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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.


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.

Our Annual Meeting in the News: Where Land Conservation Meets the Sea

A great recent feature in the Coastal Journal about our upcoming Annual Meeting and the intersection of the wild ocean and where humans meet it from the shore.

Where Land Conservation Meets the Sea

Land Trust’s annual meeting considers their role in the working waterfront

Written by Susan Olcott

I was recently struck by how much land in Midcoast Maine is actually under water. Perhaps this was in part because we were trying to put our boat into the water and weren’t quite yet in the mode of watching the tides. Not wanting to make our two little girls trek the hundred yards or so back from our mooring or heave them through the mud ourselves, we waited out the tide a bit so we could make it in to the dock. It made me think of this mucky area more as land, dimpled with mud snails, clam holes and new sprouts of eelgrass, than as ocean. This is all part of the landscape of our town and can be considered right along with the shore-side lands that abut it. Of course, it isn’t that simple when for the majority of hours of the day, it is covered by water and is a strange mysterious place to most.

There are any number of activities going on in that intertidal area including people clamming, kayaking, kids playing in the mud, and any number of structures that are a part of it as well like floating oyster aquaculture cages, lobster buoys, or wharves. All of these things happen at the intersection of the wild ocean and where we humans meet it most of the time from the shore. The difficulty lies in how well we understand the resources there and how we figure out the best way to take care of them.

An unlikely-seeming partner is becoming more involved in this discussion. While you might think that the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) would be focused on land, they are, in fact, stewards of a number of coastal properties. Their geographic range includes the towns of Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin and their total acreage of conservation areas is roughly 2,500 acres. So, the scope is large, as is their mission, which is essentially three fold – providing access for recreation, protecting and stewarding cherished landscapes and natural resources, and supporting local agriculture and other traditional land uses, which includes waterfront access for commercial purposes. Most people likely know BTLT’s role in the Saturday farmer’s market, but likely don’t know how they are helping local clammers as well.

One of their most recently acquired properties, Woodward Cove, is a perfect example of this. Located off Gurnet Road, the 18-acre site provides access for bloodworm harvesters and clammers to valuable mudflats in upper Woodward Cove. Executive Director Angela Twitchell noted that, “The land trust had been talking with the town and marine resources folks, trying to locate places in town that are historic access points for clammers and conserve them so clammers don’t lose access over time.” Through an unusual partnership between Maine Coast Heritage Trust, BTLT, and the Unitarian Universalist Church, which purchased the land after their downtown building burned in 2011, this coastal access point has now been protected for the long term. This is just one of several coastal properties that are protected by the stewardship of BTLT.

Given their dedication to coastal lands and water access, it makes sense that BTLT has entitled its upcoming annual meeting, “Coastal Conservation and Community Impact”. The meeting, which will be held on June 22nd at the Topsham Public Library, features Dan Devereaux, Brunswick Marine Resource Officer,

and Monique Coombs, Seafood Program Director at Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association (MCFA), both of whom will talk about the values and challenges of maintaining access to coastal resources and the role land conservation can play in maintaining a healthy working waterfront. The event is open to the public and designed to stimulate a discussion about the best way for the Land Trust to support coastal stewardship moving forward.

In any discussion of the management of coastal resources, it is critical to understand the connectivity between land and water and having BTLT involved in this discussion helps to bridge that gap. By hosting this presentation at their annual meeting, they have opened up a new dialogue between a non-profit, managers, and harvesters in order to determine solutions that achieve multiple goals and demands from our coastal areas.

Parking at Cathance River Nature Preserve

The status of Hiker Parking at Cathance River Nature Preserve remains in flux due to active development in the vicinity.  We will try to post updates as things change.

Please note that Ecology Center parking will be closed for paving at some points in the coming week (April 22-29), most likely on Tuesday.

Please respect roped off areas – cars will be towed by the contractor! No parking is allowed along the roads of Highland Green.

So what to do if you were hoping for a nice hike along the Cathance? We encourage you to use the parking at Head of Tide Park, which is plentiful and easy to access along the Cathance Road in Topsham.

Head of Tide Park is a just 1.4 mile hike from CRNP. From the Park, the Cathance River Trail (click for trailmap) snakes along the river and through its uplands, providing views of the pristine river and its undisturbed natural surroundings. The trail leads to the impressive 60-foot aluminum Clay Brook pedestrian bridge which was locally designed and fabricated and provides a trail connection to CRNP. Click HERE to read more about how this great trail connection was made possible.

Another option is to park at the golf clubhouse at Highland Green and walk on the sidewalk to trails. It is about half a mile to the golf cart path across from Sparrow Drive, which provides access to the Heath Trail. It is about ¾ mile to the trailhead at the Ecology Center.

Happy hiking!

Gulf of Maine King Tides

As the Earth’s climate changes in the coming decades, sea level rise is going to alter much of the coastline in our community.

Join hundreds of neighbors on the midcoast and beyond next Thursday, October 9 to document how the King Tide  gives us a glimpse into the future of rising sea levels in the Gulf of Maine.

King Tides refer to the highest tides that occur when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon reinforce each other. These tides, also known as perigean spring tides, occur when the moon is closest to the Earth.  The impact of these tides can be amplified by weather patterns and ocean conditions.

The Gulf of Maine Council – a Canadian-American regional partnerLabelship focusing on cross-border eco-system issues – is encouraging people to use their cameras or smart phones to document how the King Tide affects the 7500-mile Gulf of Maine. Participants in the Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest can record how the astronomical high tide that day affects wharves, causeways, marshes, beaches and other coastal settings.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust encourages our community to document our local shoreline. Increasing our understanding of the future intertidal zone will help to build a stronger understanding of what areas are most important for conservation n order to support the long-term resiliency of our coastal ecosystems.

High tide will be around 2:00 pm that day. You can take part in this citizen science effort by getting out to photograph your favorite bit of shoreline, and enter your photos here:

Want to know more about the King Tides Gulf of Maine project? Visit:


The Maine Food Strategy

Maine Food WorksThe Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has been working for decades to support your local farm and food economy by protecting farmland and working waterfronts, establishing the Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, creating the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, and co-developing the “Local Farms – Local Foods” program.

As such, we support the goals of the Maine Food Strategy (MFS) initiative and are happy to spread the word about this effort.

The MFS aims to bring Mainers together to brainstorm effective ways to develop a robust food economy in our state.

This encompasses all aspects of the food economy –  land use, health and nutrition, labor, culture, food security, investment and more.  

The people behind MFS are engaging in an inclusive, participatory process and would like to hear from you! They are touring the state to ask questions and listen – really listen – to your thoughts on what we have, what we need, and what we can envision for the future of food and farms in Maine.

Your knowledge is important. We want to be sure that the people at MFS hear from the people of our community as they gather input that will influence the future direction of the food system in Maine. 

To be part of this important process, please check out the MFS tour schedule at #MaineFoodWorks Fall 2014 Tour online

For more information about the MFS initiative, visit

Zu Bakery – One of 40 vendors at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market this year

Portland Press Herald:

Has anyone realized what time of year it is?

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Farmers’ Market opens for the season this Saturday at Crystal Spring Farm, the landmark property you helped us conserve. We can’t wait to share the list of amazing vendors this year (stay tuned, this week!).

  • What: Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm
  • Where: 277 Pleasant Hill Rd
  • When: Saturdays May 3 – Nov 1; 8:30 – 12:30

In the meantime, check out this great piece on one of your vendors: Zu Bakery


Peter Greeno
One of your team members at the Land Trust

P.S. We have great events going on this year. If you haven’t signed up for the twice-monthly events newsletter, head on over to