BTLT In the News: “Giving Voice: Community is the key to success”


To read the article online, click here. 

When I started to volunteer at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in 2009, little did I know this choice would lead to so many opportunities and collaborations with other Brunswick nonprofits. My experience, though hardly unique, demonstrates how much we can accomplish as a community when we are open to sharing resources, talent and time among local nonprofits.

At the end of my first day at MCHPP, the volunteer who was mentoring me (Lani Wharton) suggested we see if some of the local farmers market vendors might like to donate “leftovers” at the end of that day’s market. Off we went to chat with the vendors, who were all enthusiastic about the plan. That led to an MCHPP volunteer going to the Tuesday market each week and collecting incredible produce. We eventually expanded to the Saturday market at Crystal Spring Farm, which the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust sponsors. Soon, an MCHPP volunteer was picking up items at each of these markets weekly, thereby expanding the seasonal, local offerings available to MCHPP guests. Almost 15 years later, the ongoing collaboration with local farmers, gardeners, gleaners and volunteers continues to provide much-needed healthy food for those facing food insecurity.

Because of my new connection to BTLT, Fred Koerber, a then board member, asked if I’d be part of a local group working with the land trust to establish a community garden in Brunswick. Once created, BTLT wanted to provide MCHPP with a large, organic growing space so even more food could be grown and provided to MCHPP and the families in need. That, of course, morphed into the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, which had its inaugural gardening season in 2012. The space has since produced thousands of pounds of organic produce for MCHPP. Its success was guaranteed because of the tireless efforts of dozens of volunteer gardeners (joint efforts from staff and volunteers from MCHPP, BTLT and plot holders) who tended these plots, from fertilizing and composting to planting and tending, with it all culminating in a bountiful harvest.

In 2011, several passionate gardeners worked to establish the Taking Root Plant Sale, an annual event that provides financial support to keep the garden growing and provides wonderful volunteer opportunities that support MCHPP and BTLT.

When the Gathering Place formed in 2010, MCHPP was a natural partner and provided the organization with food for their visitors and clients, including food from the TSCG. MCHPP also works with neighboring People Plus (who often reciprocate by hosting MCHPP food drives), Tedford Housing, Curtis Memorial Library and many other local institutions.

It has been a privilege and pleasure to be a small part of these collaborations and have a bird’s-eye view of what synergy can be accomplished across multiple nonprofits with the support of a very generous and kind community. Despite all the chaos, confusion and distractions around us, it’s reassuring to know that locally, “we got this,” and our Midcoast community knows how to share and care.

Claudia LaBella Adams is an MCHPP volunteer and former board member. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local nonprofit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community.

To read the article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Longtime Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust director leaving post”


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The longtime director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is leaving her post at the end of the month to become program director for the Maine Land Trust Network.

Angela Twitchell served as executive director of the land trust since 2008 and has overseen 60 conservation projects that preserved nearly 3,000 acres.

“Angela’s extraordinary capacity to connect with a diverse array of people and institutions, and to nurture cooperative relationships and build trust with them over many years has produced so many benefits for our community,” Emily Swan, the land trust board president, said in a statement. “Without Angela’s perseverance and capacity to create and nurture productive partnerships, it is hard to imagine many of BTLT’s achievements happening.”

Twitchell is from Turner, Maine; her father ran Twitchell Airport.

“As a child, I was so lucky to be able to fly into remote places in Maine that few people get to see, but I also experienced firsthand the effects of pollution on the Androscoggin River and the result of humans not being good stewards of the land,” Twitchell said in a statement. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to go into an environmental field.”

During her tenure with the land trust, she grew conservation efforts in Topsham to protect the Cathance River and helped develop trails in Woodward Point in Brunswick. She also helped established a lease of Crystal Spring Farm and created the Tom Settlemire Community Garden in Brunswick.

Twitchell said she was honored to be chosen for the Maine Land Trust Network position.

“I’m particularly excited to be working on a statewide level to explore ways for the land trust network to collaborate and plan for intentional impacts, especially as it relates to climate change,” she said. “My real goal is to make sure that my children and grandchildren grow up feeling just as I do — that there is no better place to live than Maine.”

Former land trust board President Brad Babson credited Twitchell for growing the land trust, which has a staff of 12 overseeing 3,220 acres of conservation property and 23 miles of public trails. She also oversaw the land trust’s merger with the Cathance River Education Alliance earlier this year, which she said will increase educational opportunities and resources for the community.

“Angela led us through the remarkable evolution of BTLT as a well-managed and accredited conservation organization deeply committed to community building in a variety of ways and growing from a one-person office with an operating budget of about $100,000 to one that is tenfold that today,” Babson said. “Crucial to this success story has been her pragmatic strategic vision and guidance on both organizational development and day-to-day operational opportunities and challenges. Also crucial to this story has been her personal qualities of always listening and projecting a positive attitude in achieving highly effective relations with the community, donors, landowners, board and staff.”

Caroline Eliot, who served as the land trust’s associate director, will become interim executive director as it searches for a permanent replacement.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: Plant sale big producer for community garden in Brunswick

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Plant sale big producer for community garden in Brunswick

The annual fundraiser brought in $12,500 for the Thomas Settlemire Community Garden, which also includes Midcoast Hunger Prevention’s Common Good Garden.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s annual plant sale earlier this month raised $12,500 for the Thomas Settlemire Community Garden in Brunswick.

The money will support day-to-day operations of the garden, which includes Midcoast Hunger Prevention’s Common Good Garden that supports the group’s food programs.

Interest in the community garden plots has grown steadily since it was started in 2012 as a community-led initiative, said Jamie Pacheco, the land trust’s program manager.

“Folks have seen us building and more people have asked for them every year,” she said. “People like knowing where their food comes from.”

About 80 individual 10-by-16-foot or 10-by-8-foot plots in the garden are rented by community members, and 6,000 square feet is designated for Midcoast Hunger Prevention.

The annual plant sale fundraiser is entirely run by volunteers.

Barbara Murphy, a Brunswick resident, has been volunteering since the community garden got started and has been involved with the plant sale every year.

“This year we had over 1,500 plants that we sold, and we concentrate on both native plants and also plants and flowers that are really good at attracting pollinators,” said Murphy. She said about 100 volunteers work to get plants ready for the day of the sale.

Pacheco said Midcoast Hunger Prevention’s Common Good Garden grows 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of food every year for their food programs. One section of it has been set aside for asylum seekers arriving to Brunswick in an effort to support “the new Mainer community, to help meet their needs and grow culturally appropriate food.” That effort also provides everyone with the opportunity to learn about produce that’s important to cultural foods outside the United States, she said.

At her plot, Murphy grows tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro – ingredients for her homemade salsa.

“It’s really fun to walk around and see what people have done with their plots,” she said.

Murphy said she enjoys the neighborly nature of the garden, and how willing people are to help each other out. “People are super friendly and supportive, and it’s all organic,” she said. “I love that we’re growing food that’s given to the community and gets given out at the food pantry or soup kitchen.”

At the garden, she said, she’s learned a lot about different species of plants, birds and insects.

“It’s a beautiful and peaceful place to be,” Murphy said.

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: Land trust grant to preserve 32 acres around Maquoit Bay in Brunswick

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BTLT In the News: Your Land: The rooted and the running (off)

A Season of Opportunities

As spring brings a flush of green to the fields and forests around us, flowers begin to bloom, and farmers start their growing seasons, the evidence of seasonal transition is all around us. The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) is also in a time of transition. In September, after 23 years serving BTLT as either a board member or executive director (15 years), Angela Twitchell will be leaving to assume the role of Director of Land Trust Programs at Maine Coast Heritage Trust. In this role she will lead efforts to provide technical support and guidance to all of Maine’s land trusts. This is a professional opportunity for which she is extremely well-qualified. We know that in her new role, she will do wonderful work supporting land conservation across the state.

In the meantime, our work to execute the merger with the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) while running all our programs continues unabated. We have formed a transition team to plan the search for a new leader. When Angela departs in September, CREA Executive Director Caroline Eliot will serve as BTLT’s interim director until a new leader is in place, at which point Caroline will resume her role as a part of the senior leadership team.

Angela has been a strong leader and like any good leader, she will leave behind a robust organization with effective systems, excellent governance structures, and a truly talented staff that is well-positioned to continue our great work. Not only will our wonderful programs continue, but as is often the case, change creates the opportunity for fresh ideas and expanded horizons. 

The merger of CREA and BTLT was born out of our shared understanding that our community wants and needs more opportunities to learn about and engage with the natural world. As we search for a new Director, we will ensure that we focus on dynamic candidates that understand and embrace the essential role of education in raising the next generation of Earth’s stewards, while maintaining our strong commitment to conservation and stewardship that has defined BTLT from its beginning.

Angela has led the Land Trust through a period of extraordinary growth, both in the amount of conserved land we steward and in our community impact. We will miss her terribly, but our loss will be the gain of the larger conservation community. We are glad Angela is not going far and we look forward to continuing to benefit from her leadership and enthusiasm in her new role.  

We’re excited for BTLT’s future and the opportunities ahead for heightened impact as we join forces with CREA and seek out a new executive director to lead us into the years ahead. 

Read the Times Record article, “Maine Coast Heritage Trust hires Topsham resident to lead program” here. 

In the News: “Intertidal: Working together for the sake of the Midcoast waterfront”

Intertidal: Working together for the sake of the Midcoast waterfront

By Susan Olcott – Director of Operations, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

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The interconnectedness of the panelists fit perfectly with the location of the event — a nexus of the waters connecting Brunswick’s downtown to the coast through the winding paths of Merrymeeting Bay and the Androscoggin River. Last week’s event, held on a clear April evening complete with a full moon shining above the historic, yellow mill building on the Topsham side of the river, had a full house in the Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s impressively equipped Zoom room — a perfect setup to allow those who were not able to attend in person to do so virtually and to be able to record the event for future viewing.

The panel event, “Getting to Know Our Waterfront,” was the latest in a conversation series, “Living and Working in a Waterfront Community,” put together by the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association in partnership with local land trusts in several coastal communities. Last week’s event was co-hosted by the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust with space generously made available by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.


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Joining Forces to Better Serve Our Community

View the recent story in The Times Record here! 

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) announced today that their organizations are merging, following approval by their Boards and respective memberships!

The two organizations have been partners since the early 2000s, when BTLT was granted a conservation easement at the Cathance River Nature Preserve and CREA was founded to use the newly-established Preserve as a place to educate people about ecology and the natural world. Since then, the organizations have co-managed the trails with the landowner, co-hosted programs and events, and supported each other’s efforts to promote appreciation for the environment. Over the last several years, the organizations began looking for ways to complement one another in more effective ways.

As CREA Board President Ellen Bennett describes, “We started this process thinking about administrative efficiencies, but came to realize we could do more for the community — and do it better — as a single organization. One of our Board members, Dave Keffer, said it so well when he described this union as ‘one plus one equals three.’”  

The merger is expected to create new opportunities for growth. CREA’s educational programs will have the potential to expand beyond the Preserve to new features, habitats, and agricultural assets on BTLT’s expansive property base. 

“Our signature programs at the Preserve and Ecology Center are at full capacity,” explains CREA Executive Director Caroline Eliot. “CREA summer camp is full and has a waitlist of over two hundred. We’re fully booked with school field trips this spring. We’re delighted by the possibility that we can serve more children in the future by expanding to BTLT locations.”

Local and national trends favor unions like this. Many foundations support consolidation of small nonprofits, and experienced leaders and development professionals are in short supply. As Emily Swan, BTLT’s President, explains, “We started by talking about different ways to collaborate, but eventually realized that joining forces to become one organization would provide the greatest benefit, from staffing to delivering services to the community.”

The two organizations co-located their offices in July of 2020. Eliot says occupying adjacent office space facilitated conversation and collaboration during the pandemic. “It made taking this next step very easy.”

All programs associated with the two organizations will continue and CREA will continue to use its name for its signature programs – CREA summer camp and school-based educational programs. “CREA is well-known and respected in the schools and community,” explains BTLT Executive Director Angela Twitchell. “We want to honor its great reputation and history by continuing to use its name.” 

The missions of the two organizations are complementary, evidenced by the fact that all staff will continue in their current roles but with greater potential to grow into new roles and responsibilities in the future. Angela Twitchell will remain BTLT’s Executive Director and Caroline Eliot will assume the role of Deputy Director/Director of Education.

The Boards of both organizations voted unanimously to support the merger in December of 2022. On March 30 of this year, the memberships of both organizations also voted enthusiastically to support the merger.

Twitchell and Eliot emphasize that conservation and education are natural partners. Says Twitchell, “We need to make sure future generations value and protect the places, wildlife, and resources that we love — and that we need to survive.” 

“So, we need to teach youngsters why all those things are important,” adds Eliot. “That starts with tapping into children’s natural curiosity and fascination with bugs, frogs, fish and really all the cool things that exist or happen in nature.”

The merger is expected to take effect in July of 2023 although implementation will be ongoing for the next 6 to 18 months.

View the recent story in The Times Record here! 

2022 Year in Review

by Executive Director Angela Twitchell and Board President Emily Swan

The theme of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s 2022 annual report was “Rooted and Rising” – a perfect encapsulation of BTLT’s work over this past year.  

We remain firmly rooted in our core mission of conservation and stewardship and deeply committed to our most established and beloved programs – the Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, and of course our trail network. At the same time, we are rising to new challenges and seeking higher levels of engagement with the full range of people in our community through partnerships like the New Mainers Garden, Mowita’nej Epijij (Wabanaki garden), trail accessibility initiatives, and more.

Highlights of our conservation work in 2022 include over 50 acres on the Cathance River in Topsham, the Brannigan, Atwood, and Hideaway Farm properties. We are grateful to the Atwood, Brannigan, and Sczymecki families, as well as the Town of Topsham, the Merrymeeting Bay Trust, the Davis Conservation Fund, John Sage Foundations, and over 70 individual donors for making this work possible. With the addition of these parcels, BTLT has conserved more than 1,100 acres and 43,000 feet of frontage on the Cathance over the past three decades.

We were also delighted to work with the Eckert family to conserve the 21-acre Alan Eckert Preserve, which includes 2,850 feet of shoreline abutting an extensive salt marsh at the head of Maquoit Bay in Brunswick. In addition to conserving this land beloved by the late Alan Eckert, this project represents a concrete step toward improving the resiliency of our coastline in the face of climate change by creating space for marsh migration that will inevitably accompany rising sea levels.

Our stewardship team has been busy with many projects, including re-routing trail connections at the Cathance River Nature Preserve. We expect these trails to reopen by summer 2023. We also completed redesign of the trails at Bradley Pond Farm, which re-opened to the public in September. 

BTLT’s Stewardship team received a much-welcomed financial boost through an extremely generous bequest from Wallace Pinfold, a long-time BTLT supporter who passed away this year. We have added the bulk of Wallace’s bequest to our Stewardship Fund, which we are continuing to build to ensure that we have the financial capacity to meet our forever commitment to steward the lands we conserve.

This year our engagement with Brunswick’s New Mainer community grew with the expansion of gardening facilities at the BTLT office and the assistance of Michee Mpela to help manage the garden. In addition, BTLT facilitated the creation of a micro-farm at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden where Sivi Mpela is growing affordable, fresh, and culturally appropriate foods for members of the New Mainer communities in Brunswick, Portland, and Lewiston-Auburn.

Photo Credit: Kyle Warnock

Making our trails open and available to all members of our community has also been a priority this year. Our partnership with Queerly ME brought scores of enthusiastic members of the LGBTQIA+ community out for walks, nature activities, and community building on BTLT properties. In addition, we have worked with Maine Coast Heritage Trust to create an accessible trail at Woodward Point. The trail is named in memory of one of the property’s longtime owners, Andy Cook, who conserved the property with his wife Jacki Ellis in 2019. When complete Andy’s Trail will provide a flat, compact surface for visitors who use a wheelchair, push a stroller, or simply want to commune with the property.

We have also expanded our partnership with Independence Association, a Brunswick-based non-profit that helps adults and children with disabilities lead full and inclusive lives. Since 2019 staff and clients from Independence Association have partnered with BTLT in clearing and maintaining trails at Crystal Spring Farm. In 2021 they added Neptune Woods, and in 2022 Androscoggin Woods to their maintenance list.  We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to seeing what new projects we can explore together.

In November BTLT finalized a new five-year strategic plan, and its priorities also reflect our ambition to be an organization that is “Rooted & Rising.”  The plan commits BTLT to the following priorities:

  • Amplify our efforts to pursue new lands conservation projects. 
  • Integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation more explicitly in all our work, in line with the Climate Action Plan adopted for Maine. 
  • Integrate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices into all our work, building on a commitment we made in April 2021 and on activities already underway. 
  • Expand youth environmental, outdoor, and nature-based education efforts. 
  • Engage in more sustained advocacy efforts on important issues connected with our mission. 
  • Continue to build the financial and administrative capacity to support pursuit of these goals.

We are pursuing numerous initiatives to support these goals and are confident we’ll have much progress to report by this time next year!

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2022 possible. We look forward to 2023 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them. Happy New Year!

BTLT In the News: “Brunswick is purchasing nearly 300 acres to help protect Maquoit Bay”

Brunswick is purchasing nearly 300 acres to help protect Maquoit Bay

Maine Public | By Robbie Feinberg

Brunswick town councilors have unanimously voted to acquire nearly 300 acres of land near Maquoit Bay as a way to protect the local environment.

The move comes less than a month after the town extended a development moratorium in the Maquoit Bay watershed, following a softshell clam die-off this summer that city staff say that was linked to warmer weather and nutrient runoff.

Staff have warned large-scale development could lead to even more runoff and threaten the local shellfish industry.

The town will pay $3.8 million for the land, where developers had been considering building a 900-unit apartment complex.

Councilor Kathy Wilson says the purchase is an investment in the town’s future.

“The decisions we make are not going to be just for us, but for all future generations that live in Brunswick, and will come to Brunswick,” she said.

Angela Twitchell, with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, said the purchase would offer an opportunity to still potentially build on the land, but also protect the watershed and ecosystem.

“And we also will support targeted development that meets the very real affordable and mid-range housing needs of the community,” Twitchell said.

While the town had no set plans for the area, several councilors raised the possibility of a combination of land conservation and affordable housing development.

Officials expect to complete the deal by the end of the year.