BTLT Survey

In September 2018, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Board of Directors set out to gather information from our members and community to “ensure that organizational goals are aligned with members’ expectations and aspirations.” After a year of planning and preparation including over a dozen focus group and interview sessions, the Land Trust implemented two surveys: one for BTLT members and another for the broader community.

Both surveys included questions on a variety of Land Trust activities, with the goal to inform our priorities and actions in coming years. The survey included questions about programs, the community’s priorities for the Land Trust, visitation at different BTLT properties, ways individuals and families utilize our properties, improving public access and use, participation in land trust programs and activities, the effectiveness of different modes of communication, visions for BTLT’s future, and how to better serve all constituents.

We have spent the past several months doing an in-depth review of the survey results.

For more insights on the analysis of the survey beyond this web page, click the links below. 

Results

Overall we learned that Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is highly regarded by its members and the wider community. We are perceived as well integrated into our community and serve diverse community needs. Crystal Spring Farm, our Saturday Farmers’ Market, and Tom Settlemire Community Garden are seen as core community institutions. Many of our properties see substantial visitation, our conservation focuses are valued, and most of our programs are well subscribed and viewed as high quality.

In more detail, we learned the following about each of our key focus areas:

Land Conservation

Survey respondents were clear that land conservation should continue to be our highest priority. Although our conservation priorities are well focused , we should especially increase water access, preserve farmland, and protect wildlife habitat.

  • We need to balance conservation of parcels with important ecological and habitat qualities and parcels that provide public access, particularly to water and trails.
  • Younger people prioritize recreation while older respondents emphasize broader ecological values.
  • We should seek more conservation projects in Bowdoin and Topsham.

Stewardship

Although responses and comments regarding the stewardship of our properties were largely positive, many respondents are not well informed about what goes into stewardship (monitoring, managing easements, landowner relations, invasive removal, etc). It is important to educate our community about the larger picture of conservation in our region.

Respondents had many suggestions to improve public access and trail use. Most frequently mentioned were:

  • Improve parking and directional, way-finding, and informational signage.
  • Develop trails of varying difficulty, including some especially for children, disabled people, and elders.
  • Connect trail segments for longer hikes.
  • Support development of mountain biking and multi-use trails.
  • Increase camping and picnicking opportunities.
  • Develop a mix of trails that do and do not allow dogs.

Engagement & Programs

Respondents observed that our activities as a whole encourage both members and the broader community to learn about and strengthen their commitment to environmental and social sustainability. They felt that a priority goal should be to get people outside more often by encouraging greater use of our public access properties.

  • Some people want to be introduced to our properties but are hesitant to explore unfamiliar places.
  • There is strong sentiment that we should make educational activities for children a key programmatic focus, to foster the next generation of conservationists and the habit of healthy outdoor exercise.
  • We should consider providing children and adults more opportunities to participate in citizen science.
  • Respondents worry about our capacity to add more responsibilities and activities to our already stretched staff and resources.
  • We should develop more effective ways to recruit and utilize volunteers, such as enabling families or organizations to maintain trail segments and organize trail work (& play) weekends.

Who we heard from

More than 1,000 people gave us input during our survey process.

What comes next?

We have made an in-depth analysis of survey response patterns and hundreds of comments, which will guide the design and implementation of an action plan and our next five-year strategic plan. In addition, every Land Trust committee has begun to incorporate respondents’ priorities into their annual work plans.

But the coronavirus pandemic has gotten in the way of many of the initial action steps we had planned. In response, we have pivoted to new ways of communicating with our members to keep them connected with Land Trust programs and to the natural world, and modified key programs to assure they can continue to serve the community while also being safe. Our dedicated staff has responded with  energy and creativity – and all while moving to our new office at Brunswick Landing.

Although the immediate future is uncertain, we are adapting both our properties and our programs to what the survey and the pandemic have shown us. Expect to see a deeper focus at BTLT on topics you have told us are most important– climate change, education, outreach to disadvantaged groups, guided walks, active engagement with the public on BTLT properties, continued support for local agriculture, and much more.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the survey and are helping us chart BTLT’s future.


Angela Twitchell, Executive Director

Emily Swan, Board President