Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) announced today that their organizations are merging, following approval by their Boards and respective memberships!
The two organizations have been partners since the early 2000s, when BTLT was granted a conservation easement at the Cathance River Nature Preserve and CREA was founded to use the newly-established Preserve as a place to educate people about ecology and the natural world. Since then, the organizations have co-managed the trails with the landowner, co-hosted programs and events, and supported each other’s efforts to promote appreciation for the environment. Over the last several years, the organizations began looking for ways to complement one another in more effective ways.
As CREA Board President Ellen Bennett describes, “We started this process thinking about administrative efficiencies, but came to realize we could do more for the community — and do it better — as a single organization. One of our Board members, Dave Keffer, said it so well when he described this union as ‘one plus one equals three.’”
The merger is expected to create new opportunities for growth. CREA’s educational programs will have the potential to expand beyond the Preserve to new features, habitats, and agricultural assets on BTLT’s expansive property base.
“Our signature programs at the Preserve and Ecology Center are at full capacity,” explains CREA Executive Director Caroline Eliot. “CREA summer camp is full and has a waitlist of over two hundred. We’re fully booked with school field trips this spring. We’re delighted by the possibility that we can serve more children in the future by expanding to BTLT locations.”
Local and national trends favor unions like this. Many foundations support consolidation of small nonprofits, and experienced leaders and development professionals are in short supply. As Emily Swan, BTLT’s President, explains, “We started by talking about different ways to collaborate, but eventually realized that joining forces to become one organization would provide the greatest benefit, from staffing to delivering services to the community.”
The two organizations co-located their offices in July of 2020. Eliot says occupying adjacent office space facilitated conversation and collaboration during the pandemic. “It made taking this next step very easy.”
All programs associated with the two organizations will continue and CREA will continue to use its name for its signature programs – CREA summer camp and school-based educational programs. “CREA is well-known and respected in the schools and community,” explains BTLT Executive Director Angela Twitchell. “We want to honor its great reputation and history by continuing to use its name.”
The missions of the two organizations are complementary, evidenced by the fact that all staff will continue in their current roles but with greater potential to grow into new roles and responsibilities in the future. Angela Twitchell will remain BTLT’s Executive Director and Caroline Eliot will assume the role of Deputy Director/Director of Education.
The Boards of both organizations voted unanimously to support the merger in December of 2022. On March 30 of this year, the memberships of both organizations also voted enthusiastically to support the merger.
Twitchell and Eliot emphasize that conservation and education are natural partners. Says Twitchell, “We need to make sure future generations value and protect the places, wildlife, and resources that we love — and that we need to survive.”
“So, we need to teach youngsters why all those things are important,” adds Eliot. “That starts with tapping into children’s natural curiosity and fascination with bugs, frogs, fish and really all the cool things that exist or happen in nature.”
The merger is expected to take effect in July of 2023 although implementation will be ongoing for the next 6 to 18 months.