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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Sandy Stott
December 6, 2019
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.
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.
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.
By Alex Lear
July 23, 2019
Head of Tide Park is Topsham’s first waterfront park. The Park is located at the Cathance River’s head of tide, or the furthest upstream that the tide impacts the river and is home to a 15-foot waterfall, trail head, picnic pavilions, and hand-carry boat launch to access the lower, or tidal section of the river. The town of Topsham is hoping to improve this space, though, with better parking and a hand-carry boat launch.
The Portland Press Herald recently covered these proposed improvements in a story by Alex Lear.
The town is seeking $55,000 in grants from the state to improve parking and build a hand-carry boat launch at Head of Tide Park.
The Board of Selectmen on July 18 unanimously authorized Town Manager Rich Roedner to apply for the funding, which is available through the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ Boating Facilities Fund.
The total project would cost $73,000; $18,000, or 25%, would be provided by the town – $10,000 from the current budget and $8,000 from in-kind work by Public Works, according to Town Planner Rod Melanson.
The 12-acre Cathance River park, at 235 Cathance Road, is owned by the town and stewarded by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. It offers a 15-foot waterfall at the river’s highest tidal reach, hand-carry boat access on either side of the falls, a trailhead that connects to more than 7 miles of trails, and picnic and parking areas.
Tim Glidden & Angela Twitchell
June 16, 2019
Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust recently acquired Woodward Point, a property totaling 87 acres along the New Meadows River. The property was discussed in another CentralMaine.com article earlier this month and thus, Tim Glidden, the President of MCHT, and Angela Twitchell, Executive Director of BTLT, wrote to expand the reader’s understanding of this exciting update.
We read Douglas Rooks’ column (“Conservation land a big draw,” June 6) with great interest and were pleased to see that the town of Wayne is considering expanding its publicly accessible waterfront. We are writing to share the full picture of the example in Brunswick that Rooks cited.
While the town’s decision to sell a tax-foreclosure property was the source of some local controversy, the story has a happy ending. The town reserved a significant portion of the sale proceeds, dedicating them to improving public access to Brunswick’s coast, an opportunity that is in particularly short and shrinking supply on the Maine coast. With generous and enthusiastic financial support from the town, our organizations, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, came together to acquire and conserve 87 acres on the New Meadows River that provides public access to two miles of coastline, including highly productive clam flats. Community divided no longer!
We’d also draw your readers attention to the recommendations of a recent statewide Land Conservation Task Force, maineconservationtaskforce.com) released earlier this year. The 1986 effort referenced by Mr. Rooks led to the creation of the Land for Maine’s Future Program now popular across all of Maine that has assisted communities like Brunswick to conserve the cherished lands and waters that form the basis of Maine’s economy and quality of life.
The new report stresses the importance of community-led land conservation efforts like those in Wayne and Brunswick. Even as we write, the Legislature is considering a major new Land for Maine’s Future bond to support implementation of the task force recommendations.
We agree with Mr. Rooks: “Effectively combining conservation with economic development may not be the whole answer, but it’s surely a good place to start.”