The Times Record: Two land trusts work to buy Woodward site

Friday, October 24

Front Page Times-RecordIMG_7316

Two land trusts work to buy Woodward site

Land owned by UU Church in Brunswick

BY JOHN SWINCONECK, Times Record Staff

BRUNSWICK

Off Gurnet Road in East Brunswick is a nondescript clearing in the woods with a path leading to Woodward Cove. Before the cove was temporarily closed to study green crab infestation, that clearing was an important access point to mudflats for those harvesting shellfish and bloodworms.

Now, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, in cooperation with Maine Coast Heritage Trust, is trying to bolster support to purchase that land — owned by the Universalist Unitarian Church of Brunswick — to preserve that access point.

The church purchased the land — about 20 acres in all — several years ago with plans to build a new church there, according to Brunswick Topsham Land Trust Director Angela Twitchell. When their church burnt in 2011, church members opted to rebuild on the old site.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land and Maine Coast Heritage trusts have been working with the church to acquire the land, which is still on the market.

The church’s board of directors have not yet held a final vote as to whether to sell the land. Twitchell said she is hopeful the church will preserve the parcel by working with the land trusts. The trusts believe conserving the land will also protect water quality in the cove.

Talks with the church have been ongoing for about a year, said Twitchell. The appraised value of the land is $125,000. The trusts are applying for a $75,000 North American Wetland Conservation Act grant, and will be looking into other grant sources and private fundraising.

Brunswick Town Councilor Steve Walker — who also works for Maine Coast Heritage Trust — has suggested that the town contribute $1,000 toward the effort. The trusts have requested a letter of support from the Brunswick Town Council, which may vote on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Twitchell said acquiring the land is part of a broader strategy.  “The land trust had been talking with the town and with marine resources folks, trying to locate places in town that are historically access points for clammers, and conserve those so they (clammers) don’t lose access over time,” said Twitchell. “Woodward Cove is a very productive clam flat. It’s one of the most important shellfish flats in the town … and one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in East Brunswick.”

Marine Warden Dan Devereaux said bloodworm harvesters use the access point daily when Woodward Cove is open to harvesting. Along with Buttermilk Cove, Woodward Cove is shut down now to both clam and worm harvesting in order to study ways to combat the invasive green crab, which has in recent years been a detriment to the shellfish industry. The cove is slated to reopen in February.

Keeping the access point open is important to anyone who uses Woodward Cove to harvest worms or clams. Harvesters are there all the time, said Devereaux, adding: “When you think about Woodward Cove, it is the only possible public access point.”

Efforts to reach the board chairman of the Universalist Unitarian Church were unsuccessful on Thursday.

Donations to support the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust can be made at https://www.btlt.org/. jswinconeck@timesrecord.com

http://www.timesrecord.com/news/2014-10-24/Front_Page/Two_land_trusts_work_to_buy_Woodward_site.html