BTLT In the News: “The wonders of Woodward Point Preserve”

“The Wonders of Woodward Point Preserve”

By Jane Olsen, The Bowdoin Orient

After weeks of exploring the natural beauty around Bowdoin’s campus, each location has both astounded me and reminded me of the endless opportunities we have to explore the beauty of Maine. As my last column of the year, Woodward Point Preserve is no exception.

Through winding trails between the trees, this preserve offers secluded access to the coast. With five different pathways—none more than half a mile long—there is something for everyone within these trails. Wooden benches along the way invite the passerby to sit and watch the sea while wildflowers beckon visitors to take a closer look.

The drive to this destination is only ten minutes from Bowdoin. As the road nears the Preserve, signs for quaint side streets like Oyster Ledge and Periwinkle Lane hint towards simple delights within reach.

At the end of the road, between two red barns, you’ll find a parking lot bustling with visitors. These barns are physical remnants of the previous occupants of the land, a farming operation that grew hay and cared for dairy and beef cows.

In an effort to keep the land open to the public, the Cook-Ellis family sold their farm to The Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) in 2019. The MCHT has partnered with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and numerous private contributors to raise funds and manage ownership. This preserve is one of many conservation efforts by the MCHT from Kittery to Lubec, Maine. As articulated on their website, the organization prioritizes access, climate resilience and community support.

The Preserve boasts a 1.5 mile network of trails, 87.5 acres of upland, 38 acres of subtidal wetlands and four acres of fringing salt marsh. As one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land in northern Casco Bay, the intertidal lands include valuable shellfish beds, high-value waterfowl and wading bird habitats. The nearby New Meadows River also supports one of the fastest growing aquaculture industries in the state. Not only is Woodward Point a location rich with conservation efforts, but it is also a collection of gasp-worthy trails and seaside views.

A visit at low tide reveals the stunning geological formations emerging from the turquoise water. At each access point to the water, stone steps provide easy access down to the shoreline for dipping your toes into the refreshing current or leaning into the breeze. If you’re lucky you may spot a blue heron, bald eagle or bobolink.

Back on land, woodpeckers, foxes, porcupines and racoons meander through the trees. Aside from searching for animals, this preserve offers a kayak launching point and in the winter, a short loop for snowshoeing or Nordic skiing. For younger visitors, the MCHT offers maps with themes such as fairies or pirates to foster education of the land.

Encouraging knowledge of the environment around us is vital to protecting the future of Maine’s natural landscapes. I hope that by highlighting a few locations around and beyond campus I have sparked your interest in finding pleasure in the outdoors and aiding efforts to conserve such beauty.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Your Land: What you can see (and what you can’t) – Earth Day ‘22”

Your Land: What you can see (and what you can’t) – Earth Day ‘22

By Sandy Stott

A cool spring morning, with rising wind. It is the season — post-snow and pre-spring-growth — where what’s been thrown and blown away is easy to spot, and I’ve come to this part of Brunswick Landing with 30+ others to clear the area of this hand- and wind-scattered trash.

At my back, a one-story building, its long windows opening out toward a field, houses the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). Often working partners, these two conservation organizations help preserve and manage lands, bring people to those lands, and promote the spirit that adheres to and rises from those lands. Close by the building lie the plots of the New Mainers Garden, where sign of that spirit will poke soon above ground. CREA has organized today’s clean-up, and their executive director, Caroline Eliot, has welcomed our mixed lot, including a number of families (thank you, parents), and, with expansive gestures, she’s turned us loose to clean.

Armed with a picker-upper and an empty bag, I begin to work through the grasses and small pines above a crushed rock berm at the base of a thin pond. Snagged among the grasses: 2 paper coffee cups (company name withheld), plastic lid and straw, two linked post-it notes (task completed, I assume), white chunk of shipping foam, wad of paper towel, bottle cap, ah, the companion plastic bottle, a once-upon-a-pencil, bags 1, 2 and 3, (plastic). And on.

I near the water. I look back upfield, and I can see no remaining trash. Soon, I’ll join the others as they fan out into the woods and along nearby roads to fill their bags further. By morning’s end we’ll have tens of bags full. But first I turn back to the pond. I know this water. The eastern branch of the Mere Brook watershed, it too needs (and is slated for) cleansing work.

Named Pond B, the water before me has been put to work. Not far upstream sibling Pond A pools behind its own dam, and just above that the waters emerge from twin culverts that run beneath Brunswick Landing. Ponds A and B, and downstream relatives, Pond Area C and Picnic Pond receive and process 80% of the stormwater that runs off the Landing. It’s all headed finally south for Mere Brook, and then, Harpswell Cove.

Such water from a heavily-peopled, asphalt-rich site carries within the chemical equivalents of the thrown and blown trash we’re all gathering today. A full catalogue of this water’s trouble would burst the seams of this column. But before I head into the woods in pursuit of more visible trash, I want to describe briefly how the Ponds Stormwater System works, and how, over time, its waters may be redeemed.

When it rains heavily, run-off water rushes throughout the Landing. That hurried water picks up whatever’s available — grit, pollutants, bits of trash; it all courses through the system, swelling, rising. When that water reaches the ponds, it does what we all do in quieter water — it slows down. And, as it slows, it lays down some of its burden, the grit and particulates, the pollutants; that load sinks to the bottom, over time layering it. The now partially-cleansed water flows on seaward. A modicum of success.

But time’s accumulations finally make these pond-bottoms toxic, no-touch sediments that should be cleaned. Such a remediation is at hand for the Ponds system. The Navy, which put the system in place in the mid-90s, has contracted for roughly $5 million to have these sediments removed this summer and fall. A layer of clean sand will then be laid in place. The Ponds will then go back to work slowing and sorting the stormwater, which, given the successful repurposing of the former Navy Base as Brunswick Landing, will be substantial work.

Here, beside this working water, I’m thinking about the dilemma of our presence. We slough off so much, visible and invisible; how we manage our slough, how we minimize our trail of discard is an essential challenge on this Earth Day and every day.

It’s an hour later, and I’ve followed the deliberate course of my trash picking into a little draw. A tiny, transparent stream runs along its bottom toward Pond area C; on its banks, my favorite spring harbinger spirals up, maroon surprise. Before it becomes a green fan of leaf, Skunk Cabbage begins as twisting eruption from the newly soft ground; it is sculpture of the highest quality. Nearby, mid-stream, lies the thin manilla fin of a sandbar shaped by the running water. The sand’s surface is stirred and I bend to it; there, in a two-way script, go the paw prints of fellow travelers — raccoon (I’m sure), fox (I think), and the plush pads of a rogue cat(?). Here, in this little draw, slowed by my work of finding trash, I’m finding also the prints and presence of fellow animals. We are all of this earth. I owe them this effort to clean the seen and unseen litter of my life.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident, chair of the town’s Conservation Commission, and a member of Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Board of Directors. He writes for a variety of publications. He may be reached at fsandystott@gmail.com

To read the full article online, click here. 

 

BTLT In the News: “Keeping Up with a Fast Growing Multilingual Learner Population: Merrymeeting’s Story”

News Provided By Maine Department of Education

Keeping Up with a Fast Growing Multilingual Learner Population: Merrymeeting’s Story

This article was written by Paul Elisha, Academic Counselor for Merrymeeting Adult Education

When I first started working as the Academic Counselor at Merrymeeting Adult Education in 2010, our Multilingual Learner (formerly referred to as English Language Learner [ELL] or English Learner [EL]) program consisted of one English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class, one teacher, and about eight students. For the next nine years, our ESOL program fluctuated from 5 to 20 students, one to three teachers, and one to three classes. So in the fall of 2019, when I received a call from Carol Kalajainen of the Midcoast New Mainers Group saying they had about 30 asylum seekers coming to the Brunswick area who were in need of ESOL classes, I panicked inside.

Up until that phone call with Carol, I had never heard of the Midcoast New Mainers Group. I quickly discovered that they are a non-profit, faith-based group of volunteers committed to helping New Mainers get the resources and support they need to reach sustainability and establish a sense of belonging in the local community. They were eager to get the wave of asylum seekers coming to the Brunswick area connected with free English classes as soon as possible. Our first problem, however, was that none of the asylum seekers had reliable transportation to get to our classes in Topsham or Bath. When it became evident that a majority of them were moving into housing on the Brunswick Landing near the Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) Midcoast Campus, we reached out to our partners over there. They graciously provided free classroom space in the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) Brunswick Center.

We immediately utilized the space at UMA Brunswick to do intakes, advising, CASAS testing, and classes with students. The location was ideal, but within a couple of weeks we found ourselves on the brink of being removed from campus due to one big issue: noise control. The asylum seeking families had no childcare set up, so they were bringing their young toddlers and babies to class. While UMA and SMCC were conducting college classes in the building, little kids were running around playing and yelling to each other in the lobby and moms were consoling screaming babies in the hallways.

Carol and I brainstormed the situation and the Midcoast New Mainers Group stepped in to help these families access childcare at the local Head Start and other daycares in the area. Carol and I remained in constant communication to ensure, to the best of our abilities, that classes were held during times that families had access to childcare.

As an additional resource, we were able to utilize Midcoast Literacy, a non-profit organization in Bath that provides free literacy education. Midcoast Literacy connected all of our new Multilingual Learner students with an English tutor. Arrangements were made for tutors and students to meet on the SMCC Midcoast Campus or at Curtis Memorial Library to ensure that tutoring sessions were within walking distance from where most of the asylum seekers lived.

Just as it seemed we were starting to get our feet under us in being able to serve an Multilingual Learner population three times bigger than what we were used to, COVID-19 hit. With an amazing display of flexibility, patience, and creativity, our ESOL teachers dove into conducting their classes over Zoom. The Midcoast New Mainers Group worked with both Midcoast Literacy and Bowdoin College to provide refurbished computers, laptops or tablets/iPADS to asylum seekers for them to connect with our classes and their Midcoast Literacy tutors online.

Over time, as things gradually opened back up from the pandemic, Kelli Park, one of our ESOL teachers, helped get our Multilingual Learner families outside and connected to the community. She partnered with the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust to hold outdoor potlucks and community gatherings on the Brunswick Landing (conveniently located near where a lot of our Multilingual Learner families live). This has encouraged a lot of our Multilingual Learner students to dive into learning English by immersion as they share conversation, food, music and games with each other.

As more asylum seeking families and refugees from Afghanistan move into the Brunswick area, Merrymeeting Adult Education continues to seek ways that we can grow our ESOL programming. We currently offer 10 different ESOL classes from the Beginner to Advanced levels (three of them are in-person at the UMA Brunswick Center and seven are on Zoom). We hold two in-person Accent classes at our Topsham center for Intermediate and Advanced Multilingual Learner students. Plus, we are running for the first time this April an Multilingual Learner Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Preparation Course and Northstar Digital Literacy Course for Intermediate and Advanced Multilingual Learner students interested in becoming a CNA and/or enhancing their computer skills for the workforce.

Now, in addition to having seven ESOL teachers on staff, we have also hired an interpreter, Benedita Kakhuba, who is fluent in English, Portuguese, French, Lingala and Spanish. Benedita and her family are asylum seekers from Angola. Back in the 20-21 school year, she went through our Maine College & Career Access Program to gain acceptance into Southern Maine Community College, where she currently attends part-time. As Benedita takes classes toward a degree in Business Administration, she works for us and for the Immigration Resource Center of Maine as their Housing Assistance Specialist to provide language assistance and cultural brokering services for New Mainers applying for the emergency rental assistance program. Her linguistic skills and passion for helping New Mainers gain opportunities to increase their English language skills has greatly enhanced our ESOL programming.

The Midcoast New Mainers Group continues to support our Multilingual Learner students by coordinating volunteer transportation to and from our Topsham and Bath locations for intakes, academic advising, and CASAS testing appointments. In addition, the Midcoast New Mainers Group has provided funds for our Multilingual Learner students to have their high school diplomas officially translated into English, which is often the first step toward accessing college or specific job opportunities. Plus, they have partnered with a dozen or so businesses in the Brunswick area who are committed to hiring New Mainers as soon as they receive their work permits.

When I received that initial call from Carol Kalajainen back in 2019, I had no idea how we were going to meet the academic needs of a Multilingual Learner population which was three times the size of what we were used to. I did not feel ready. Looking back, I realize that if it wasn’t for the Midcoast New Mainers Group, Midcoast Literacy, UMA Brunswick, SMCC, Curtis Memorial Library, Bowdoin College, Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, the many businesses in our area committed to providing jobs for our Multilingual Learner students, and the flexibility, ingenuity, hard work and passion of the teachers and staff at Merrymeeting Adult Education, we would not be where we are today. I have learned that it is important to tap into every resource our community has to offer when serving our students. I’m incredibly grateful for all of our local partners and community members who have stepped up to help our New Mainers feel welcome and at home here in Brunswick, Maine.

To read the full article online, click here. 

Featured photo taken at New Mainer Heritage Harvest Pot Luck in October 2021. 

BTLT In the News: “Simple joys and ecological abundance at Wharton Point”

 

Simple joys and ecological abundance at Wharton Point

By Jane Olsen (Staff Writer for the Bowdoin Orient — Class of 2024)

I was first introduced to seaside mudflats through Sal’s clamming adventures in Robert McClosky’s “One Morning in Maine.” Growing up far from Maine, this children’s book gave me a glimpse into life in Maine and highlighted nature’s cultural importance in the state. McClowsky’s works invite readers to find joy in simplicity, and they inspired me to begin this column—to illuminate spaces right around the corner from Bowdoin that can evoke a similar elation.

This week, I discovered the long marshy grasses at Wharton Point, which is only a 15 minute bike ride or a 7 minute drive from Bowdoin’s campus. A simple route to the water, I followed Maine Street until it became Maquoit Road, leading me to a dock that eases to the bay.

Named after the seventeenth-century Brunswick settler Thomas Wharton, Wharton Point has a rich ecological history that dates back to before the ancestors of the native Wabanaki people used the area for cartage and clamming. The salt marshes generate a tidal mixing of nutrients with organic matter that provide an important habitat for shellfish and wildlife, hosting thousands of birds year-round as they seek refuge from 20,000 mile-long migration routes.

Numerous local organizations have collaborated to protect this land around the bay, including the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Conservation work has allowed the area to remain a focus for environmental research by local students. Maine is one of the only states today that still has local shellfish management programs, and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources Public Health Division helps to monitor shellfish populations, assist in issuing fishing licenses and setting harvest limits, with access given sparingly to depuration diggers or local harvesters.

Such conservation efforts are needed amidst the various threats to the future of clams, including their economic value but also the beauty of their habitat. Wharton Point faces challenges associated with bacterial, natural and chemical pollutants, as well as the impacts of ocean acidification and coastal erosion.

Without a natural predator in Maine, green crabs also pose a threat to clams, shore crabs and oysters. Various conservation groups have considered solutions that benefit both the ecosystem and the economy, fostering initiatives to build fences to protect shellfish beds and set traps along the shore to decrease crab population. There is much more than meets the eye at Wharton Point, and a lot of hard work contributes to the preservation of its beauty.

Sitting out on the dock, among grasses dancing in the wind and water shimmering in the light, Wharton Point is the perfect spot for a breath of fresh air. With years of bountiful history beneath the surface, you’ll want to stay longer than a mere moment.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Giving Voice: Harvest for Hunger Program is helping Mainers. Here’s how.”

 

Giving Voice: Harvest for Hunger Program is helping Mainers. Here’s how.

By Eden Martin (Giving Voice) – food bank coordinator at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.

Spring is my favorite season – full of hope, new beginnings, and the start of the growing season in Maine! Farmers and gardeners are ramping up for the coming growing season by planning gardens, planting seeds, and working to prepare for the busy months ahead. What if during your planning, you decided to set aside the food in one raised bed for your neighbor? Well, many people are doing just that! Local farmers, community and home gardeners, businesses, and schools are all setting aside produce that they harvest to donate to those in the community who need it.

The Maine Harvest for Hunger Program, run by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, coordinates and tracks donations of produce throughout Maine and you can be a part of it! All you have to do is connect with a local recipient agency, like Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, drop your produce off at the agency, then report your donation on the Maine Harvest for Hunger website – super easy! This reporting helps the state get a more comprehensive idea of how much food is actually being used to feed neighbors in need.

A great example of this is the Common Good Garden run by the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. Volunteers tend the garden and spend over 400 hours each season planting, watering, and harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables. This produce is donated to Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community, which then distributes it throughout the region to help feed people experiencing food insecurity. In 2021, the Common Good Garden donated over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program!

Since the Maine Harvest for Hunger system started keeping track in 2000, approximately 3,176,120 pounds of fresh produce has been donated in the state of Maine – that is a lot of produce! Thanks to partners in the community such as the Common Good Garden, Crystal Spring Farm, IDEXX, Whatley Farm, Six River Farm, farmers’ markets, and many more, food insecure individuals in Maine are able to have access to fresh, local produce all year long.

To learn more about how you can be part of this movement and use your home garden to support your community, you can visit extension.umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger or www.mchpp.org.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Hiking in Maine: Crystal Spring Farm highlights successes of land trust”

Hiking in Maine: Crystal Spring Farm highlights successes of land trust
Owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, the site offers nearly 5 miles of pleasant foot trails winding through the forests and fields.

By Carey Kish – veteran hiker and freelance writer

Tucked away in a quiet wooded corner of Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick is a beautiful stone labyrinth. Not a maze but rather a single winding route through a series of concentric rings, the path is meant “to be walked deliberately,” according to a sign near the circle’s entrance. Three granite slab benches at the labyrinth’s center invite visitors to relax and reflect.

The “Labyrinth in the Woods” is just one of the many wonderful highlights of Crystal Spring Farm, a 331-acre parcel located just 1 1/2 miles south of downtown Brunswick. Owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, nearly 5 miles of pleasant foot trails wind through the forests and fields of this ecologically rich property.

In 1994, when it became known that 160 acres of working farmland on the south side of Pleasant Hill Road were about to go up for sale, the fledgling land trust, just 9 years old at the time, took notice. The landowners hoped to keep the property in agriculture, and the land trust saw this as a golden opportunity to establish a great community resource.

The prevailing sentiment was “how can we not do this?” said Angela Twitchell, executive director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. And with that, the project moved forward and the work of garnering public support and raising the necessary funds began. The land was eventually acquired in 1998, but by then, the land trust already had its eye on the adjoining 160 acres on the north side of the road.

“We worked out another deal with the owners to buy the additional land over time,” Twitchell noted. Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust embarked on another capital campaign, and with a boost from a Land for Maine’s Future grant, the purchase was completed in 2008. Since then, several smaller parcels have been added to “complete what was a bit of a puzzle.”

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s mission is to protect and steward the special places across the communities of Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin, to provide recreational opportunities, connect people to nature, and support local agriculture and fisheries. The acquisition of Crystal Spring Farm, considered the Trust’s signature property, checked all of these boxes.

“There was great community affection for this property from the start,” Twitchell said. Input from public meetings helped shape how the land trust would manage the land. With active agriculture a high priority, a farmer was found to run the farm and a farmer’s market was established. Ad hoc trails existed but a more formal network would take some work.

On the south side of Pleasant Hill Road, the trails were constructed in the 1990s. The East Trail leaves the main trailhead and heads for a junction at the property boundary. Here, the Quarry Trail breaks away to the west to visit the site of an old quarry and brings you in view of a solar array erected in 2016 that generates electricity for the farm.

Continuing on the East Trail, the path skirts the farm fields and swings around a lovely little pond before crossing Great Gully Stream. Past the short Ravine Trail loop, the East Trail meets the Blueberry Loop, which makes a nice circuit through a rare sandplain grassland where 21 acres of managed lowbush blueberry barrens are available to the public for berry picking.

The trails on the north side of Pleasant Hill Road were laid out and built in the 2000s by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and a cadre of volunteers. The primary route through the mixed woods is the Main Loop, which is intersected by seven connector trails that allow you to shorten your hike or explore further as you desire. The Garden Trail is not to be missed, as it visits the aforementioned labyrinth as well as the community garden, which was established 10 years ago to grow food for a local hunger prevention program.

Since its start in 1985, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has conserved 3,148 acres over approximately 60 properties; about one-third of the acreage is owned outright while the remainder is protected through conservation easements. All told, there are well over 20 miles of hiking trails to be enjoyed, so grab your walking shoes and day pack and come take good a look around.

To read the full article online, click here.

BTLT In the News: “Connect to past and present at the Cathance River Nature Preserve”

The Bowdoin Orient

Connect to past and present at the Cathance River Nature Preserve
By Jane Olsen (The Bowdoin Orient)

A visit to the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham will allow you to consider the past, the future and how to stay grounded in the present. Only a 10-minute drive from campus, the preserve features miles of riverside trails winding through growing forests. It is unlikely you will cross paths with many others.

When following the directions to the trailhead, you may be confused as to why you’re being guided through the Highlands Retirement Community. At first, I thought I was going to the wrong place because the trailhead is easy to miss and the adjacent parking lot only fits about five cars (if squeezed in at an angle to the road). But the waves of Highlands residents on their daily walks are a reminder that a sense of community extends beyond the spaces of Bowdoin’s physical campus.

The Preserve offers enough trails to explore for hours, but it is equally beautiful if you only have a few minutes to spare. This visit, I decided to walk down the staircase next to the parking lot and continue until I reached the Highland trail, passing through the vernal pools.

From this point, the path to the river is no more than 10 minutes. After a semester of shuffling my feet on the ice across campus, stepping over small patches of mud was a welcome surprise. As I moved closer to the river, an abundance of green moss on the forest floor creeped up on me.

The light flickered brighter in the areas where young saplings have yet to grow, and in areas with white pines thick with age, only a few sunbeams pass through their needles. This forest is not uniform and the path is not straight—mimicking the collision of many generations.

After scanning a QR code posted on one of the saplings, I realize that the code is one of many scattered throughout the trails of the Preserve. The codes are a part of a “Self-Guided Adventure” initiative by the Cathance River Education Alliance, a nonprofit environmental and educational organization. Walking down the trail, this network of codes invites me to pay attention to my surroundings and reminds me of the Alliance’s efforts to further community engagement.

One QR code attributes the diversity of tree ages in the forest to a scattered timeline of logging on the land, explaining that the younger saplings were planted after the most recent logging efforts in the 1990s. The history of logging in Maine seems inextricable from our natural surroundings, reminding visitors to admire and support the conservation efforts from organizations like the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

These woods offer physical distance from a busy life and a chance to appreciate connections across generations, whether that be ecologically or socially. When I arrive at the river, the faint sound of the gentle water and a soothing canopy of shade returns me to the present moment. As I watch the swell of the current beside me and after stepping away from a campus buzzing with youth and driving through a community of senior citizens, my sense of place is amplified.

This week, I saw the faces of my professors for the first time since arriving at Bowdoin last year. After two semesters without upperclass students on campus and the presence of Covid-19 constantly on my mind, I have longed for a sense of cross-generational cohesion in the Bowdoin community. With an ease of connection returning to campus, the links that bring us together feel stronger. The Cathance River Nature Preserve offers a chance to explore this sense of interrelation, or to simply enjoy the outdoors.

BTLT In the News: “Conservation project preserves land and a father’s memory”

By John Terhune

After losing her husband Alan to cancer in 2020, Brunswick’s Nikki Eckert sold a portion of his ‘dream property’ to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust for permanent conservation.

From the time Alan Eckert was a child learning to hunt turkey and deer, Brunswick’s Maquoit Bay was always home.

In 2015, the longtime Portland Glass employee bought a nearly 30-acre slice of his childhood stomping grounds with his wife Nikki, and the pair built a home for themselves and their two boys, Parker and Mason.

Eckert died in 2020, only months after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Yet thanks to his family and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Eckert’s memory remains permanently tied to the land he loved.

In January, Nikki Eckert sold 21 acres of the land to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to be conserved as the Alan Eckert Preserve.

“My husband would want the land to stay just as it was,” she said, adding that her sons helped choose the preserve’s name. “It’s always been his dream property.”

The Eckert land is one of three properties Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has conserved in 2022, according to Executive Director Angela Twitchell. The Atwood and Brannigan Families sold the nonprofit a total of 33.5 acres across the river from the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham.

The Alan Eckert Preserve is particularly exciting because it includes nearly 3,000 feet of shoreline abutting a salt marsh at the head of Maquoit Bay, said Twitchell, whose organization purchased the land for $160,000 with support from Maine Coast Heritage Trust and other groups.

“This whole area has been a priority for the Land Trust for years and years,” she said.

Rising sea levels caused by global warming could destroy existing marshes, according to Kristen Puryear, an ecologist for the Maine Natural Areas Program. But the Eckert land’s characteristics make it well-suited for “marsh migration,” meaning new marshes could form farther inland to replace old ones.

“One of the exciting things about this particular property is that there could be 5 or 10 acres of space that eventually could become marsh as sea level rises,” Puryear said. “These tidal marshes do really punch above their weight in terms of what they can do to store, or sequester, carbon for the long term.”

Yet while conservationists imagine the future of the preserve, Nikki Eckert and her boys appreciate it for its enduring link to Alan.

“Knowing that a piece of him will always live on there is almost healing in a way for myself and our two children,” Nikki said. “It’ll always be there.”

To see the full article, click here.

BTLT in the News, “After buying long-desired land for conservation, Brunswick plans next steps”

By John Terhune

“On Jan. 1, Brunswick took ownership of a “spectacular” piece of land it had sought for decades. Now, town officials envision a future for the historic property.

Walking trails. Live entertainment. A dance pavilion over the Androscoggin.

At the turn of the 19th century, thousands of people from cities around the Northeast flocked to Brunswick’s Merrymeeting Park for weekend entertainment, said Tom Farrell, the town’s director of parks and recreation.

Now, after pursuing the land for decades, Brunswick has finally completed the purchase of a 42.5-acre parcel of the former park for conservation. And while it will take time and money to complete the next phase of the project, Farrell said, the town hopes to restore and commemorate many of the area’s historical features.

“This is one of the most significant parcels for protection that the town could have ever hoped to preserve,” said Farrell of the land, which is accessible only by boat, bike or foot from the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path near Route 1. “It’s a spectacular piece of property that most people have never been able to access.”

Brunswick had been after the land since before David Watson joined the town council in 2002. Numerous attempts to buy the property from the Ormsby family stalled over the years, before a team including town councilors, members of local organizations and an attorney successfully negotiated a purchase agreement last summer, Watson said.

“It was just a beautiful operation,” said Watson, who initially noted the land’s beauty during his career as a Brunswick Police officer. “Overall the team here was wonderful.”

The town officially took control of the property on Jan. 1, Farrell said. Despite the land’s $507,500 price tag, Brunswick paid only $75,911 thanks to numerous grants from sources including the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Maine Community Foundation Land Protection Grant Program.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Director Angela Twitchell credited Watson and Farrell for keeping the idea alive for decades, noting the land is “important to the people of Brunswick.” Twitchell, whose organization helped the Brunswick team strategize a purchase plan for the land, said the benefits of conservation are many, including protecting plant and animal habitats and preserving local history. But just as important, she added, was expanding the public’s access to nature.”

…..

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE!

 

In the News: “BTLT grateful for members, supporters, success”

2021: The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Year in Review

By Angela Twitchell, Executive Director and Emily Swan, Board President

January 7, 2022

The theme of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s work in 2021 was GRATITUDE.  As we brainstormed to come up with an organizing theme, it just seemed to be the most salient sentiment any of us could pinpoint to sum up 2021.  We’re grateful for our members, for our extraordinary staff and volunteers, for the communities we serve, and for all the new ways we are finding to forge connections among people, and between people and the land we conserve.

We are proud of what we achieved in 2021 despite ever-changing challenges posed by the pandemic.

First, land conservation.  Long-time BTLT friends and collaborators John and Carla Rensenbrink donated a conservation easement on 17.5 acres on land that is part of the Cathance River Trail in Topsham.  This is in addition to a 34-acre easement they had previously donated to Friends of Merrymeeting Bay.  We are deeply grateful for their long-time partnership in conserving the Cathance River corridor and ensuring public access to this priceless resource.  In addition, several other conservation initiatives on the Cathance corridor and on the shores of Maquoit Bay are nearing completion at this writing.

Another key achievement of 2021 was completion of the Androscoggin Woods trail in Topsham.  The public now has access to this extraordinary property that stretches along almost two miles of the Androscoggin River in Topsham.  We hope you will take time to visit the river’s wild shores when this beautiful trail re-opens in the spring.

This isn’t all that our hard-working crew of stewardship staff and volunteers achieved in 2021.  They also 

A core part of BTLT’s mission is to support local agriculture – not only do we manage the Saturday Farmers’ Market and Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG), but we also collectively conserve 1,928 acres of agricultural land across 25 properties.  2021 saw numerous achievements in promotion of our agricultural mission:

  • The return of our Saturday Farmers’ Market to its beloved location at Crystal Spring Farm under the guidance of our outstanding agricultural programs manager Julia St. Clair.
  • Construction of raised beds outside BTLT’s office at Brunswick Landing where New Mainer families were able to grow familiar foods and create community.  We are excited about extending this partnership both at Brunswick Landing and at the TSCG in 2022.
  • Creation of a one-acre plot at Crystal Spring Farm where BTLT is sharing stewardship with Mowita’nej Epijij (“welcome to the gathering place”), where Wabanaki people are growing traditional foods and medicines and re-establishing connections to the land.  Again, we look forward to nourishing this relationship in 2022 and beyond.
  • The return of our beloved Taking Root Plant Sale after a 2020 hiatus.  The sale raised a record-breaking $13,000 for the Common Good Garden, which this year donated 3,177 pounds of fresh organic produce to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.  Both the plant sale and the Common Good Garden are run almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

In 2021 the BTLT board of directors embarked on an update of our five-year strategic plan.  This process involves a comprehensive review of our work in conservation, stewardship, and programs, and a deep look inward to discern ways we can better accomplish our mission.  We are grateful for this opportunity to work together to make BTLT a better, more resilient, more diverse and inclusive organization, one poised to address deepening environmental challenges posed by climate change and development pressures, and to serve the needs of our whole community.

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2021 possible.  We look forward to 2022 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them.  Happy New Year!

To read the full article in The Times Record, click here!