What’s Growing on at TSCG?

Even with wet and rainy weather impacting crops and canceling numerous volunteer workdays, things are still growing and blooming over at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. Wander over there on a sunny day as we head into September, and you will be greeted with bird songs and a rainbow of vibrant petals. As you make your way through the plots you will see the variety of things growing and the diversity of pollinators buzzing about. Along with flowers, plotholders are growing everything from tomatoes to kale to leeks to squash. Moving from plot to plot can sometimes feel like flipping through a colorful seed catalog. Some plotholders have even taken on challenges this year growing artichokes and even okra!  

A Monarch butterfly rests on some milkweed growing in the Garden

In the Common Good Garden (CGG), hundreds of pounds of produce have already been sent over to the food bank at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, with hundreds more pounds still in the ground awaiting harvest. As CGG volunteer Judith Long reminds us though, “Gardening is not for the faint of heart. Something, usually weather-related, intervenes to mess up the best laid plans.“ With all the rain and cool weather this season we experienced the development of a ‘pink root’ fungus throughout the onion crop that CGG volunteers were able to identify with assistance from MOFGA and the UMaine Cooperative Extension. While the onions are still fine for eating, they didn’t develop to the sizes we were hoping for and are not able to be stored long term. Despite this challenge with the onions, volunteers are already plotting a new plan for onions next season, as Judith puts it:

“You can’t keep enthusiastic gardeners down for long!”  

Additionally, we grew buckwheat as a cover crop in one section of CGG to give the soil a rest and help restore nutrients. Not only is buckwheat easy to till back into the soil, but it also produces a beautiful flower that the pollinators love. The Common Good Garden is always a fun experiment, and we are so lucky to have such an incredible group of volunteers this season. Anyone is welcome to join us to lend a hand, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-10:30am (unless it’s raining). No gardening experience necessary!  

Common Good Garden Volunteers after a busy day in the squash patch

While the CGG crew has been toiling away in the soil, the newly formed TSCG Workgroup (AKA the ‘Garden Committee’) has also been busy working on projects in the Garden and planning events. Our first event earlier this season was a Pest Management Workshop with Anna Markow and Charlotte Thurston from Whatley Farm. Garden volunteer Stephen Hall described this workshop as “information packed,” and was excited for what he learned about the benefits of parasitic wasps and companion plants. Plotholder Barbara Murphy hosted a Pollinator Workshop focused on the many benefits of planting flowers in the vegetable garden to attract pollinator insects. Barbara was thrilled that as the group walked through the Garden during the workshop “bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and birds put on a show demonstrating how colorful annual flowers and the blooming native perennials attract these pollinators.” Barbara is expecting that those who attended the workshop will be planting more flowers next season. We have a few other events in the works for the fall and plenty of fun ideas for next season for how to bring Garden community members together and share knowledge.  

Pest Management Workshop leader Charlotte Thurston (right) shows off a potato beetle larvae

Plotholder Barbara Murphy (right) leads a workshop on pollinators and native plants

While we have plenty of volunteers who show up regularly to help out in the Garden, we also have had several volunteer groups from the community join us this season to help tackle some larger projects. A group of students from Harpswell Coastal Academy helped tend to the peach and apple trees in our orchard early in the season. Groups from Wright Pierce, an engineering firm, and Blue Marble Geographics, a software company, also had some fun team bonding in the Garden helping us to construct our new raised beds.

We love the chance to bring new community members into the Garden, so if your organization would like to join us, reach out!  

A volunteer group from Blue Marble Geographics celebrates a successful workday in the Garden

If you haven’t stopped over at the Garden this season, we invite you to come by! All members of the community are welcome, just please remember to stay on the paths, look but don’t touch, and leave your dog friends at home.

Celebrating 20+ Years of Lasting Impact: A Tribute to Angela Twitchell

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. 

Land Conservation  

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

Local Agriculture  

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!  

CREA Corner: August

Welcome to the CREA Corner! Most of you are aware that Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) and BTLT merged effective July 1. Woohoo! We’re excited about the opportunities this union will open up and each month we’ll have a special blog post focused on CREA programs and events.

Go Native!

Twenty-five people learned what a spectacular, lawn-free landscape looks like at our garden tour events this summer. We toured the premises of Brunswick resident Sarah Cline who, following construction of her house five years ago, opted to surround it with native flowers and shrubs instead of grass. 

Today, Sarah has towering perennials and shrubs that supply continuous color throughout the warmer months. The plants also provide food and habitat for the all-important insects so essential to the birds and creatures that bring us such joy. Click on the links to learn why native plants are important and how to get started with rewilding a portion of your home, whether it’s a pot on your front steps or a small section of lawn.

The beauty of native plants is that in addition to their great looks and high ecological value, they don’t require improved soil or (once established) watering. The Maine-based Wild Seed Project is a great source of information about getting started with native plants!

Fall Speakers: Owls, Forests, & Biodiversity

We have wonderful speakers coming your way this fall. As big believers in the capacity of the natural world to teach, our ‘speakers’ will include live owls at the Topsham Public Library on the evening of September 26. Their handlers from the Center for Wildlife will help us understand the habits, diets, calls, ecological role, and more. Children are welcome! Registration not required – just show up.

In October, we’ll return to a virtual format with Karin Tilberg, Executive Director of the Forest Society of Maine, speaking about how Maine’s forests play a key role in mitigating climate change. In November, Nancy Olmstead, Conservation Ecologist with the Maine branch of The Nature Conservancy, will help us understand why biodiversity is important and its status in Maine. Registration for virtual speaker events opens 3-4 weeks before the event on our Events page. Links to attend will be emailed prior to the presentation.

CREA Camp: Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Mud, Oh My! 

We had eight very full weeks of camp this summer, providing a week of nature-based fun for 256 campers. CREA camp finished up on August 18th with (you guessed it) a rainy afternoon! Our intrepid campers, counselors, and counselors-in-training (CITs) were undeterred by the moisture this summer. And all that precipitation kept our rain barrels full! 

Campers spent their days building and racing boats, hunting for bugs and salamanders, hiking to Clay Brook for fun with mud, learning about mammals, creating puppet shows, making friends with painted turtles from our pond, playing Beckon and other group games, and much much more. Our new Hammock Haven was a big hit, giving youngsters a place to hang out (literally!) and rejuvenate for the next activity. The pictures tell the story.

“CREA Camp is hands down our favorite summer camp experience in the area. Both of my kids (one of whom was a new camper and pretty nervous) settled in immediately, came home thrilled and exhausted in the best way, and couldn’t wait to go back in the morning. For us, it is the opportunity to experience a really high quality outdoor, place-based program in such a fun way. And JUST the right balance between relaxed and structured- hard to find.” – ‘23 Camp Family

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week with BTLT

Every Saturday morning, May through October, a small grassy field at BTLT’s Crystal Spring Farm property transforms into a dynamic community space. With 39 farmers, makers, and bakers from the region this season, live music, and kid’s activities, the BTLT Farmers Market is a vibrant and colorful place. This Saturday, August 12th, we will be celebrating National Farmers Market Week with a fundraising raffle and a whole table of new activities for younger Market shoppers. Raffle prizes include BTLT merch (including our amazing posters from the 2023 and 2022 seasons), a tote bag from Apple Creek Farm, an ice cream sandwich from Maine Flavor, a whole chicken from Senza Scarpe, and more to come! Not only will you have a chance to win some of these prizes, but your purchase of raffle tickets supports our incredible Farmers’ Market community! 


How to Engage & Support

  • Buy a raffle ticket (or ten) at the BTLT Booth on August 12th to support the Farmers’ Market and have the chance to win some awesome prizes.
  • Vote for the BTLT Farmers’ Market to win the title of ‘Best in Maine’ by clicking here.
  • Become a BTLT Member to support this Farmers’ Market and our conservation, education, and agricultural programs. 
  • Bring your friends and family to the Farmers’ Market to share this vibrant community with them!

What is National Farmers Market Week?

National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration that highlights the vital role farmers markets play in the nation’s food system. We are grateful here at the BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market to be able to uplift our vendors, promote our programs, and celebrative the thriving community we have built around local food.

Farmers Markets are key for community food access.

The BTLT Farmers’ Market accepts SNAP benefits and participates in both the Harvest Bucks incentive program and Bumper Crop workplace wellness program. This season we also launched a pilot program for kids, POP Club, to encourage youth to enjoy fruits and vegetables at the Market. We believe folks of all ages, from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to engage with local agriculture and have access to healthy food. 

Farmers markets fuel local economies.

Our incredible vendor community is part of what makes the BTLT Farmers’ Market one of the best in the state. These vendors work tirelessly to keep our communities fed and to bring Market visitors the best local products. We host a handful of vendors in our ‘alternating’ vendor space offering businesses a chance to attend the Market part-time to fit their schedule or as a way to explore a market as an outlet for their products. We host 35-40 vendors each season!

Farmers markets support conservation, education, and community.

BTLT conserves and stewards vital natural areas, supports a vibrant local food system, and connects people with the natural world through inclusive education and recreation programs. The Crystal Spring Farm property, which hosts the BTLT Farmers’ Market, also has an extensive trail system, habitats for wildlife (especially birds), and a visible working farm. This is a great example of how balanced management of mixed-use land can yield productive agriculture, public recreation and community spaces, and still support a thriving level of biodiversity.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Most of you have supported the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust for years and years and years. Over 50% of you made your first gift to BTLT 10 years ago or earlier. Last year, 80% of you renewed your membership support of our work, far outpacing the national nonprofit annual retention average of 40 to 45%. The steadfastness of your membership fills us with awe and gratitude.

And what a difference your support has made! Your annual fund gifts and donations to land projects have protected more than 3,220 acres of land in Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin. You have protected wildlife habitat, salt marshes, and farmland. You’ve conserved miles of river frontage, critically imperiled sand plain grasslands, and quiet forests, home to deer and foxes and skunks and so many other local critters. You have made all of our land conservation work possible and have given our community places to explore, exercise, and experience all that our incredible natural areas have to offer. You have made it possible for the Land Trust to make the forever commitments that underlie land conservation. We — and future generations — thank you for your generosity.
You can actually continue your preservation efforts far after your lifetime with a gift through your estate. Leaving a gift to BTLT is a profound way to ensure that we keep our conservation and stewardship promises, while also positioning us to answer the “what ifs” that arise as we strive to meet the expanding needs of our communities. As August is “Make-a-Will Month,” please consider creating or updating your will to leave a percentage of your estate to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. You can do this by talking to your attorney or using an online estate planning tool. We have some resources on our website, including sample language to make a bequest and information about other gift planning options, such as designating BTLT as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or investment account. If you have already included BTLT in your estate plans, we would love to know, both to be sure we understand your intentions and to thank you. Thank you in advance for considering making a planned gift to BTLT, enabling you to continue what you’ve already begun and ensure a solid future for land preservation in our midcoast area.
If you have any questions or need additional information about legacy giving options, please do not hesitate to call Kristi Hatrick, Director of Development, at (207) 729-7694 or email her at kristi@btlt.org.

A Long Wait Is Over Thanks to a New Bridge

The long-awaited trail re-route that will re-connect the trails at Cathance River Nature Preserve to Head of Tide Park is officially open!

Shortly before the pandemic, a number of trails in the eastern section of the trail system at the Preserve, including sections of the Cathance River Trail that connects the Preserve to Head of Tide Park, were closed down. This was due to site clearing and construction at what would become the Sycamore Drive Extension neighborhood at Highland Green. This area of trails was located adjacent to the Preserve and on land owned by Central Topsham Associates, the developer of Highland Green and donor of the easement that created the Cathance River Nature Preserve as we know it today. The Land Trust, who holds a conservation easement on the Preserve, manages the trail system in partnership with Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) and Central Topsham Associates. The trail partners have been working hard since the development of Sycamore Drive Extension at Highland Green to lay out trail re-routes that steered hikers away from Sycamore Drive Extension while reconnecting NW and SE segments of the trail system. After countless hours spent trail scouting, many iterations, and significant fundraising, Land Trust and CREA staff and volunteers began clearing and blazing the new section of trail this spring that has accomplished these goals and now become part of the Cathance River Trail.

A crucial component of creating this trail re-route was the installation of a 40-foot long bridge to cross a sizable ravine that drains into the Cathance River, which required the help of professional trail builders. Thanks to funding from both private donors and Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Land Trust was able to enlist the services OBP Trailworks, led by owner Jed Talbot, who worked tirelessly throughout the soggy month of May to construct the spectacular 40-foot-long wooden bridge now in place that was needed to make the trail re-route a reality. Transporting in 40-foot-long steel I-beams as the base of the bridge, along with all of the lumber, hardware, and crushed stone used to create box steps to a staging area on the landing above the ravine was the first of many hurdles for Jed and his crew. This was followed by the crew fabricating the bridge in its entirety before having to completely disassemble it and transport the pieces down a steep slope to its final resting place using a 500-foot long highline. Land Trust staff, volunteers, and videographer Nolan Lyne visited Jed and his crew this spring to see the crew in action.

Check out this video to see the bridge in progress and hear how OBP Trailworks pulled off this engineering feat!

CREA campers enjoying the new bridge

The trail re-route is now open to the public and the Land Trust will continue making trail improvements throughout the summer and fall by installing additional box steps along the new section of trail. Hikers should be advised that it is fairly steep on both sides leading to the new bridge. While visiting the Preserve, please stay on marked trails and be aware that numerous old sections of trail are now permanently closed, including the River Access Trail, portions of the Highland Trail, and portions of the Cathance River Trail. Hiker Parking will also remain permanently closed. To help hikers get oriented to the new trail layout, numerous “You Are Here” maps have been installed along the trail system, and a new kiosk has been installed at the Ecology Center parking area, featuring a map of the new trail configuration and welcoming hikers to the Preserve and the CREA Ecology Center. 

We are delighted that the Cathance River Trail is once more re-connected and invite you to get outside and check out the new bridge! Click here to view the new trail system map. 

Rising to the Occasion

Earlier this month at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, with a lot of volunteer support, we completed five new raised garden beds! These raised beds make help gardening more accessible for folks who need an elevated plot to garden comfortably.

We were very lucky to have Mike and Molle, plotholders at TSCG, who worked as a team to cut boards and construct the frames of the raised beds. After the frames were set, an awesome group of volunteers from the local engineering firm Wright-Pierce spent a morning moving wheelbarrows full of soil into these frames. This was exhausting and monotonous work, but the group tackled it with great attitudes and a good amount of sweating. In just a few hours, the group was able to complete three of the five raised beds. Last year, some of this same group helped out in the New Mainers Garden and we hope they are planning to return again next year to tackle another project with us.

The last two raised beds were finished up with some help from a handful of garden volunteers including super-volunteers Stephen and Claudia who carted countless wheelbarrows of soil to help finish the job.

These five new raised beds are in addition to four raised beds that were built several season ago. Bill and Jen Mason have been growing in two of the raised beds for the past few seasons. This season they are already having success with their beds, including a first harvest of radishes!

We are so excited to be able to offer these raised beds to gardeners with accessibility needs next season to ensure that more folks have the opportunity to enjoy gardening at TSCG. Big thanks to all who helped make this possible!

It takes many hands to keep the Community Garden growing. Want to volunteer at the Garden with us? You can email garden@btlt.org.

CREA Corner: July

Welcome to the CREA Corner! Most of you are aware that Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) and BTLT merged effective July 1. Woohoo! We’re excited about the opportunities this union will open up and each month we’ll have a special blog post focused on CREA programs and events.

For over 20 years, CREA has been using the natural world to captivate people of all ages from our base at the Ecology Center, located at Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham. We provide hands-on learning experiences for school classes, run a nature immersion summer camp (full to bursting this year), and host speakers, guided nature walks, and community events for the public. 

A favorite speaker of 2022 (based on the 250 people who registered for his talk and 600 people who’ve since watched the recording) was Doug Tallamy, who explained the importance of insects, their key role in supporting other creatures we love — like birds, and the critical need for more native plants to support the charismatic megafauna (e.g.…birds) we want in our landscapes. You can watch that talk or read a summary of it here.

Read below to learn more about CREA’s exciting, and busy, summer happenings!

Inside the Ecology Center

Ecology Center: CREA’s Ecology Center is open to the public on Sundays from 12–2, weather permitting. There, you’ll find Maine mammal and bird mounts, a cool mineral display, scavenger hunts, ideas for outdoor children’s activities you can take home, and more. Walk to the river after your visit and read the Storywalk along the way! 

Firefly Mysteries: On June 27, we learned that the firefly dating scene is fraught with danger and intrigue. If you missed firefly enthusiast and expert Don Salvatore’s virtual presentation, you can read some highlights here and access a recording of his presentation. There is a whole lot more going on in a firefly meadow than you could imagine. If you thought the human dating scene was complicated, check this out!

CREA Explorers undeterred by the rain!

CREA Summer Camp: Our CREA camp is underway! Check out the Instagram page for great pics of what our campers are up to. For eight weeks, youngsters explore and learn about the plants and animals of the Preserve, catch frogs and bugs, make crafts, eat lunch by the river, and generally get dirty having a great time guided by our wonderful team of counselors. Our 14-16 year-old Counselors-in-Training (CIT) get daily leadership training that helps them learn to be confident, positive role models.

It’s Holly’s first time in Maine and she wants to learn everything she can about this wonderful place before she heads back to Montreal this fall.

Summer Intern: We are grateful to have the assistance of our Environmental Education intern, Holly Beato, this summer, sponsored by John Wasileski. Holly is a student at McGill University studying Sustainability, Science, and Society. She is just back from a semester of field study in East Africa!

Holly will be spending her internship working on mapping projects, helping with communications, creating educational aids for programs, researching potential speakers, exploring grant opportunities, crunching data, helping out at the community garden and farmers’ market, and a whole lot more!

New Residents at Crystal Spring Farm

We have been so lucky this season to watch two different killdeer families build nests and raise babies out on the Crystal Spring Farm property!

Out at the Market green, a killdeer had made a nest near the parking lot. On a Saturday morning last month, mama Killdeer had marched her babies out into the parking lot to parade around. After several attempts to corral the family into the nearby fields, we closed part of the parking lot to ensure the safety of the birds. Later in the morning, the killdeer family could be found wandering down the trail at Crystal Spring Farm.
In the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, after abandoning a first nest site, a killdeer couple had built a new nest in a different corner of the Garden. After roping the area off and alerting Gardeners, we were able to create a safe environment for the killdeer to nest comfortably and for her eggs to eventually hatch. The family now have two thriving babies and have moved on from the Garden.
We are so grateful to our community at both the Market and the Garden for respecting the killdeer nesting sites, being flexible and understanding as we closed spaces off, and keeping their dogs on leash on the nearby trails to ensure the killdeer were able to successfully nest and raise their young. Check out this field guide from Audubon to learn more about Killdeer and thank you for helping us share space with wildlife!

Earth Day Success!

A very big thank you to the 50+ people who came out on Earth Day last week to pick up trash around Brunswick with CREA and BTLT!

We covered seven separate sites, filling THREE dumpsters with trash! The plants and animals that call these places home will be healthier in the weeks and months to come and these shared landscapes will be as they should be — trash-free.  

Teams spread out to cover Brunswick Maine St & Common; Woodward Cove Preserve, Crystal Spring Farm frontage on Pleasant Hill Road, Merriconeag Road and Kate Furbish Preserve, Orion Street, Pegasus Street and neighborhood, Neptune Woods Preserve and Neptune Drive neighborhood. Big thanks to our team leaders Ashley, Ben, Charlie, Alisha, Tom, and Tailani!

Folks found all kinds of odd things, like sleds, steel wire, toys, and lots and lots of plastic and Styrofoam. It can take hundreds of years for plastics to break down in the natural environment. If you’re looking for ways to cut down on your own plastic consumption at home, check out this event at GoGo Refill this week! 

Did you know that April is the best time to do neighborhood clean-ups? It’s easy to spot trash before grass gets long and shrubs leaf out. We hope you are inspired by this event to get out and tidy up your own property or neighborhood!