Archive for category: Conservation Story

American Chestnut Trees Planted at Tarbox

On Monday, June 22, BTLT welcomed Larry Totten of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) to the Tarbox Preserve in Topsham. The ACF is a national organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the native chestnut tree as well as to cultivate and plant blight-resistant trees. Totten, a member of the Maine chapter, brought twelve saplings grown at the University of Maine-Orono. With the help of Stewardship Manager Margaret Gerber, BTLT summer intern Dylan Sloan, and CREA summer intern Alex Gates, the Tarbox Preserve is now home to those twelve chestnut saplings, which will eventually grow into a small grove.

The Chestnut tree is native to the eastern United States. “[The tree grows on the] eastern seaboard,” said Totten. “More in the mountains than the coast, along the Appalachian Mountains and all the way uphill.” Although the tree does grow in the wild in Maine, the ACF’s work is vital in ensuring that blight-resistant trees can be introduced to coastal environments such as midcoast Maine.

Totten and the rest of the Maine chapter of the ACF often reach out to organizations such as the BTLT inquiring about possible locations to plant chestnut seedlings. When the BTLT suggested the Tarbox Preserve and brought him out to take a look at it, he had a feeling it would do the trick.

“[This spot] had some good decent soil on top, and it appeared to be well-drained,” said Totten. The clearing, which is just a few hundred yards from the parking lot, receives direct sunlight and drains well because it is on top of a small hill. Hopefully, the prime location will yield healthy trees that will quickly grow out of their support tubes. However, it’s hard to estimate at what rate these trees will develop.

“It’s so hard to define as a single answer. In ideal soil, these seedlings will be out of their planting tubes (around 4 feet) by the end of the summer,” said Totten. “If they get enough water and they like the soil…they’ll get out of the tube. But then you have to worry about deer eating the leaves!”

The trees at Tarbox Preserve are the offspring of wild American chestnuts discovered and preserved by the American Chestnut Foundation. They will hopefully grow to adulthood before the fungal blight gets to them.

“These [saplings] are all wild stock. Elsewhere in Maine, we’ve got 45,000 trees in the ground that are a fifth-generation crossbreed from the Chinese,” said Totten. “[All of the candidates] will be injected with blight. The blight kills most of them, but if we end up with two blight-resistant trees, we’re good. All you need is two!”

One of the ACF’s largest projects is experimenting with disease resistance in chestnut trees. Recently, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York has a breakthrough in injecting wheat genes into a Chestnut tree for increased disease resistance. The specimen is still awaiting governmental approval, but if it is given the green light it could be the “next big thing” for chestnut reforestation on the east coast.

“We have three different programs going, and [disease resistance] one of them” said Totten. “Another is gene preservation, which is in a sense what we’re doing here—but I hope it’s going to be more than that!”

Indeed, as the years go by this grove of chestnut trees will hopefully do much more than preserve the chestnut gene pool—they will also be a beautiful feature for visitors to the Tarbox Preserve to enjoy. Although it will be more than a few years before these trees grow to adulthood, this partnership between the BTLT and the ACF will yield a gorgeous chestnut grove in the future.

BTLT’s Year in Review

At this wonderful time of giving and thanks, we want to express our deep gratitude to the many hundreds of loyal supporters who made the work of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) possible this year.

BTLT is a member-driven community organization that works collaboratively with municipalities and partner organizations to conserve the remarkable natural resources of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin.  Just as important as conserving these natural places is connecting the people of our region to them.   We made great strides in 2019 in both of these areas.

BTLT’s star achievement of 2019 was our collaboration with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust to conserve Woodward Point, nearly 90 acres of land with two miles of shorefront on Woodward Cove and the New Meadow River in Brunswick. This spectacular property was opened to the public in September and in just a few months has become an indispensable entrée to the waterfront for the people of our area, where public access to the coast is so limited.

Woodward Point Preserve

BTLT also created brand-new trails on the Tarbox Preserve in Topsham.  This beautiful wooded 124-acre property has frontage on both the Cathance and the Muddy Rivers.  Last July our staff and regional field team cleared old logging roads, hauled stone, and removed roots and boulders to create a trail on the north side of the property that winds along stone walls, through fern gullies, and past towering pines to a peninsula overlooking the Cathance River.  We encourage you to get out on this beautiful new trail in all seasons of the year.

Tarbox Preserve

BTLT completed two other significant conservation projects in Topsham in 2019:  the Robert Williams Preserve, totaling 73 acres with 5,600’ of river frontage on the tidal portion of the Cathance River; and the 53-acre Schoodic Forestry parcel, with more than two miles of frontage on the Androscoggin River in a part of town without much conserved land.  In addition to protecting wetlands and wildlife habitat, it will allow for public access to the river for hiking, fishing, and enjoying nature.

Crystal Spring Farm Celebration

The theme of the Land Trust’s community outreach this year has been “Honoring Our Heritage, Building Our Future.”  We honored our heritage in grand style with a year-long celebration of BTLT’s signature property Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, complete with nature and history walks, citizen science, and a festival of music and food at the farm in September.  2019 marked 25 years since we undertook conservation of the farm and 20 years since we opened our award-winning farmers’ market.  We are proud of all the work BTLT does to support local agriculture, and the market is the centerpiece of these efforts, providing a vibrant market to 39 local farmers, bakers, cheesemakers and others producers. In the “Building our Future” category, we continued to build robust partnerships with local schools and some of our most meaningful days this year were spent with dozens of school children getting their hands dirty and learning where local food comes from at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden.

Another major initiative in 2019 was the member and community survey BTLT conducted last summer.  Over 520 people responded to the survey with great feedback on what we are doing right and where we can improve.  We expect to respond to some of the survey results immediately, with plans for things like better signage and more guided walks at BTLT properties.  Other survey findings will be incorporated more gradually through the upcoming review of our five-year strategic plan, helping us to ensure that as an organization we are meeting our members’ expectations and responding to identified community needs.

Community Survey

As we celebrate our many achievements in 2019, we are also aware that every conservation success today entails future responsibility.  When the Land Trust conserves a property, it also takes on a commitment – in perpetuity – for responsible stewardship of the land.  A firm financial footing is essential to ensure we are able to meet that responsibility.  In 2019, BTLT increased the size of its stewardship endowment to $700,000, making significant progress toward our five-year goal of $2 million. We also created the BTLT Legacy Circle to recognize and thank those who include BTLT in their estate plans.  We are proud to report that 18 individuals and families have already made such a commitment.  Legacy gifts are the cornerstone of BTLT’s long-term sustainability and ensure that the places we conserve today will remain well taken care of for generations to come.

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2019 possible.  We look forward to 2020 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them.  Happy New Year!

If you’d like to help support BTLT in 2020, click here.

Angela Twitchell and Emily Swan are the executive director and president, respectively, of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

BTLT in the News, “Merrymeeting Bay groups look to tackle farm labor shortage”

Merrymeeting Bay groups look to tackle farm labor shortage

By Sandy Stott

December 6, 2019

On December 16th, the Merrymeeting Food Council is hosting a roundtable that’s open to the public on Monday, December 16th.

A wide-ranging group of stakeholders from the Merrymeeting Bay area are getting together later this month to discuss ways to address the local farm labor shortage.

The Merrymeeting Food Council and University of Maine Cooperative Extension are hosting a roundtable Monday, Dec. 16, to discuss farm labor models, share resources and build a network focused on short and long-term solutions to a shortage of workers in the industry.

The council, based in Brunswick, represents 14 towns that surround Merrymeeting Bay, including Richmond, Dresden, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Woolwich, Bath, Topsham, Brunswick, West Bath, Arrowsic, Westport, Harpswell, Phippsburg and Georgetown. The group is a collaborative network of farms, fisheries, businesses, nonprofits, government and individuals working together to advance the food system in the region.

Planning partners for the event besides the food council include area farmers and representatives of Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative; Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust; the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; the Maine Department of Labor; Land for Good; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

To read the rest of the recent article, click here.

To register for the Roundtable or learn more about the Merrymeeting Food Council, click here.

BTLT in the News, “Canoeing in Maine: Exploring Woodward Point in Brunswick”

Canoeing in Maine: Exploring Woodward Point in Brunswick

By Michael Perry

November 10, 2019

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust recently conserved Woodward Point Preserve in Brunswick. This property is open to the public and has fantastic water access; not only can you enjoy the view of the New Meadows River from land, but you can paddle around the point as well.The Portland Press Herald’s Michael Perry recently wrote about a November paddle around Woodward Point complete with tips and tricks on how to maximize your time on the water.

We basked in the mid-morning sun and gazed down the New Meadows River toward the brilliant yellows of maples and golden browns of oaks at the end of Foster Point. We heard the voices of a couple coming down through the woods to the shore. The husband summed up the spot perfectly, “a good place to bring a picnic.”

The preserve is a recent collaboration of Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, made possible by the generosity of the Cook-Ellis family who farmed the property for many years. Nearly two miles of clearly marked trails meander through green meadows and through pine, hemlock and oak forests. It seemed odd walking through a preserve with the call of chickadees, blue jays and crows mixing with the sound of gulls. One of the meadow trails swings by a picturesque farm pond displaying artistic reflections of the pines bordering the pond. The white flowers of yarrow mixed with the yellow of dandelions and purple of clover. We even found a few strawberry blossoms. Was it really November?

To read the rest of the recent article in the Portland Press Herald, click here.

BTLT in the News, “Land trusts celebrate the opening of Brunswick’s Woodward Point”

Land trusts celebrate the opening of Brunswick’s Woodward Point

By Hannah LaClaire

September 30, 2019

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust celebrated the opening of Woodward Point Preserve on Saturday, September 28th. This new preserve is now open to the public, boasting 87 acres of forests, fields, meadows, and over two miles of shoreline along two peninsulas on the New Meadows River in Brunswick.

Countless porcupines, bobolinks, shellfish and butterflies have enjoyed Brunswick’s Woodward Point for years, and now the town’s human residents can enjoy the area’s natural beauty as well.

More than 100 people turned out to explore the 87 acres of sprawling meadows, forested trails and rocky coastline to help the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust officially open the preserve and celebrate the culmination of a two-year effort to conserve the parcel.

The trusts raised $3.5 million to purchase the land and provide for its long-term management as a public preserve, including $150,000 from Brunswick in January, a $400,000 grant from the state’s Land for Maine’s Future Program, and $570,000 from a federal Coastal Wetlands grant.

That access to has been touted as one of the particular benefits of the property. While Brunswick’s coastline isn’t exactly composed of white sandy beaches, the land trusts hope the preserve will be a place where families can come swim, kayak, fish and enjoy the water, said Caitlin Gerber, a land steward for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.The land includes roughly 1.5 miles of trails and more than 2 miles of shore frontage on the New Meadows River and Woodward Cove that features four places with water access. Dogs are allowed in the preserve and must be leashed.

To read the rest of the recent article in the Portland Press Herald, click here.