woods look more interesting and Phoebe said the circle of trees around us reminded her of the circle of life (cue “The Lion King”).

A drawing of the Labyrinth and mindfulness in the woods.

On our way back out, I asked them to focus on what the labyrinth looks like – its shape and patterns, and told them that they would have to draw it when we got home. I told them they could draw what they thought of as the labyrinth but that it didn’t have to look like exactly like it. What they drew was full of whimsy and imagination both from their inside thoughts and from their natural observations.

This all took place in less than an hour but seemed to fuel us for the rest of the day as if we had smoothed out the squiggles in our brains by tracing them with our feet – well worth the time and I hope to do it again soon. And this year, more than ever, I look forward to the December solstice walk to trace the labyrinth’s patterns by the light of lanterns in celebration of the darkness.

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.