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Rogers property monitoring walk along the Cathance River Trail

One of the great perks of a seat on the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust board is the opportunity go out on monitoring walks in the fall. 

These are the annual visits the land trust pays to each of the properties on which it holds a conservation easement.   The purpose is to be sure that the terms of the easement are being followed and to look out for any changes or problems that may be developing on the property.

 

Our group of four set out at around 10 in the morning,  half an hour into the walk we were shedding our jackets and enjoying the sparkling, uncharacteristically warm fall morning.  The mission was to monitor the Town of Topsham’s Rogers property on which the Land Trust holds an easement.  This parcel is a key link in the Cathance River Trail, connecting Head of Tide Park to the Cathance River Nature Preserve.  If you haven’t been out on this trail, drop what you’re doing immediately and get outside!  It is beautiful, with stretches through uplands towering over the meandering Cathance and sections that hug the river’s banks, and peaceful.  With the exception of a group of 15 or so Highland Green residents out for a morning hike, we had the trail to ourselves.

We noted a blowdown or two that need removing but otherwise encountered no problems on the trail.  We marked a place where a bench would be welcome – any Eagle Scout candidates out there looking for a project??! – and promised the Highland Green residents that we would look into their recommendation that blazing along the trail be improved.  After a moment’s rest on the Clay Brook Bridge, which spans the stream separating the Cathance River Trail from the Cathance Preserve trail system, we headed back, enjoying the sound of birds in the trees and the glint of sunlight off the surface of the river below.

Quarry Trail to Market and More!

By Susan Olcott

The Quarry Loop is easy to miss as it is the only trail on the “other” side of Woodside Road – separate from the bulk of the trails at Crystal Spring Farm. You reach the Quarry Loop by  starting from the little spur of the East Trail at the corner of the parking lot for the Farmer’s Market (from the trail head near the porta-potties), taking a right onto the short Quarry Trail link that runs behind the farm, and crossing over Woodside. It’s only .2 miles from the parking lot to Woodside Road, and is flat and has good footing. Along the way, you might see an assortment of animals on the farm and also peek at some of the things growing by the farmhouse. After carefully crossing the road, you will find the short Quarry Loop, just another .2 miles or so around. When we went recently, there were blackberries and black-eyed susans along the way, and there’s a nice granite bench to sit and rest as well.

One great thing about the Quarry Trail is that it provides a safe link to walk between Woodside Road and the Farmer’s Market. If you’ve been to the Market, you likely have noticed that you are not alone, but a part of the throngs of others coming to enjoy the cornucopia of goodies on Saturday mornings. Parking is always a challenge and many park along the busy Pleasant Hill Road. But, Woodside Road is an alternative place to park that many people don’t think of. Perhaps it is because they don’t know about this lovely short linking trail. 

A great thing about the Quarry Loop is that there is a lovely secret pool that has fresh, cool water in a shady spot. Often after nibbling on delicious pastries and sipping hot coffee while dancing in the sunshine with my girls to sweet fiddle music, we are ready for a little cool forest reprieve. And, this is a great spot to find it. On a recent visit to the pool, we were surprised by multiple plops as frogs hopped back into the water upon hearing us. Swimming on the surface of the water were giant solitary water beetles and flotillas of water boatmen with oar-like appendages paddling along. And, tiny silvery minnows darted back and forth under the surface. My daughter took this watercolor-like photograph of the still water reflecting the clouds and a frog peeking up. We were amazed at how much life was in this little pool. We even found tree frog eggs in a thick jelly on a few leaves dangling above the water, waiting to hatch and drop down to their aquatic home.

The rock surrounding the pool is smooth pink granite flecked with silvery mica and there are lots of little outcroppings. If you’re looking for ideas for kiddos on this trail or any others at Crystal Springs, you can print out a copy of a neat little Activity Book that Bowdoin Environmental Studies students put together with BTLT and the farm. We were satisfied just studying pond life and taking pictures. But, next time I’ll have to bring a net.

So, next Saturday when you find yourself heading to the market, leave a little extra time before or after to park along Woodside and follow the Quarry Trail over to the market and then on your way back, cross over the road to walk the Loop Trail to see the Quarry and its abundant life – and dip your toes.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Connects Kids and Carrots

Land Trust works to engage youth at Community Garden 

BY LIZ PIERSON
2017-08-25

“Mine’s got dirt on it!”

“Mine has two legs, like a funny little man!”

The first-time carrot harvesters — two nine-year-old boys — squealed with laughter. They beamed, held their carrots high, and knelt down to pull a few more.

It was a beautiful August day at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden at Crystal Spring Farm. The carrot harvesters were 14 children and a few parents from Perryman Village Family Housing in Brunswick. Earlier this summer, with a grant from the Senter Fund, the Land Trust donated the lumber and soil for raised beds in front yards at the village. Land Trust staff and volunteers built the beds, and families helped fill and plant them with seedlings donated by several local farms.

Now, a group of these novice gardeners were touring the Land Trust’s own Community Garden. The group also picked peas, made their own wraps from local vegetables, and escaped the heat with a shady walk on a nearby Land Trust trail. Another group of Perryman kids had come to the garden in July.

Well-tended raised bed at Perryman Village

For most of the kids, it was their first visit, but for a few, they proudly explained, it was old hat. In June, all of the first-graders at Brunswick’s Coffin Elementary School visited the garden to transplant 240 squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers they had started in their classrooms earlier in the spring. The squash harvest will be donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and the sunflowers and pumpkins will be harvested this fall by Coffin students.

The new raised beds at Perryman Village are also producing food.

“They look amazing. And the kids are doing the bulk of the work in them,” the Land Trust’s Outreach and Education Coordinator Lee Cataldo said recently. “It’s so wonderful to see the kids so engaged and drawing their parents in with their excitement and pride.”

The project, now in its second year, resulted from a partnership between the Land Trust and Art- Van, a local nonprofit that promotes the arts in low-income communities.

“We started by doing some environmental art at Perryman, and the gardening idea grew from that,” Cataldo said. She sees the project as an opportunity to open new doors and share ideas about what can be done with a garden, by anyone. “Growing your own food is empowering. Every kids deserves to have that experience.”

The project also reflects the expanding role of the Land Trust’s garden as a community-wide resource. In addition to its 80 plots for community members, the garden includes a large plot where food is grown for MCHPP primarily by volunteers. This summer, Curtis Memorial Library is hosting a series of gardening workshops in their demonstration plots at the garden. One of the newest partners is Brunswick High School, which also has a large plot for the summer farm program it runs for at-risk students. With every new activity and workshop offered, the Land Trust believes the garden strengthens its ties in the community.

Cataldo expects the satellite project at Perryman Village to expand next year.

“There’s demand,” she said. “In the two days we were there installing the beds, a lot more families said they’d like one.” She also hopes to add more field trips, including to local farms and the Land Trust’s farmers market.

Now in its fourth decade, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust strives to provide a diverse array of programs that serve the needs of as many segments of the community as possible. As for those young carrot harvesters? Cataldo smiled broadly.

“They’re great,” she said. “Some may become gardeners and some won’t. But all of our work with kids is an investment in the next generation of land stewards and a healthy community.”

For more information on the Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden, visit www.btlt.org/community-garden.

Jewelweed Forest

That’s what my girls named a stretch of the Town Landing Trail descending from Elm Street in Topsham down to the Androscoggin River – Jewelweed Forest.  We had had a drizzly evening before our hike, so the plants were moist and dewy as we brushed through them and the bright jewelweed blossoms stood out under a gray sky. They were just about as tall as my girls, making it seem like a forest just their size.

There are few quiet riverfront places in Brunswick and Topsham, and this short trail culminating in lovely views was a nice discovery.

The trail starts at Elm Street and descends quickly into soft grasses and then opens out along the river for a short stretch. It was a treat to look across the river back towards Brunswick’s Pinette Park, where we’ve often played in the field before or after a trip on the bike path. We remembered sledding down the hill and watching ice fishermen, though at this time of year people were wading out in the water to fly fish.

On our way back through Jewelweed Forest I got to thinking about the variety of habitats along the BTLT trails (this trail belongs to the Town of Topsham, but the Land Trust played a pivotal role in designing and building it last summer). Last week, we’d been blueberry picking at Crystal Spring Farm (click HERE for more details on picking at the farm) and that reminded me of the edible and medicinal plants in many of these places.

Jewelweed is one of those plants that are quite useful – and pairs nicely with its adversary, poison ivy, which is often found in similar areas. I will say that we didn’t see any poison ivy on this hike, just to allay any worries. But, aside from having a striking orange flower that looks like a dragon and is much loved by humming birds, jewelweed can be used to relieve itchiness caused by the oils of poison ivy. You can simply crush the leaves and rub on the itchy places, or collect a bunch of jewelweed, blend it in a blender, strain, and rub the juice on the affected area, take a bath in it, or freeze it into ice cubes.**

The name “jewelweed” is because droplets of water bead up on the leaves, giving the appearance of tiny jewels. Another endearing feature of jewelweed is that in the early summer, the seed pods are great fun to pop open.

They are touch sensitive, so that if you touch the bottom of the ripe pods, or put one in the palm of your hand and poke it gently, it will burst open and the seeds will fly out – as seen in this VIDEO. This gives them their other name, touch-me-not.

So, all those pretty flowers along the trail aren’t just adding color and variety
to the landscape, but can serve practical uses and be lots of fun to play with!

By Susan Olcott

** Please use caution when trying any herbal remedy – seek expert advice on your ailment as well as the identification and preparation of all herbals, and keep in mind that each individual may have unique sensitivities that can make certain remedies inappropriate.

Chainsaw!

We’re happy to announce the the Land Trust is now the proud owner of a Stihl chainsaw, which was generously donated by business member Chad Little in Brunswick along with protective chaps and a helmet. The Land Trust is thrilled to put the chainsaw to good use, keeping our 17 miles of trails clear and safe.

Taking off on the Trail

by Susan Olcott

Phoebe and Liliana Olcott and Hunter Dubel

If you’ve ever hiked with kiddos, you have probably experienced two very opposite challenges. One – keeping them moving along the trail to reach your destination, and two – once they are moving, preventing them from taking off out of sight. Pacing is a learned art! I’ve gotten pretty good at meeting challenge number one – trail snacks, scavenger hunts and nature journaling or photography are all big hits. And, don’t forget the importance of picking a manageable trail for your leg length and one that, ideally, has something neat at its apex. Taking all that into consideration in selecting a trail to hike with some friends on a recent Saturday after a morning at the Farmer’s Market, we decided to try out the newly opened Chase Reserve off Bunganuc Road – a flat 1-mile trail ending at a vernal pool. There was an added incentive in that the Chase Reserve Trail is on the Midcoast Summer Trail Challenge, so we were able to pick up a trail card to mark this one off and enter to win a raffle at the end of the summer.

This was a new trail to all of us, so we didn’t know exactly what lay ahead. But, we did remember challenge number two and took a good look at the map before leaving the parking area to see that there were a few choices along the way. Noticing the high energy level of our lead pack, we discussed the importance of stopping at every intersection and waiting for the whole group to re-gather. We also talked about making sure you don’t get so far ahead of the adults that they can’t still see you. And, finally, we reminded them that if you get lost on the trail, you should always stay put and periodically call out your name or the name of someone in your group. Then  . . . they took off.

Trusting that we had reviewed the necessary trail rules, we now got to enjoy this beautiful new property. As described in the trail brochure I’d picked up at the Farmer’s Market, the forest in this 194-acre easement property is a neat mix of white pines and hemlocks that is part of the largest unfragmented forest block along the coast in Cumberland County. The day was slightly cloudy, but light filtered down through the tall trees as we walked and a gentle breeze blew through newly emerged leaves. Quickly, though, we found we’d been lured by the natural beauty and couldn’t see our crew. But, we found them waiting for us at this trail sign. Hooray for listening to our instructions! When we praised them for this, we reviewed our three rules 1) stay within site, 2) stop at intersections, and 3) stay put if you’re lost. Here’s the crew counting the rules on their fingers.

From there, we were able to finish the walk together to reach a lovely vernal pool just at the edge of the adjacent land managed by the Freeport Conservation Trust trails (for those interested in venturing further). We saw newly emerged frogs along the edge of the pool as well as a delicate dragonflies perched atop some reeds. Our destination delivered the promised reward we had sought. We reversed our course and took the other part of the loop back, pushing the crew along as signs of hunger were emerging and we hadn’t properly provisioned snacks. All told, this was a terrific experience for everyone, a great place for young kids, and an opportunity to teach a bit of trail safety, all in a beautiful place.

 

What you can make possible.

Coffin Students Visit Land Trust’s Community Garden

120 First Graders plant seedlings for their community.

Taking advantage of recent a rare sunny day, six first grade classes from Coffin Elementary School set off on foot for Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG).  Their goal was to transplant approximately 240 squash, pumpkin, sunflower and nasturtium plants that they had seeded earlier in the spring.  With this goal in mind, along with the opportunity for outdoor, experiential learning, they dug into this task with gusto.

TSCG is located on Crystal Spring Farm, a property owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Through the Garden, the Land Trust strives to provide intergenerational gardening opportunities, increase the availability of locally grown food for area food pantries, and offer experiential gardening opportunities for the community.

With the help of a dedicated crew of volunteers, the young students transplanted all of their seedlings into the Garden. The squash harvest will be donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, while the pumpkins and sunflowers will be harvested for further study by Coffin Students in the fall.

Staff from the Land Trust, Nikkilee (Lee) Cataldo and Caroline Elliot, were on hand to give tours of the Garden, including the composting and solar powered watering facilities that are on site.  “We love having kids in the Garden!” said Cataldo. “It is import to our mission as a land trust to have young folks get their hands dirty doing something good for the community, and to just enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing community asset.”

As this school year nears its end, students were able to stay engaged in their learning while participating in a service project for their community.  First graders have spent time this spring learning about plant life cycles, plant parts, and growing requirements.  Coffin teachers appreciated the opportunity for their students to experience the next phase in the gardening process by transplanting the plants they had grown in the classroom.  Most students enjoyed digging in the dirt and finding earthworms, but eating watermelon was a unanimous success.  First grader Sylus Pillsbury beamed as he said, “This is really fun!”

Chase Reserve Grand Opening

We opened a new trail for National Trails Day!

A new hiking trail at Chase Reserve on Bunganuc Road in Brunswick officially opened for business on National Trails Day (Saturday, June 3rd). Twenty-five adventurous souls showed up for guided walks on Saturday, curious for a look at this 193-acre property that is part of the largest undeveloped block of forestland in coastal Cumberland County. We hold a conservation easement on the property and built and manage the trail now open to the public.

On Saturday, several groups were guided along Jack’s Trail, a mile-long journey over rolling terrain through woods dominated by white pine, hemlock, and red oak, interspersed by small openings from a timber harvest. Pointing to decaying piles of branches from the harvest (slash), Land Trust Associate Director Caroline Eliot noted the benefits of leaving this material on site. It provides cover for small animals and nutrients for the next crop of trees. She added, “While it’s not pretty initially, it’s amazing how quickly the land recovers from the harvest.” Eliot pointed out how quickly ferns and wildflowers are reclaiming the herb layer and directed attention to dense spruce, fir, and white pine regeneration in small openings created by the harvest.

The trail has many small ups and downs as it winds through the hummocks and hollows of the forest.  Eliot remarked that deer tracks indicate wildlife is enjoying the trail as well. Hikers marveled at a 5-acre area of majestic, 100-year-old white pine and hemlock near the rear of the property. The easement designates this and several other areas for special management to protect particularly valuable or sensitive resources. Hikers were also fascinated by a moose rub on a six-inch diameter conifer at the edge of a clearing.  Large sections of bark had been scraped away up to seven feet above the ground by a moose’s antlers. One group observed a beaver in the beaver-created impoundment at the rear of the property. Here, at the trail’s end, the adventurous can cross an old beaver dam on the Little River (proceed with caution!), and pick up Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail.

The property, which is privately-owned, was conserved by Jack Henshaw in 2011. He was determined that the property, owned by his family since the 1940s, remain much as he experienced it growing up. Henshaw conveyed a conservation easement to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust ensuring the property will never be developed but allowing continued agricultural and forest management. At Jack Henshaw’s request, the Reserve was named for Benjamin Chase, owner of the property in the 1700s and Revolutionary War soldier.

Henshaw’s two daughters, Anne and Betsy, and a granddaughter, Lila Davies, attended one of the Saturday walks. His son, John Henshaw, lives nearby and is also actively involved in the family’s management of the property. Anne Henshaw said of her father, who passed away in 2013, “I know Dad would have been thrilled with the trail and the knowledge that these woods are being enjoyed by the community, especially dogs.  He loved to walk the property over the years with the many generations of dogs who called Chase Reserve home.” Dogs are allowed on leash on the trail at Chase Reserve and several were in attendance on Saturday.

The easement protects valuable coastal habitat abutting Maquoit Bay, to the benefit of clammers, wormers, boaters, fishermen, and others. It also protects streams and forested wetlands important to water quality in the bay. The property’s diverse habitat, which includes fields, small forest openings, and mature forest, and proximity to other undeveloped properties, makes it attractive to many birds and forest-dwelling animals.

The property’s many natural values and proximity to other conserved properties made it a top candidate for conservation. The conservation easement was funded primarily by a federal National Coastal Wetlands Grant, with additional financial support from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Open Space Conservancy, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, and Jack Henshaw.

Located just before the Freeport town boundary, Chase Reserve is marked by a small parking area on the upland side of the road. Public access to the property is limited to the trail which is marked by a white blaze. Visit this property soon and experience the deep quiet and rich bird song of this woodland!

The Land Trust has been working for over 35 years in the Brunswick-Topsham region to strengthen their community through conservation. With over 2,500 acres in conserved, the Land Trust also manages over 17 miles of trails, the Saturday Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm, Tom Settlemire Community Garden, Labyrinth in the Woods, along will a diverse array of events and programs.