2022 Year in Review

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.

Photo Credit: Kyle Warnock

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!

In the News: “BTLT grateful for members, supporters, success”

2021: The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Year in Review

By Angela Twitchell, Executive Director and Emily Swan, Board President

January 7, 2022

The theme of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s work in 2021 was GRATITUDE.  As we brainstormed to come up with an organizing theme, it just seemed to be the most salient sentiment any of us could pinpoint to sum up 2021.  We’re grateful for our members, for our extraordinary staff and volunteers, for the communities we serve, and for all the new ways we are finding to forge connections among people, and between people and the land we conserve.

We are proud of what we achieved in 2021 despite ever-changing challenges posed by the pandemic.

First, land conservation.  Long-time BTLT friends and collaborators John and Carla Rensenbrink donated a conservation easement on 17.5 acres on land that is part of the Cathance River Trail in Topsham.  This is in addition to a 34-acre easement they had previously donated to Friends of Merrymeeting Bay.  We are deeply grateful for their long-time partnership in conserving the Cathance River corridor and ensuring public access to this priceless resource.  In addition, several other conservation initiatives on the Cathance corridor and on the shores of Maquoit Bay are nearing completion at this writing.

Another key achievement of 2021 was completion of the Androscoggin Woods trail in Topsham.  The public now has access to this extraordinary property that stretches along almost two miles of the Androscoggin River in Topsham.  We hope you will take time to visit the river’s wild shores when this beautiful trail re-opens in the spring.

This isn’t all that our hard-working crew of stewardship staff and volunteers achieved in 2021.  They also 

A core part of BTLT’s mission is to support local agriculture – not only do we manage the Saturday Farmers’ Market and Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG), but we also collectively conserve 1,928 acres of agricultural land across 25 properties.  2021 saw numerous achievements in promotion of our agricultural mission:

  • The return of our Saturday Farmers’ Market to its beloved location at Crystal Spring Farm under the guidance of our outstanding agricultural programs manager Julia St. Clair.
  • Construction of raised beds outside BTLT’s office at Brunswick Landing where New Mainer families were able to grow familiar foods and create community.  We are excited about extending this partnership both at Brunswick Landing and at the TSCG in 2022.
  • Creation of a one-acre plot at Crystal Spring Farm where BTLT is sharing stewardship with Mowita’nej Epijij (“welcome to the gathering place”), where Wabanaki people are growing traditional foods and medicines and re-establishing connections to the land.  Again, we look forward to nourishing this relationship in 2022 and beyond.
  • The return of our beloved Taking Root Plant Sale after a 2020 hiatus.  The sale raised a record-breaking $13,000 for the Common Good Garden, which this year donated 3,177 pounds of fresh organic produce to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.  Both the plant sale and the Common Good Garden are run almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

In 2021 the BTLT board of directors embarked on an update of our five-year strategic plan.  This process involves a comprehensive review of our work in conservation, stewardship, and programs, and a deep look inward to discern ways we can better accomplish our mission.  We are grateful for this opportunity to work together to make BTLT a better, more resilient, more diverse and inclusive organization, one poised to address deepening environmental challenges posed by climate change and development pressures, and to serve the needs of our whole community.

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2021 possible.  We look forward to 2022 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them.  Happy New Year!

To read the full article in The Times Record, click here!