Island off Falmouth invites summer day-trippers

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FALMOUTH — The public can enjoy summer days on Clapboard Island for the first time this year.

The island is about a mile offshore from Town Landing, and the 15-acre public preserve is on the northern part of the island. It was purchased by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust last August for $1.4 million.

Amanda Devine, a regional steward for the trust, said the the island is easily accessible by boat and kayak from Falmouth Foreside and East End Beach in Portland, but because of the configuration of the preserve it “is not the best place to have hordes of people.”

That’s because the rest of the nearly 34-acre island remains privately owned. There are two homes on the island, both of which are occupied, and Devine said visitors must be “mindful of the private property.”

“It’s a beautiful island,” she said. “It’s a lovely place to walk with beautiful views of Casco Bay. On a clear, calm day it’s a commanding position.”

Devine said the people she has seen most often on the island are young families. There are two protective, gravel beaches to explore, as well as “a great stone-skipping beach,” Devine said.

“It’s really a sweet spot and it’s quite beautiful,” she said.

Caitlin Gerber, a seasonal assistant steward for the trust, said the acquisition of the property was “kind of an experiment,” because most of the other parcels the trust has are in “less densely populated areas.”

MCHT has more than 120 preserves along the coast of Maine.

“The goal is to balance public access to a beautiful island and preserve ecology,” Gerber said.

Devine said people are allowed to bring dogs to the preserve, although the pets must be on leashes at all times and their owners must clean up after them. Additionally, people must pack up and take out their trash, and unlike other trust parcels, there are no campfires or overnight camping allowed on Clapboard Island.

The island is open year round, from dawn to dusk.

“It’s important that people respect the rules, or else they’ll have to be changed,” Gerber said. She added it also important to keep dogs on leashes, so they don’t go onto the private property or damage island wildlife.

Gerber said she believes people will follow the rules because they want to be able to enjoy the area. She added its limited access – there are no public moorings – will help keep use of the land in check.

Devine said that if people get out onto the preserve early enough in the year – late April or early May – they’ll see red trillium, a flowering plant that is not typically seen on an island. She also said there is a “diversity of tree species” unique to the island.

“If you’re a botanist or someone interested in plants, it’s a good place to go explore,” she said.

While Devine said the preserve “is not wilderness by any stretch,” there are various species of songbirds and nesting birds on the island, as well as two osprey nests.

“They’re quite loud,” Devine said of the osprey. “If you can’t see them, you’ll definitely hear them.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements

Clapboard Island is about a mile offshore from Falmouth Town Landing. Part of the island is a public preserve with two public beaches and a trail loop. The 15 acres were purchased by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust in August 2014.

Cailtin Gerber, a seasonal assistant steward for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, points out red trillium on Clapboard Island. Red trillium is a flowering plant species not usually seen on islands.

Clapboard Island has two private residences, but 15 acres on the northern end have been preserved for public use. An old boat winch from one house remains near one of the island landing sites.

Kayaks are the easiest way to get to Clapboard Island, which is open to the public year round from dawn to dusk. Dogs are allowed, but owners must have them on leashes at all times and clean up after them. Overnight camping and fires are not permitted.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or