BTLT In the News: “Conservation project preserves land and a father’s memory”

By John Terhune

After losing her husband Alan to cancer in 2020, Brunswick’s Nikki Eckert sold a portion of his ‘dream property’ to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust for permanent conservation.

From the time Alan Eckert was a child learning to hunt turkey and deer, Brunswick’s Maquoit Bay was always home.

In 2015, the longtime Portland Glass employee bought a nearly 30-acre slice of his childhood stomping grounds with his wife Nikki, and the pair built a home for themselves and their two boys, Parker and Mason.

Eckert died in 2020, only months after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Yet thanks to his family and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Eckert’s memory remains permanently tied to the land he loved.

In January, Nikki Eckert sold 21 acres of the land to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to be conserved as the Alan Eckert Preserve.

“My husband would want the land to stay just as it was,” she said, adding that her sons helped choose the preserve’s name. “It’s always been his dream property.”

The Eckert land is one of three properties Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has conserved in 2022, according to Executive Director Angela Twitchell. The Atwood and Brannigan Families sold the nonprofit a total of 33.5 acres across the river from the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham.

The Alan Eckert Preserve is particularly exciting because it includes nearly 3,000 feet of shoreline abutting a salt marsh at the head of Maquoit Bay, said Twitchell, whose organization purchased the land for $160,000 with support from Maine Coast Heritage Trust and other groups.

“This whole area has been a priority for the Land Trust for years and years,” she said.

Rising sea levels caused by global warming could destroy existing marshes, according to Kristen Puryear, an ecologist for the Maine Natural Areas Program. But the Eckert land’s characteristics make it well-suited for “marsh migration,” meaning new marshes could form farther inland to replace old ones.

“One of the exciting things about this particular property is that there could be 5 or 10 acres of space that eventually could become marsh as sea level rises,” Puryear said. “These tidal marshes do really punch above their weight in terms of what they can do to store, or sequester, carbon for the long term.”

Yet while conservationists imagine the future of the preserve, Nikki Eckert and her boys appreciate it for its enduring link to Alan.

“Knowing that a piece of him will always live on there is almost healing in a way for myself and our two children,” Nikki said. “It’ll always be there.”

To see the full article, click here.

BTLT in the News, “After buying long-desired land for conservation, Brunswick plans next steps”

By John Terhune

“On Jan. 1, Brunswick took ownership of a “spectacular” piece of land it had sought for decades. Now, town officials envision a future for the historic property.

Walking trails. Live entertainment. A dance pavilion over the Androscoggin.

At the turn of the 19th century, thousands of people from cities around the Northeast flocked to Brunswick’s Merrymeeting Park for weekend entertainment, said Tom Farrell, the town’s director of parks and recreation.

Now, after pursuing the land for decades, Brunswick has finally completed the purchase of a 42.5-acre parcel of the former park for conservation. And while it will take time and money to complete the next phase of the project, Farrell said, the town hopes to restore and commemorate many of the area’s historical features.

“This is one of the most significant parcels for protection that the town could have ever hoped to preserve,” said Farrell of the land, which is accessible only by boat, bike or foot from the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path near Route 1. “It’s a spectacular piece of property that most people have never been able to access.”

Brunswick had been after the land since before David Watson joined the town council in 2002. Numerous attempts to buy the property from the Ormsby family stalled over the years, before a team including town councilors, members of local organizations and an attorney successfully negotiated a purchase agreement last summer, Watson said.

“It was just a beautiful operation,” said Watson, who initially noted the land’s beauty during his career as a Brunswick Police officer. “Overall the team here was wonderful.”

The town officially took control of the property on Jan. 1, Farrell said. Despite the land’s $507,500 price tag, Brunswick paid only $75,911 thanks to numerous grants from sources including the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Maine Community Foundation Land Protection Grant Program.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Director Angela Twitchell credited Watson and Farrell for keeping the idea alive for decades, noting the land is “important to the people of Brunswick.” Twitchell, whose organization helped the Brunswick team strategize a purchase plan for the land, said the benefits of conservation are many, including protecting plant and animal habitats and preserving local history. But just as important, she added, was expanding the public’s access to nature.”