At 30, Cape Elizabeth Land Trust hopes to make connections

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust is celebrating its 30th anniversary this weekend and is hoping to gain new members.

CELT will hold its celebration on Saturday from 4-7:30 p.m. at Turkey Hill Farm. The event, sponsored by ReVision Energy, will be free to attend.

Executive Director Chris Franklin, who has been with the organization since 2003, said he is very pleased with the work it has done over the years.

“We have been exceedingly fortunate to have preserved some of the town’s most iconic and most loved properties,” he said. “The land acquisitions are the focus of our work and our biggest achievements.”

Another big accomplishment for CELT is its number of volunteers. Franklin said around 200 people dedicate their time to the land trust in various ways.

“People are busy and can choose to spend their time doing anything they want, and the fact they dedicate their time to this means a lot,” he said.

CELT also has 600 members who make financial contributions. Franklin said 75 percent of the land trust’s money comes from its members. This summer CELT has been doing a membership drive with the hopes of enrolling 300 new, renewing, or returning members. As of Wednesday, 236 people had signed up.

“It’s important for us as we grow and want to do more, to get more people involved,” he said. 

Franklin said CELT has been working closely with local farm owners to protect their land. He said CELT is also working on better connecting the properties it already has.

“The challenge now is to connect these individual properties with other town-owned properties so that, collectively, they not only provide a town-wide trail network, but they also provide wildlife corridors and link together different habitat areas,” he said.

According to Franklin, CELT has preserved 29 properties in Cape Elizabeth over the last 30 years. They total more than 660 acres, which is 7 percent of the town’s land. 

Franklin said while CELT has plans to acquire and preserve more land in the future, “the possibility for land acquisition will be smaller” in the next 30 years. He said this is because there will be less land to acquire.

He said CELT isn’t looking to acquire as much land as it possibly can, though.

“It’s not so much about quantity as quality with land that we acquire,” he said.

The event at Turkey Hill Farm, which is one of CELT’s properties, will feature live music, a pie contest, activities for kids, and food from local farms. Franklin said it will be a celebration of all CELT has done.

“The anniversary (celebration) is an opportunity for us to look back on what we’ve accomplished and look forward to the next 30 years,” he said.

Franklin said over the next few decades, CELT will “continue education programs so people understand the importance of lands and perpetuate the sense of responsibility of caring for these lands.”

He said he along with protecting lands, he wants CELT to continue providing fun, safe places in nature for people to enjoy themselves.

“It’s about preserving lands for all the ways people use them,” he said. “We sort of provide the place for them to do those things.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Cape Elizabeth Land Trust Executive Director Chris Franklin, outside the organization’s office at 330 Ocean House Road, said CELT is looking to gain new members as it celebrates its 30th anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Turkey Hill Farm.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.