Angela at Woodward Point 2023
How do you say goodbye – and adequately express thanks – to a leader like Angela Twitchell, who leaves her job as Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s executive director at the end of August to assume the post of Land Trust Program Director at the Maine Land Trust Network? Angela joined the BTLT Board in 2000 and served as Lands Committee chair and Secretary of the board before taking on the role of executive director in 2008. Softening the blow somewhat is knowing what a logical progression in Angela’s career this move represents.
Who better to lead Maine’s land trust community to new heights than someone who led Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) from a small organization with only one part-time staffer to one in the vanguard of Maine’s land trust movement. From that modest beginning, we are now an organization with 12 staff, 3,220 acres of conserved property, more than 23 miles of public trails, and numerous partnerships aimed at connecting people with the land, the most notable of these being BTLT’s recent merger with the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). This merger is an appropriate crowning achievement of Angela’s tenure at BTLT, allying our organization with an acknowledged leader in connecting the next generation of environmental stewards with nature.
Though BTLT’s mission has evolved and matured over the years, land conservation remains at its core. During Angela’s tenure as Lands Committee Chair and then Executive Director, she was instrumental in:
- Completing 60 conservation projects, resulting in 2,582 acres of protected land – increasing the number of conserved lands fivefold;
- Growing BTLT’s conservation efforts in Topsham by increasing the conserved lands projects in Topsham from 3 to 31 and protecting a significant portion (44,000 feet of shoreline and nearly 1,000 acres) of the Cathance River and;
- Collaborating with Maine Coast Heritage Trust to conserve and develop the trails at Woodward Point.
“During Angela’s time as the Executive Director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, her commitment to expanding conservation efforts to Topsham, in particular along the Cathance River, is part of the forever legacy that she will leave behind. Many of these conservation projects would not have happened without Angela, who worked tirelessly with the Town of Topsham and numerous landowners for years to make Head of Tide Park a reality, and who’s investment in her community brought countless people to the table in the name of conservation. It is not only her wealth of experience and talent but more importantly who she is as a person that has created and fostered so many relationships over the years, making land conservation possible because of the mutual respect and passion that she brought to each conversation with every landowner,” states BTLT Director of Conservation Margaret Gerber.
Angela Twitchell and company celebrating the opening of Head of Tide Park in 2018 after years of work conserving the property.
Angela Twitchell at Head of Tide Park August 2023
Promoting local agriculture has always been foundational to BTLT’s mission, and during Angela’s tenure the organization made tremendous strides in that area:
- Establishing an innovative long-term lease of Crystal Spring Farm to ensure that this beloved Brunswick farm remains in active agricultural production in addition to working with local farmers to secure conservation easements on eight other farms in our area;
- Overseeing the growth of the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm into one of the best in New England supporting 35-40 vendors each year;
- Creating the thriving Tom Settlemire Community Garden that provides growing space to 80+ local gardeners and to the Common Good Garden, which provides thousands of pounds of nourishing produce to local food security efforts every year;
- Partnering with Wabanaki and New Mainer community members to create growing spaces for culturally relevant food and;
- Serving as fiscal agent for and a driving force in the Merrymeeting Food Council in supporting a strong local food system.
Tom Settlemire explains just how instrumental Angela’s contributions have been in helping to identify, protect and keep in production important farmland that will help feed our community; “Her ability to understand the needs of the farmer, the importance of providing ways BTLT can help market local food via our farmers market, and her help to create workshops to investigate ways we could move farm interns onto their own land, have all been major leadership examples. A major accomplishment with our own Crystal Spring Farm was providing the leadership to structure a long-term lease for Seth and Maura to be our long-term farmers. And so much more. We as a Land Trust grew in important ways to help keep and to build our local food system.”
Angela speaking at a Local Farms Local Food round table in 2014
Angela at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden 2023
Community Access & Education
BTLT recognizes the critical role that people, community, and education play in cultivating sustainable local conservation efforts. Angela has done an exceptional job holding these values up in BTLT’s work, supporting;
- The creation and stewardship of 23+ miles of public access trails;
- Strategic partnerships with experts to evaluate the accessibility of our trails for all community members;
- The creation and hosting of 35-50 public events each year ranging in topic from spring birding to stewardship walks;
- The merger with CREA to grow and support their incredible educational programs, including summer camp, field trips, and outdoor/science curriculum development support in our local school districts.
BTLT’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Agriculture Programs Jamie Pacheco notes that Angela helped the organization move “beyond just a land conservation organization into an organization that educates the community on the importance of natural spaces, continues to protect and provide more community natural places, actively works to strengthen the local food system and provides the community with a host of programs, activities and educational opportunities that make the community stronger.”
Angela at the opening of the Clay Brook Bridge in 2013
Angela at Woodward Point where construction for the new ADA accessible trail is in progress.
Organizational Growth & Leadership
In addition to achievements in conservation, creation of public access, and agriculture, Angela helped BTLT grow and mature as an organization:
- In 2008, BTLT had 917 members and raised $84,500. Today, BTLT has 1,318 members (with an impressive 79% retention rate) and an annual fund of $429,548 – a four-fold increase from when Angela started!
- In 2012, BTLT achieved accreditation via the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, meeting the highest national standards for excellence and conservation permanence;
- Around that time, BTLT successfully navigated a comprehensive fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal of $7 million, leading to increased capacity in land conservation, stewardship, and the development of programs connecting people to the land;
- Angela helped to grow the BTLT endowment funds from less $20,000 to nearly $2 million;
- Angela oversaw the hiring and growth of staff in a productive work environment that supports family and mental health and;
- She cultivated conversations and dedicated efforts around diversity, access, and inclusion threaded throughout all aspects of the Land Trust’s work.
In the words of former board president Brad Babson, whose service on the board almost perfectly mirrors Angela’s tenure as executive director:
“Angela led us through the remarkable evolution of BTLT as a well-managed and accredited conservation organization deeply committed to community building in a variety of ways and growing from a one-person office with an operating budget of about $100,000 to one that is tenfold that today. Crucial to this success story has been her pragmatic strategic vision and guidance on both organizational development and day-to-day operational opportunities and challenges. Also crucial to this story has been her personal qualities of always listening and projecting a positive attitude in achieving highly effective relations with the community, donors, landowners, Board, and staff.”
BTLT’s Director of Development Kristi Hatrick fondly reflects, “Angela’s input was critical to all facets of BTLT’s work — from the conservation of new properties to partnerships with our local towns, to planning for trail projects, to taking on new community outreach initiatives … to fixing printers and getting excel spreadsheets to cooperate. Angela’s capacity to juggle competing demands, to forge community relationships, to hold institutional knowledge, and to lead with kindness — all at the same time — is just incredible.”
Angela with the BTLT Board 2023
Where We Go from Here
BTLT is actively engaged in the search for a new executive director. In the meantime, Caroline Eliot will act as interim executive director. Having served as BTLT’s associate director in the 2010s and most recently as CREA’s executive director, Caroline is uniquely qualified to help BTLT bridge the leadership transition and oversee continued implementation of the merger with CREA.
Angela’s parting will be a change to the organization, but it is a natural evolution. Change – gradual, thoughtful, deliberate, but transformative change – has been the hallmark of her tenure as executive director. When Angela assumed her leadership role she was quoted as saying “I guess my real goal is to make sure that my children and grandchildren grow up feeling just as I do — that there is no better place to live than Maine.” Under her leadership, BTLT has grown into a robust, mature land trust, one ready to grow under a new leader, to continue to develop our educational mission through the merger with CREA, to respond to climate change and other challenges, and to conserve cherished natural areas in our communities and connect people to them, now and for generations to come.
BTLT Lands Committee Chair Margaret Wilson shares, “Angela’s gift to me has always been to think bigger and to embrace opportunities, but my favorite times with her have been when we are out exploring land together. We have navigated the grasslands off the channel of the Cathance River and the deep ravines going into Middle and Maquoit Bays, fording streams, and exploring lots of woodlands. It is when she is the most joyous and I have loved sharing that with her.”
We know stories like these will continue on with Angela. BTLT and our community have been lucky to have had her at the helm for as long as we did! We wish her the absolute best on her new trail ahead and thank her for all that she has done for BTLT. Thank you, Angela!