by Executive Director Angela Twitchell and Board President Emily Swan
The theme of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s 2022 annual report was “Rooted and Rising” – a perfect encapsulation of BTLT’s work over this past year.
We remain firmly rooted in our core mission of conservation and stewardship and deeply committed to our most established and beloved programs – the Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, and of course our trail network. At the same time, we are rising to new challenges and seeking higher levels of engagement with the full range of people in our community through partnerships like the New Mainers Garden, Mowita’nej Epijij (Wabanaki garden), trail accessibility initiatives, and more.
Highlights of our conservation work in 2022 include over 50 acres on the Cathance River in Topsham, the Brannigan, Atwood, and Hideaway Farm properties. We are grateful to the Atwood, Brannigan, and Sczymecki families, as well as the Town of Topsham, the Merrymeeting Bay Trust, the Davis Conservation Fund, John Sage Foundations, and over 70 individual donors for making this work possible. With the addition of these parcels, BTLT has conserved more than 1,100 acres and 43,000 feet of frontage on the Cathance over the past three decades.
We were also delighted to work with the Eckert family to conserve the 21-acre Alan Eckert Preserve, which includes 2,850 feet of shoreline abutting an extensive salt marsh at the head of Maquoit Bay in Brunswick. In addition to conserving this land beloved by the late Alan Eckert, this project represents a concrete step toward improving the resiliency of our coastline in the face of climate change by creating space for marsh migration that will inevitably accompany rising sea levels.
Our stewardship team has been busy with many projects, including re-routing trail connections at the Cathance River Nature Preserve. We expect these trails to reopen by summer 2023. We also completed redesign of the trails at Bradley Pond Farm, which re-opened to the public in September.
BTLT’s Stewardship team received a much-welcomed financial boost through an extremely generous bequest from Wallace Pinfold, a long-time BTLT supporter who passed away this year. We have added the bulk of Wallace’s bequest to our Stewardship Fund, which we are continuing to build to ensure that we have the financial capacity to meet our forever commitment to steward the lands we conserve.
This year our engagement with Brunswick’s New Mainer community grew with the expansion of gardening facilities at the BTLT office and the assistance of Michee Mpela to help manage the garden. In addition, BTLT facilitated the creation of a micro-farm at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden where Sivi Mpela is growing affordable, fresh, and culturally appropriate foods for members of the New Mainer communities in Brunswick, Portland, and Lewiston-Auburn.
Making our trails open and available to all members of our community has also been a priority this year. Our partnership with Queerly ME brought scores of enthusiastic members of the LGBTQIA+ community out for walks, nature activities, and community building on BTLT properties. In addition, we have worked with Maine Coast Heritage Trust to create an accessible trail at Woodward Point. The trail is named in memory of one of the property’s longtime owners, Andy Cook, who conserved the property with his wife Jacki Ellis in 2019. When complete Andy’s Trail will provide a flat, compact surface for visitors who use a wheelchair, push a stroller, or simply want to commune with the property.
We have also expanded our partnership with Independence Association, a Brunswick-based non-profit that helps adults and children with disabilities lead full and inclusive lives. Since 2019 staff and clients from Independence Association have partnered with BTLT in clearing and maintaining trails at Crystal Spring Farm. In 2021 they added Neptune Woods, and in 2022 Androscoggin Woods to their maintenance list. We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to seeing what new projects we can explore together.
In November BTLT finalized a new five-year strategic plan, and its priorities also reflect our ambition to be an organization that is “Rooted & Rising.” The plan commits BTLT to the following priorities:
- Amplify our efforts to pursue new lands conservation projects.
- Integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation more explicitly in all our work, in line with the Climate Action Plan adopted for Maine.
- Integrate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices into all our work, building on a commitment we made in April 2021 and on activities already underway.
- Expand youth environmental, outdoor, and nature-based education efforts.
- Engage in more sustained advocacy efforts on important issues connected with our mission.
- Continue to build the financial and administrative capacity to support pursuit of these goals.
We are pursuing numerous initiatives to support these goals and are confident we’ll have much progress to report by this time next year!
We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2022 possible. We look forward to 2023 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them. Happy New Year!