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Recolor the Outdoors with Alex Bailey

Did you know that according to recent National Park Service data, roughly 77% of visitors to national parks are white?

In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting this moving TEDx by Alex Bailey, founder of Black Outside, Inc.

Despite the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, the outdoors remains a non-diverse space. In his TED talk, Alex discusses the numerous benefits to spending time in nature, yet a lack of engagement for many communities of color today, particularly in the Black/African-American community, due to safety, access, relevancy, and representation. Although participation in outdoor activities remains predominantly white, many communities of color have centuries of history in nature, both tragic and triumphant. As painful as these histories have sometimes been, a deeper understanding of these dual truths could be the key to ensuring that the future of the outdoors is not only relevant but representative of the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.

Looking to learn more?

How Lucky we are to have Members and Partners like YOU!

We are grateful to all of our Members and Partners who have renewed their support of BTLT thus far this fiscal year! As we wrap up our 2022 giving season, it is clear that you continue to value the work of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and that you recognize it is only with your support that we are able to accomplish our critical conservation, stewardship, and community engagement work. Thank you. In December we welcomed 54 new Community Members and 4 new Community Partners (gifts of $1,000 or more). We also welcomed back 276 renewing Community Members and 32 renewing Community Partners, putting us right in step with our mid-year goals. The support of our business community remains strong as well, with a total of 20 Business Members and 14 Business Partners as of December 31st. We still have work to do, of course, to meet our fiscal year-end financial goals by June 30th, but thanks to you we are off to a solid start.
Your generous and steady support enables us to be about our work — work that includes preparing for the coming growing season at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden; offering our Winter Garden Workshop series; planning for the coming stewardship season, including the completion of an accessible trail at Woodward Point Preserve; pursuing lands projects in key focus areas like Maquoit and Middle Bays and the Cathance and Androscoggin River watersheds; working closely with CREA to explore ways for us to work together to offer nature-based education programming to meet the needs of the community sustainably into the future; corresponding with vendors as we look forward to the 2023 Farmers’ Market season; and settling on our summer programs, including stewardship walks, the Taking Root Plant Sale, yoga on the mall, and so much more. Thank you for being among our number for helping to make all of this important work possible. We are grateful.

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!

Exploring BTLT’s Trails This Winter

While winter weather arrived a bit later this year, snow is starting to coat our yards, roads, and trails! All of BTLT’s trail are open year-round, but please note that not all parking areas are plowed or accessible when there is snow and ice*. Read on to find out more about visiting your favorite local trails this winter and a few friendly reminders to help you prepare for winter adventure.

Wintertime Reminders

  • Not all parking areas will be plowed immediately after a storm, so plan appropriately if you arrive before the plow has and visit another nearby preserve rather than parking along the roadside, which can be dangerous in the wintertime with narrow shoulders and roads also being plowed.  
  • Remember to always stay on the trail while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing during the winter unless otherwise directed by signage to respect sensitive areas and landowners’ privacy as well as that of nearby neighbors.
  • Trails are likely to be icy and contain slipping hazards, particularly after a light dusting of snow, so be cautious and bring micro spikes or crawlers with you just in case.
  • Share the trail! Many trails are great for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing/walking, so please try not to walk in tracks to keep them usable for others.
  • Unfortunately, we could not find anyone to groom our trails this year – if you or anyone you know are interested in grooming for us, please reach out to info@btlt.org! 

Androscoggin Woods – Temporarily closed due to driveway conditions – we hope to re-open soon!

Bradley Pond Farm – This newly re-opened trail system and parking area are open year-round. If you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, remember you must stay on trail at all times to respect the landowners’ privacy. 

Cathance River Nature Preserve – Reminder that Hiker Parking is closed and visitors must park in the Ecology Center parking area, which is plowed during the winter. Notoriously icy the past few winters, be sure to plan your visit appropriately and keep a pair of ice spikes in the car should you need them!

Chase ReserveThe trails and parking area are open for wintertime exploration!

Crystal Spring FarmA beloved place to snowshoe and cross-country ski in the winter, remember to share the trail and try to keep ski tracks on one side of the pathway and snowshoes and boots on the other! Please stick to the edge of the woods if you are exploring the fields so that crop beds underneath do not get damaged when there is thin snow cover or rapid freeze thaw taking place. Please note the only a portion of the Farmers’ Market parking area is plowed during the wintertime.

Head of Tide Park – Please note that the gate is closed north of Cathance Road during the wintertime and visitors must park in the other parking lot across the bridge.

*Skolfield Preserve – Please note that while the trails are open, the grassy parking area is not plowed or maintained during the winter and should only be attempted by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Smart – This trail remains open during the winter and is accessible on foot only.

Maquoit Bay Conservation Lands – Views of Maquoit Bay can be enjoyed from this property year-round. 

Neptune Woods – These trails are used year-round by hikers and bikers alike – bikers should remember to pay attention to trail conditions during times of thaw to prevent trail erosion.

Tarbox Preserve – Enjoy views of the Cathance River from Tarbox Preserve this winter!

Woodward Cove – This property is open year-round for low-impact recreation as well as access to the working waterfront. Please note that only a portion of the parking area is plowed during the winter.

Woodward Point – Owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and co-managed with BTLT, Woodward Point is open year-round and the parking lot is plowed. Please observe all boundary signage when cross country skiing and respect abutting neighbors’ privacy. A fantastic place to cross country ski but be sure to get out there soon after snowfall as this coastal property is often the first place to lose its snow! 

A (Local) Food Community for All

At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market works with the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets (MFFM) to participate in several food access programs including SNAP, Maine Harvest Bucks, and Bumper Crop.

This year, we saw an increase in the use of SNAP benefits at our Market! MFFM launched a postcard mailing for SNAP users in Brunswick, bringing about a dozen new SNAP shoppers to the Market. Both the Brunswick Downtown Market and the Brunswick Winter Market have started participating in the SNAP program this season creating more opportunities to access food in our community. With these additions, all five farmers markets in the region are accessible to SNAP families.

The Maine Harvest Bucks program offers bonus vouchers for SNAP users to spend on fresh produce. The match shifted from last year’s 1:1 match to a 2:1 (50%) match of SNAP transactions. This change was due to an increase in the use of the program which has strained the funding. MFFM is currently fundraising to support the Harvest Bucks program. In 2021 $1.2 million was spent with local food producers through SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks, according to MFFM.

BTLT has continued to participate in the Bumper Crop, a workplace wellness program developed by the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets that provides employees with vouchers to be spent at farmers markets. The program has continued to expand with employers across the state and the number of participating farmers markets. While BTLT’s Bumper Crop voucher use was lower this season, other markets in the area have joined the program resulting in a net increase in use in our communities. If you are an employer or an employee in Maine and think this program would be a good fit for your company or organization, you can learn more here

We are also excited to share that we are continuing to expand our food access programming with a new Pop Club program for the 2023 season. POP Clubs provide youth at Farmers Markets with vouchers to spend on fruits and veggies, encouraging exploration of foods and healthy eating, early engagement in local food systems and agriculture, and providing more income to local producers. Vendors are encouraged to partake in POP Club programs by offering “POP” deals for kids. We are looking forward to launching this program in the spring and continuing to explore more ways to expand food access and invite more folks to our Market! 

Land Trust & Library Receive Largest Bequest Ever

Curtis Memorial Library (CML) and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) each recently received significant bequests from the estate of long-time Brunswick resident, Wallace Pinfold, who passed away on November 1, 2021. These gifts – the largest in the history of both organizations – will enhance the endowments of both CML and BTLT for the benefit of the communities each serves for generations to come.

Wallace Pinfold was a remarkable individual. A gifted French language interpreter and translator, Wallace was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, a ranger naturalist in Yosemite, and a gardener in greater Brunswick. He authored one book, co-authored another, and traveled to far-flung destinations around the world, collecting ceramics, paintings, and photographs along the way. He was a brilliant conversationalist with rare listening skills. “I had the great pleasure of working with Wallace a few years ago to design a small perennial garden in a space in my yard created by the removal of a tree,” recalls BTLT Board President Emily Swan. “Wallace’s wide-ranging and on-point observations during our search for plants and rambles through the garden transformed what might have been an otherwise mundane experience into an
entertaining and educational adventure. And I have never met anyone with more impeccable manners.”

 

Pinfold volunteering at the Curtis Friends Annual Book Sale (2016)

“We had the great pleasure of knowing and working with Wallace Pinfold for over 25 years. As a gardener, author and voracious reader, Wallace’s gifts to the library took many forms,” shared Curtis’ Executive Director Elisabeth Doucett. When the new library building opened in 1999 and the Village Improvement Association (VIA) financed the construction of the Reading Garden, VIA member Wallace continued to carefully steward this well-loved green space. Serving on Curtis’ Board of Directors from 2012 to 2018, Wallace was a thoughtful fundraiser; never missed working at the Curtis Friends annual book sale; and brought his quick wit, warmth and love of literature to every board meeting, event, and encounter with a fellow reader.

To honor his late mother – a long-time library volunteer – Wallace established the Jean Laidlaw Pinfold Flowers Fund in 2018. Most days, a floral arrangement from Mare Brook Farm graces the library lobby in a favorite vase given by Wallace.

Memorial gifts to the library received at Wallace’s passing were used to restore the gardens surrounding the Middle Street entrance to the library this summer, thanks to the support of many volunteer master gardeners led by Noreen Williams. In addition to native flowers and trees, a variety of Siberian and Japanese irises from the stock of late renowned hybridizer, Currier McEwen of Harpswell, were donated and planted under the guidance of Pinfold family friend, Sharon Whitney of Eartheart Gardens.

Curtis Memorial Library’s Board of Directors have designated a majority of Wallace’s bequest to the library’s endowment fund in support of its long-term health. A portion of the funds will be directed to fund several more immediate projects that align with Wallace’s love of gardening and the library.

Wallace was a member of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust for 17 years, where he was motivated by the opportunity to conserve land in his community. Inspired by the environmentalism of his father, local veterinarian Dr. Russel Pinfold, Wallace’s early involvement with BTLT included supporting the conservation of Crystal Spring Farm. “Wallace’s generosity during his lifetime helped us to conserve many of the most special natural areas in our community. His extraordinary bequest will allow us to steward these lands into the future and make sure that we are able to fulfill the commitment we make with each piece of land we conserve,” noted Angela Twitchell, Executive Director, BTLT.

The Board of Directors of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has designated the bulk of Wallace’s bequest to its long-term land stewardship fund. When BTLT conserves a parcel of land, it makes a promise that it will care for the land forever. This commitment extends to maintaining trails and public access, making sure the terms of an easement are honored, removing invasive plants, or promoting a sense of place and a love of the land through education and outreach. Wallace’s bequest will ensure that BTLT’s stewardship endowment will provide funds on an annual basis to support stewardship needs.

Thanks for joining us for our Annual Meeting! (Recording Available)

Thank you to the 100 folks who attended our 2022 Annual Meeting! We were so excited to host both remotely, and in-person at the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center (AOEC). A recording of the event is available by clicking here, or below.  

If you don’t know much about AOEC, we encourage you to check them out! Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for all people with disabilities through adaptive recreation and education programs. 

A big thank you to our environmental/outdoor educator panelists Amara Ifeji, Olivia Griset, and Sarah Rodgers for discussing “The Nature of Learning: Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Nature-Based Education.” Thanks to Caroline Eliot for moderating.  

Thank you to our sponsor, Eaton Peabody, to AOEC for their incredible space and helpful staff and to Senza Scarpe, Wild Oats, and Jackass Annie for all the delicious food and drinks! 

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to fill out this brief, anonymous survey – your feedback is incredibly helpful to us for improving our events for our community! 

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.

What to Know About our New Strategic Plan 2023-2027

Recently the BTLT Board of Directors adopted a new Five-year Strategic Plan that aims to advance the mission of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust by setting new, vital strategic goals for our programs, enhancing organizational effectiveness and efficiency, and bringing financial sustainability to a new level.  

This plan builds on major accomplishments under our previous Strategic Plan: obtaining valuable feedback from a wide-ranging community survey to help shape future priorities, expanding programs and staff capacity driven by a significant growth in membership and Annual Fund, and strengthening stewardship sustainability by nearly reaching our goal of a two-million dollar endowment fund through Board designations of special donations and bequests. It also reflects our deepened commitment to the inter-related importance of enhancing ecological and community resiliency through conservation and support for local farms, fisheries and sustainable forestry, as well as community engagement and education.  

By their very nature, strategic plans need to be adaptable to changing circumstances. The COVID pandemic was a prime example, requiring reorientation of our core programs for stewardship and community engagement to protect staff and public safety, while encouraging well-managed outdoor activities including our Farmers’ Market, community gardens and access to trails. It also required adroit adjustments in financial management and fundraising. Our success in navigating these challenges and lessons learned have also contributed to shaping the new strategic plan.

Over the past year the BTLT Board and staff held a series of facilitated retreat meetings by Zoom to discuss the challenges and opportunities in our various programs and organizational development. This informed consideration of goals and priorities in all of these areas have been incorporated into the plan.  

The plan also, for the first time, includes statements of core values to guide the work of the Land Trust. These represent an articulation of how the culture of BTLT has evolved in recent years that we felt should be codified going forward. These cover:

  • Collaboration and Cooperation.
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency.
  • Excellence and Integrity.
  • Inclusion and Equity.
  • Financial Responsibility.
  • Innovation.
  • Perseverance.

The plan remains firmly rooted in our core mission of conservation and stewardship and deep commitment 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, Mowitanij Epijij (Wabanaki garden), trail accessibility initiatives, LGBTQIA+ walks, and more.

The Core Directions that are set forth in the new strategic plan are to: 

  • Energetically pursue new lands conservation projects.
  • Increase stewardship capacity further to support new land conservation and ongoing required stewardship. 
  • Expand youth education through increased integration with the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA).
  • Integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation more explicitly in our lands, stewardship, agriculture, and educational programs, in line with the Climate Action Plan adopted for Maine.
  • Integrate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices into all our work, building on an explicit commitment we made in April 2021 and on activities already underway.
  • 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.

In the coming year, we will be giving priority focus on the emerging opportunities for new conservation projects, expanding our youth education integration with CREA, and continuing to evolve initiatives already underway with climate change and DEI. As we move forward in pursuing these priority directions, we will provide more detailed information on initiatives and progress in a series of future blog posts.