By Alex Lear
July 23, 2019
Head of Tide Park is Topsham’s first waterfront park. The Park is located at the Cathance River’s head of tide, or the furthest upstream that the tide impacts the river and is home to a 15-foot waterfall, trail head, picnic pavilions, and hand-carry boat launch to access the lower, or tidal section of the river. The town of Topsham is hoping to improve this space, though, with better parking and a hand-carry boat launch.
The Portland Press Herald recently covered these proposed improvements in a story by Alex Lear.
The town is seeking $55,000 in grants from the state to improve parking and build a hand-carry boat launch at Head of Tide Park.
The Board of Selectmen on July 18 unanimously authorized Town Manager Rich Roedner to apply for the funding, which is available through the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ Boating Facilities Fund.
The total project would cost $73,000; $18,000, or 25%, would be provided by the town – $10,000 from the current budget and $8,000 from in-kind work by Public Works, according to Town Planner Rod Melanson.
The 12-acre Cathance River park, at 235 Cathance Road, is owned by the town and stewarded by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. It offers a 15-foot waterfall at the river’s highest tidal reach, hand-carry boat access on either side of the falls, a trailhead that connects to more than 7 miles of trails, and picnic and parking areas.
By Lily McVetty, Summer Intern
Before my internship with BTLT, I could count the number of times I had been paddling on my fingers. Last week, I was invit ed to accompany my colleagues on not only one, but two work-related paddling trips. I was pleased to be presented with the opportunity to get on the water and to familiarize myself with two more properties within the area.
The first property we paddled to was Cow Island, a property located on the Androscoggin River. I had been aware of this island for a while, having passed it many times on Route 1 and on the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path. I was excited to explore this property up close. On Monday, we hopped into a canoe at the Town of Brunswick’s Water Street Boat Landing. We paddled to Cow Island and around its perimeter to locate a section that BTLT monitors for an invasive plant called yellow Iris. We hauled two large, contractor bags of yellow iris (if left behind, it will spread to other parts of the island) and trash, which had washed up onto its shores.
The next day, we geared up with a canoe and two kayaks and headed to a property in Topsham, which runs parallel to another section of the Androscoggin River. The objective of the trip was to prospect the property from a water-level vantage point for future projects. It felt good to collectively get out of the office and onto the water. We were fortunate enough to encounter a Bald Eagle resting on a branch in the river, a few patches of native blue iris happily blowing with the breeze, and a significant scattering of mussels growing along the banks.
Although paddling twice within one week is a benefit of working for a land trust, I’d argue the real perk is learning about the various roles, responsibilities, procedures, and logistics that can be easily deemed cumbersome. Nonetheless, they are critical to achieving the land trust’s goals. One of the major reasons why I wanted to be an intern at BTLT was to learn what exactly a land trust does and HOW. Within just five weeks, I have done a significant amount of learning by doing. Now, I have more gratitude towards land stewards and their labor intensive dedication, towards farmers’ market vendors and managers – especially their passion for localization and attention to detail – , towards development associates and their ability to effectively convey the land trust’s mission (which enables BTLT to continue protecting the area’s natural resources and serving its peoples), and towards volunteers who take time out of their busy schedules and donate their personal materials to further projects. Being exposed to the not-so-glamourous, day-to-day work and connecting with people from all walks of life are the real perks to working for a land trust.
By Lily McVetty, 2019 Summer Intern
Lots of excitement is happening at Cathance River Nature Preserve and Tardiff!
Cathance River Nature Preserve is a 230-acre property, located at the Highland Green Retirement Community in Topsham. Within the past two years, there has been a significant amount of residential development at Highland Green. A meadow that locals call the Rabbit Ear, which once hosted an intersection for several trails, is now under construction to become home to five new homes. To ensure continued trail usage, the trail network within the Rabbit Ear area is being re-routed. This week, a handful of well-versed volunteers from Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) came out to assist with establishing a new trail. I appreciated not only their prior knowledge and experience, but also their company. As a student who anticipates on studying abroad in Amsterdam, Netherlands, I enjoyed conversing with a volunteer about the city. Ron informed me that he was recently in Amsterdam and enjoyed his time there so much that he hopes to return to the city in the near future. It was thoughtful of Ron to share his favorite spots and recommendations with me while we worked to develop a new trail section.
Tardiff is a 121-acre property located between the Cathance and Muddy Rivers. The property is divided into two major parcels by Middlesex Road in Topsham. Although there are no official parking spots and trails yet, BTLT is in the process of planning and putting those into place. Margaret and I scouted the northwest parcel for seasonal trails. After a couple trips around the perimeter, several loops through the woods and tall grass sections, and many tick-checks later, we flagged a relatively direct route to a serene outlook on the Cathance River. Next week, we will be teaming up with the Regional Field Team to clear the anticipated trail. Additionally, Margaret and I flagged a loop trail for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter. Fun things are coming!
By Lily McVetty, 2019 Summer Intern
June 20, 2019
This past week, land stewards from the Regional Field Team helped Margaret and I complete various projects at several properties in Brunswick and in Topsham. It is true that a little help goes a long way. With the assistance from the Regional Field Team, we were able to accomplish a lot of important tasks that would otherwise be daunting. Thanks to their hard work and upbeat demeanors, the trails at Woodward Cove are in better condition and are waiting to be explored and enjoyed!
We dedicated a significant part of the week to working on improvements at Woodward Cove, a property located on Gurnet Road in Brunswick. The water access trail was re-routed to create a direct path to the water and to protect and conserve the marshes. In the near future, BTLT anticipates installing stone steps to ensure its users a safer transition from the land to the water. Additionally, this will aid in protecting the shore from further erosion. On the loop trail, invasive plant species were removed and bog bridges were installed.
These projects presented us with the opportunity to learn and fine-tune valuable stewardship skills and techniques. We learned how to properly use a chain saw to cut down hazardous trees. I learned how to identify and remove several invasives. Woodward Cove is home to a non-native plant called Bittersweet. It is characterized by its bright orange roots, which should be hung off the ground in nearby trees to prevent further spreading. The Regional Field Team and I had a fun time testing each other’s invasive plant knowledge. How many invasives can you identify on the Woodward Cove trails?
By Christian Schorn
It must have looked odd. In one corner of the Blueberry Fields at Crystal Spring Farm, a group of people crept across the fields, every now and then one leaping or pirouetting with a long net on a pole. In the other, people knelt in a circle around a miniscule patch of grass, their eyes inches away from the stubby flowers. But what looked like modern dance or pagan ritual was actually naturalists at work!
On June 8th, BTLT hosted its first ever Bioblitz at Crystal Spring Farm. The goal of a bioblitz is to compile a list of all the known species in a given area over a defined period of time. Expert, amateur, and aspiring naturalists all get together and spend a morning, day, or week catching butterflies, following beetles, scoping out birds, and identifying wildflowers, recording their observations as they go. Bioblitzes can be useful for a variety of reasons—data collection, public engagement, or just a fun excuse to get outside. But why focus on these little fields?
What many people know as the “blueberry fields” at Crystal Spring Farm is really a rare natural community type called a Sandplain Grassland. These prairie-like ecosystems appeared in Maine soon after the glaciers retreated, tracing the outline of the sandy glacial moraines and outwash deltas left behind. They were likely maintained in their open state through burning by the indigenous Abenaki people for blueberry farming and game hunting purposes, but after European settlement, many of these grasslands were developed, converted to agriculture, or invaded by trees as a result of fire suppression. The modern remnants of this natural community in the Northeast are ecologically enigmatic, and ranked as “extremely rare” by the state of Maine.
As stewards of the conserved land at Crystal Spring Farm, we consider it our responsibility to preserve these rare elements of Maine’s natural heritage. In the next several years, we hope to implement prescribed burns in the blueberry fields as a management tool to reduce tree and shrub cover and sustain the natural grasslands. But we won’t be able to tell how effective these treatments are unless we understand exactly how they change the landscape— so we put out a call for enthusiastic naturalists to help us!
So on a warm Saturday morning in June, BTLT staff and volunteers met bright and early on the Blueberry Loop for an early morning birding hour. After hearing and witnessing uncommon grassland birds such as eastern meadowlarks and prairie warblers, we divided into two naturalist strike teams—one catching and studying insects, and the other identifying and recording plants. Pictures and identifications were uploaded to iNaturalist, an app designed to collect and share species observations from across the world. If you are an iNaturalist user, you can see our collected observations under the project “BTLT Blueberry Barren Bioblitz. Team Bug had a fruitful morning catching and observing an astounding number of native pollinators and insects such as ichneumon wasps, soldier flies, nomad bees, and pine elfins. Team Plant learned how to identify plants using botanical keys, and wielded their newfound knowledge to identify chokeberries, cinquefoils, and blue-eyed grasses, and discover endangered species under their own noses, including a vast population of the endangered velvet sedge (Carex vestita) and new populations of the rare dryland sedge (Carex siccata)!
We will be holding a second Bioblitz this summer on August 10th (check our Events page for more information closer to the event date!), to continue collecting pre-burn baseline data, and will continue to host bioblitzes in the summers following our burn management, to understand how biodiversity changed in response—like taking pictures both before and after a home renovation.
Apart from gaining valuable data on the biodiversity of an area, we came away with a greater and deeper appreciation of what our conservation efforts are protecting here at Crystal Spring Farm. By the end of the day, we found ourselves noticing little things we hadn’t before; a quick-fluttering day emerald moth, iridescent tiger beetles glinting in the sun, waves of velvet sedge rippling gently in the breeze, a sole pink ladyslipper standing erect above a low sea of blueberry bushes. We share our conserved places with these special species, and it’s the least we can do to get to know our neighbors.
Thanks to Richard Joyce for helping to organize this event, and to all the volunteers who showed up to help!
Hello! My name Lily McVetty, and I am a rising junior at Bowdoin College. This summer, I will be stewarding various properties for BTLT and helping out at the weekend farmers’ markets. As someone who grew up in Maine, I am passionate about maintaining and conserving the State’s natural resources. I have many fond memories hiking, swimming, and skiing in Midcoast Maine. It is my hope that many forthcoming generations will also be able to benefit from their natural surroundings. During my past two years at Bowdoin, I have enjoyed several runs and visits to properties maintained by BTLT. I look forward to familiarizing myself with the non-profits’ trails and to supporting local farmers and businesses within the community.
I am grateful to live and study in an area in which its immediate and neighboring communities share a strong desire to protect its environment. I am excited to learn from and work alongside Brunswick and Topsham organizations. My internship at BTLT will provide meaningful experiences that will lead to many future opportunities to continue advocating for sustainable practices.
While off the trails, I will be volunteering with the Sunrise Movement, adventuring nearby restaurants and coffee cafés, catching up on leisure reading, and playing soccer with friends.
October 17, 2018
The Neptune Woods Trails Celebration is this Sunday, October 21 and we can’t wait to enjoy the trails with you! Check out this recent Times Record article to learn more about the new trails.
BRUNSWICK — A new club in the Topsham and Brunswick wants to give bike enthusiasts more places to ride and draw more people into the sport.
Since opening a new chapter in April, the Six Rivers chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association has been working to improve access to recreational trails. Topsham officials recently gave the club the go-ahead to develop a trail system in town. Through volunteer efforts and partnering with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust they are ready to officially open the Neptune Woods Trail at Brunswick Landing on Oct. 21.
“We had these trails in Brunswick and Topsham that really just need some maintenance,” said Kristian Haralson, Six Rivers board member. “Our hope is within the next year to do more programming.”
The group hopes the new trails and programs will draw more riders, especially children. Haralson said Topsham’s designs will be similar to what the club has done in other areas. The trail should be smooth, making it accessible for newer riders.
Trails in Construction Area and Parking Changes
Due to construction, the intersection of the Highland Trail, River Access Trail, and Cathance River Trail (West and East) is flagged and off limits in some areas. Please proceed through the openings in the flagging as indicated by the arrows below to continue to the Preserve trails, avoid areas where access is flagged off, and use caution while passing through this area.
During this time hikers are directed to park at the Ecology Center parking instead of Hiker Parking. Please park thoughtfully to ensure that you are far enough off the road and to accommodate as many cars as possible. If the Ecology Center parking area is full, additional parking can be found at the Community Center.
Please contact the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust at 729-7694 if you have any questions and thank you for your patience during this time!