Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust enters 2nd quarter century

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BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is 25 years old and on the verge of a major capital campaign.

President Tom Settlemire said the organization began in 1985 with six members who wanted to preserve a meadow. In the past quarter century, membership has grown to 914 families. 

The goal of the organization is to conserve “areas that are just too beautiful and important for us to lose,” Settlemire said. He said not every property is automatically accepted, and there are guidelines for conservation.

There are several ways the land trust can conserve land. A property can be purchased, but the land trust “primarily buys easements,” Settlemire said. An easement allows the land trust to hold and manage development rights, he said.

During the past 25 years, the land trust has purchased six properties. The total amount of land either purchased or with easements held by the land trust is close to 1,600 acres and includes islands, he said. There are 17 miles of public trails that are open year-round.

Settlemire said the trust hopes to reach 1,000 memberships next year and is in the process of becoming a nationally certified land trust. He said a capital campaign will be announced in the spring to raise between $1 million and $2 million for future projects.

The trust has already raised more than $7 million through “membership, grants, hard work and dedication,” Settlemire said. There is one full-time staff member.

One well-known property owned by the trust is the 320-acre Crystal Spring Farm, which is leased and operated as a working farm. During the summer, there is a camp for children and the property is used for one of the largest farmers’ markets in the state.

Settlemire said the farmers’ market was established 10 years ago and has grown to offer space for more than 40 vendors. Last summer saw an average of 2,500 people during eight days at the farmers’ market, Settlemire said. The farm is also home to an “internationally recognized sheep research project,” he said.

There are also activities sponsored by the land trust, including kayak trips, bird walks and open farm days at Crystal Spring Farm.

“It’s not just conserving,” Settlemire said of the land trust goals. “There are more opportunites in front of us … more on the table than complete.”

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or sgrinnell@theforecaster.net.

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