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.
Intertidal: Working together for the sake of the Midcoast waterfront
By Susan Olcott – Director of Operations, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
By Susan Olcott, Times Record
Whelks, pogies, mackerel, Jonah crabs, razor clams, squid, moon snails, quahogs, soft shell clams, lobster, oysters, bluefish, seaweed — these are just some of the seafood varieties that are harvested off Brunswick’s shores. As Cody Gills, chairperson of Brunswick’s Marine Resource Committee, shellfish harvester and commercial fisherman put it, “There are a lot more fish in the ocean than haddock.” Gillis was one of four panelists that were part of a recent event, “Fisheries in Our Town,” held at the Curtis Memorial Library on Nov. 2. The event was a collaboration between the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association that drew a local in-person audience as well as participants via Zoom.
Elaborating on the point that Maine has a lot to offer in terms of local seafood, panelist Quang Nguyen, owner of the Fishermen’s Net Seafood shop and restaurant, added that in Vietnam, where he grew up, everything is farmed.
“In Maine, it’s amazing how many choices there are,” he said. “It’s just that not everyone knows about them or what to do with them.”
Jaclyn Robidoux, a panelist from Maine Sea Grant added, “If I gave most people a plate of kelp, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.” That’s despite the fact that Maine is the number one state for seaweed aquaculture.
Local food writer and editor of Edible Maine, Christine Rudalevidge, pointed out that there are great resources out there like the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (seafoodnutrition.org) for people who want to learn to cook different types of seafood. Rudalevidge also contributed a recipe to MCFA’s cookbook, “Catch,” which features locally harvested seafood. Value-added products are also on the rise as a way to introduce people to new species. Attendees at the event were able to sample one of these, Maine Coast Monkfish Stew, a product created in collaboration with Hurricane Soups & Premium Chowders in Greene using sustainably harvested monkfish along with Maine produce and dairy. The proceeds from the sale of the stew benefit MCFA’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program that donates fresh seafood to schools, food pantries and community groups statewide.
There was a lively discussion between the panelists as well as members of the audience covering topics like what the working waterfront means to different people and what the challenges are facing those working on the waterfront in Maine. Access was an issue that several panelists pointed out as a significant challenge. Moderator Monique Coombs, MCFA’s director of community programs, pointed out that in the entire state of Maine, there are only 20 miles of working waterfront. Despite having over 6,000 miles of coastline, only a small amount is accessible to those that want to harvest its marine resources. The balmy Wednesday evening also included a discussion of climate change and the shifts in species distribution and seasonality that those working on the water are seeing. Keeping up with the regulations that each fishery must comply with was identified as another significant challenge.
“Make sure your seafood was caught by a Maine fisherman,” Rudalevidge said. “We have to reward them for sticking to such stringent regulations.”
Nguyen echoed this, adding that when he grew up in Vietnam, people used explosives to catch fish and there were virtually no regulations.
“Now there are no fish there unless you go far out into the ocean,” he said.
The panel was a fitting end to October’s National Seafood Month — a celebration of how lucky we are in Maine to have locally harvested seafood that supports not just the harvesters but the entire working waterfront. If you missed the event and are interested in hearing more of the discussion, a recording will be available on the MCFA and BTLT websites: mainecoastfishermen.org and btlt.org.
Watch the full panel event below!
Intertidal: ‘Fisheries in Our Town’ highlights seafood’s impact on Brunswick
BY SUSAN OLCOTT INTERTIDAL, The Times Record
We have a lot of waterfront for what may seem at first to be a fairly inland town. According to the Town of Brunswick website, there are 61 miles of coastline in Casco Bay and 20 miles of waterfront on the Androscoggin River. Fishing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Brunswick, but it is a big part of the town’s culture and economy. From seafood shops to recreational ice fishermen, to local restaurants, to clammers, to those who hold commercial fishing licenses and venture further from shore, there is a lot to learn about fisheries here that is relevant and valuable to those who live here. Whether you love seafood or not, fisheries are an important part of the town’s economy that is not always easy to find accessible information about.
That’s the purpose of an upcoming event co-hosted by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library. The panel presentation, “Fisheries in Our Town” will explore the variety of seafood that is harvested locally and supports our economy, working waterfront and feeds our community. From clamming to pogy fishing, lobstering, aquaculture and even ice fishing, the breadth of our marine resources is impressive. Panelists will include Cody Gillis, chairperson of Brunswick’s Marine Resource Committee, shellfish harvester, commercial fisherman, and registered Maine Guide; Quang Nyguyen, owner of Brunswick’s Fishermen’s Net seafood restaurant and shop; Jaclyn Robidoux, of Maine Sea Grant; and Christine Rudalevidge, editor of Edible Maine, author and food writer. It will be moderated by Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Director of Community Programs Monique Coombs.
Topics to be covered include an introduction of what types of businesses exist on the waterfront and who works there, what challenges these businesses face as well as what successes they are seeing, and what working waterfront means to different people who utilize it in different ways.
Intertidal: Enjoy the transition to autumn with walks along Midcoast trails
By Susan Olcott – The Times Record
I blame it on seasonal shifts, which is the topic of this column, but I wanted to provide an apology for the incorrect publishing of last week’s column. You may have noticed that it was about spring fish migration and that seemed a bit out of place in September. Perhaps it is appropriate, however, given the column that was intended for last week, which is as follows …
We have officially said goodbye to summer, passing the ominous Sept. 22 — a day and transition I always resist. The end of season’s whipping winds helped a bit, however, as they signaled a shift from the summer’s equilibrium to the imbalance of the air temperature as it cools, and the water hangs on to its summer’s heat a bit longer. I, too, find myself outside in every possible sunny moment, absorbing every bit of solar radiation in an effort to stay fueled by it for the rest of the year. It is the cooling air temperature that whips up the winds common at this time of year, and that also perhaps makes us feel whipped up and out of balance ourselves. The winds also help to accelerate my acceptance that it is … fall.
Once I’m able to shift gears, there is an energy to the fall that I love — the energy of the wind, the energy of kids getting back to school, the energy of people getting boats and docks out of the water. Summer’s more relaxed pace, exacerbated often by the slowing effect of heat, picks up. This is true not only for the activities that we have to do but also true for what we do for fun. Fall is a time when many people come to Maine not to sit on the beach but instead to hike along trails or bike along quiet roads.
While leaf peeping season is not limited to the coast by any means, the waterfront is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place to see the changes in color. Those changes happen not only in the trees but also in the sky and the color and texture of the water. The sensory experience of it is truly overwhelming. It is a perfect time to seek out some of the coastal access points that you might not have yet discovered. And, with cooler temperatures, a walk along a trail is more appealing. We are fortunate in Midcoast Maine to have an array of trails that offer views out onto the water for those willing and able to walk a little way out of their way. Many of these trails exist thanks to Maine’s network of land trusts that aim to preserve access to nature for people to enjoy and to protect those habitats and resources for both recreational and economic benefits to the surrounding towns.
In Brunswick, we have the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust that does an amazing job of continuing to build not only its trails and access points but also its public programming that is aimed at educating people about the environments that BTLT protects. There is specific information about all of the trails on the BTLT website (btlt.org). A few of my specific favorites that offer ocean peeks include the Maquoit Bay Conservation Land trail, the Skolfield Preserve off Harpswell Road and the trails at Woodward Point. Another great resource is the guide that Brunswick’s Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission put together that shows the town’s coastal access points along with helpful information about how to be a responsible member of a coastal community and the importance of taking care of our resources. The guide is available on the RCWC page of the town website (brunswickmaine.org); you can also pick up a copy at the Brunswick Hannaford or at the Town Office. Just across the bridge in Topsham is the Maine Coast Heritage Trust office, a group that also works to protect coastal properties including islands both locally and throughout the state. They operate the Maine Land Trust Network, which is comprised of over 80-member land trusts that coordinate on their efforts and share resources.
So, while I will continue to resist the end of summer each season, I am grateful for nature’s nudge to get out and explore the many properties that are protected for everyone to enjoy.
Portland Press Herald, State parks on pace for another record year – John Terhune
To read the article online, click here.
Popham Beach had its busiest month on record in July, helping put the Maine State Park system on track to break attendance records for a third consecutive year, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
“We’re on pace to beat last year again, and last year beat the previous year, so it’s kind of a multi-year run,” said department spokesperson Jim Britt. “These are big numbers.”
Over 62,705 visitors spent a day at Popham State Park last month, up 110% from July 2021, according to the State Parks Public use report. There were about 1.8 million total visitors to Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites from January through July, 3.9% more than through that same period in 2021.
A lengthy spell of hot weather contributed to the spike in visits to sites like Popham, Scarborough Beach and Range Pond, according to Britt.
“When we have beautiful weather, we have really strong numbers overall,” he said. “That heat wave sent all of us to the beach.”
Yet he added the state park system’s high daily visitation and camping numbers, which are also up 2.6%, are the continuation of a trend sparked by the arrival of COVID-19.
With limited options for socializing indoors, Mainers and visitors from nearby states turned to Maine state parks at record rates in 2020, despite parks closing in the spring. Since then, the flood of visitors hasn’t slowed, even as restrictions have loosened.
“I do believe that we can directly correlate this to the impact of the pandemic on people’s interest and desire to be experiencing the outdoors,” Britt said. “Folks discovered the beauty of Maine state parks as a destination, and they are sticking with it.”
The trend extends beyond the state park system. Compared to pre-pandemic times, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has seen more traffic on its trails, conserved properties and water access points, according to Executive Director Angela Twitchell.
“During the early days of the pandemic when everyone was inside, one of the few things they could do was get outside on public trails,” Twitchell said. “I think that tangible benefit that our work is bringing to people is translating to new members.”
While the influx of visitors is welcome, it can pose challenges and increase costs for those tasked with maintaining public lands, Twitchell said. She hopes the spike in interest in the outdoors will translate to more donations to fund trail maintenance, improved parking and the conservation of more lands.
Money is already set to flow to the State Parks system, thanks to a $50 million initiative launched by Gov. Janet Mills in June.
“Our state parks are treasures that belong in perpetuity to the people of Maine for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Maine,” Mills said during the announcement event. “With this funding, we will undertake the important and long-neglected work of rebuilding our parks as part of our effort to improve the experience they offer and to secure their place as vital economic engines in communities across Maine.”
Besides funding infrastructure upgrades and trail maintenance, the investment will pay for accessibility measures, including a recently installed mobility mat at Popham that allows people in wheelchairs to more easily navigate the beach. Mills is set to visit the site on Thursday.
Britt hopes the upgrades will help bring even more record crowds to Popham and other state parks. Whether adventurers try Quoddy Head, Roque Bluffs or some other spot, he said they’ll likely find themselves hooked.
“It’s a tall order to find a place that you don’t fall in love with,” he said.
To read the article online, click here.