Falmouth Land Trust, town aim to link people, open spaces

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FALMOUTH — With a new executive director on board, the Falmouth Land Trust is planning to focus on introducing the public to the trust’s various properties.

The effort incidentally coincides with a Town Council goal to update the open space plan, called the Greening of Falmouth, which was originally adopted in 2006.

The Long Range Planning Advisory Committee is just getting started on the open space update and, on Saturday, Jan. 21, the group will tour publicly owned land in town.

While the land trust operates separately from the town, the two organizations also work closely together to manage, acquire and plan for Falmouth’s open space needs, according to both Jenny Grimm, the new director at the land trust, and Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning.

The land trust manages 47 different parcels totaling 1,300 acres and the town owns and operates more than 1,700 acres. Many of these properties include walking trails, while others are designed for more passive uses.

In addition to hiring Grimm, the land trust is also planning to hire both a new outreach coordinator and an education coordinator in the next few weeks, both of which are part-time positions.

Grimm began working for the land trust in August and said her overall goal is to show residents that the organization is relevant and active.  She’s a forester by trade, having earned a degree in forestry from Yale University.

Grimm has worked for both timber companies and for philanthropic organizations like the land trust. Her most recent position was with the Hawaii Community Foundation.

She initially came to Maine in 2001 and lived in Falmouth before moving to Hawaii with her family five years ago. Just over just the past five years, Grimm said, she’s noticed changes to the landscape here.

“I’m so excited to be part of local conservation,” she said in an interview Jan. 13. “It’s so critical. We need places to recreate and it’s also so important to our mental health to be outside and in nature.”

Grimm has three children, who are all enrolled at Falmouth Elementary, and said what she most enjoys about living in town is, “there’s so much quality of life here. It’s beautiful, peaceful and there are lots of outdoor opportunities.”

“We enjoy a very high quality of life,” she added. “Our natural environment and our surroundings – from the coasts to open farmlands, and the forests and fields in between – are a big part of what make living here so amazing and I am thrilled to be part of conserving open space and natural resources in our community.”

With the monthly events the land trust is planning, Grimm said the goal is to “make people aware of, appreciate and use” the properties owned or managed by the nonprofit. “We want to get people out on the land and enjoying our 50 miles of trails,” she said.

“I am looking forward to offering a robust calendar of events, encouraging people to get out on the land (and) learning about the natural resources and the land trust itself. We want people to get familiar with and connected to our properties because then they’ll care more,” Grimm said.

In addition to the monthly events, Grimm said the land trust is also planning on offering a variety of special programs and increasing its annual budget, which relies mostly on private donations and grants.

“The land trust has a great board that’s very active, super-engaged and doing so much to support open space,” she said. “The land trust has grown a lot, it has a lot going on and it has a big role to play in the community.”

In terms of the open space planning the town is now engaged in, Holtwijk said Jan. 17, “we’re still in the taking stock stage,” which is one reason the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee will be visiting several town-owned properties this weekend.

Holtwijk said the public is invited to attend, although they would likely have to follow along in their own vehicles. The plan is to leave the Mason-Motz Activity Center at 9 a.m. and return by 1 p.m. Saturday.

Bob Shafto, the town’s open space ombudsman, chose the three properties that the committee will visit, saying they are representative of the various public lands owned by the town.

The goal, he said, “is to show off how they’re being managed, to provide a sense of the value they contribute to the community and to talk about why these particular properties were acquired.”

The properties included in the walking tour are the Woods Road Community Forest, the Suckfish Brook Conservation Area and the North Falmouth Community Forest.

Shafto was chairman of the Conservation Commission in the mid-2000s and took the lead on creating the first Greening of Falmouth plan. He said while the town has made “a tremendous amount of progress, it’s been 10 years and it’s time now to reset.”

“We need to think about whether our priorities are still the same, review the criteria for acquiring further parcels and whether we want to include parks in the new open space plan,” he added.

Under the original Greening of Falmouth plan, the goals were retaining and protecting Falmouth’s rural character and natural resources, ensuring the availability of outdoor recreation, preserving large tracts of undeveloped land that provide wildlife habitat and providing connectivity between open space areas.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Jenny Grimm is the new executive director of the Falmouth Land Trust and also represents the trust on various town committees, including an effort to update the open space plan.