BTLT In the News: “Land trust conserves Topsham’s Hideaway Farm property”

“Land trust conserves Topsham’s Hideaway Farm property” – Times Record

On June 30, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust conserved the Hideaway Farm property on the Cathance River in Topsham.

According to the trust, the property — previously owned by John Sczymecki — is significant because it abuts the conserved Robert Williams Preserve and will add an additional 1,000 feet of shorefront and 18 acres to this connected, conserved landscape.

To make this conservation effort possible, $138,000 was raised by June 30 to acquire and manage the property. The trust met its goal just before the closing deadline.

The town of Topsham, Merrymeeting Bay Trust, Davis Conservation Fund, John Sage Foundation and 70 individual donors supported the conservation effort.

“The Town of Topsham has a long history of working with BTLT to conserve natural resources and recreational opportunities along the Cathance River,” Topsham Parks and Recreation Director Pam Leduc said. “We were very happy to be able to help make the conservation of the Hideaway Farm property possible by contributing funds from our Open Space In lieu fund.

“These monies were generated from impacts on open space due to development and are set aside to be used for conservation and recreation purposes. We see the Hideaway Farm project as a great example of leveraging these dollars to conserve important habitat and create an opportunity for additional recreational trails and public access to the Cathance River.”

Over the course of 30 years, the trust has conserved more than 1,100 acres and 43,000 feet of riverfront along the Cathance River.

According to the land trust, the Hideaway Farm will enhance conservation efforts along the rivers that flow through Brunswick and Topsham into Merrymeeting Bay, including the Cathance River, around which the trust is trying to conserve the largely undeveloped area.

To view the article online, click here.

Hideaway Farm Property Successfully Conserved!

John Sczymecki, BTLT staff and Vice President at Hideaway Farm closing on 6/30/2022

This morning, we closed on the Hideaway Farm property on the Cathance River in Topsham. This property is especially significant because it abuts the previously conserved Robert Williams Preserve and will add an additional 1,000 feet of shore frontage and 18 acres to this connected, conserved landscape. Protecting the undeveloped shoreline of the Cathance River has been a major focus for us for three decades. In that time, we have conserved more than 1,100 acres and 43,000 feet of river frontage. 

When Hideaway Farm landowner, John Sczymecki, was ready to sell this special parcel, his desire was for it to remain undeveloped. We are grateful to Mr. Sczymecki for working with us to ensure that the property will be conserved to protect its special habitat and outdoor recreational values forever.

To make this conservation effort possible, $138,000 needed to be raised by June 30 to acquire and manage the property. The community responded enthusiastically, and the goal was met just before the closing deadline. Special thanks go out to the Town of Topsham, Merrymeeting Bay Trust, Davis Conservation Fund, John Sage Foundation, and 70 individual donors whose generous support made the conservation of Hideaway Farm possible.

The Topsham Conservation Commission (TCC) was an important partner in this project. The Land Trust and the Commission work together to conserve lands in Topsham that are identified as priorities in the Town’s Comprehensive and Natural Areas Plans. The TCC worked with Pam Leduc, Topsham’s Director of Parks and Recreation, to facilitate a donation to the project from the Town of Topsham. The Land Trust is incredibly grateful to Town staff and the Select Board for their support.

The Town of Topsham has a long history of working with BTLT to conserve natural resources and recreational opportunities along the Cathance River. We were very happy to be able to help make the conservation of the Hideaway Farm property possible by contributing funds from our Open Space In lieu fund. These monies were generated from impacts on open space due to development and are set aside to be used for conservation and recreation purposes. We see the Hideaway Farm project as a great example of leveraging these dollars to conserve important habitat and create an opportunity for additional recreational trails and public access to the Cathance River,” said Leduc.

The rivers that flow through Brunswick and Topsham into Merrymeeting Bay (including the Cathance River) are among BTLT’s highest priority conservation areas, in large part because Merrymeeting Bay has such tremendous ecological, economic, historic, and recreational value to our region. 

This parcel will significantly enhance existing conservation efforts in this important focus area, increasing the forested buffer and associated water quality protection for the Cathance River. The addition of this property to the matrix of conserved lands along the river will create new connections between conserved lands and increase the value of conserved habitat.  The location of this property — across from BTLT’s Tarbox Preserve and abutting the Robert Williams Preserve – is particularly important as we strives to conserve the largely undeveloped river corridor in this area. 

 

 

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.

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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.