As a donor of several easements, many islands and substantial acreage, I feel qualified to voice my concern for the sanctity of the faith we put in land trusts.
My case in point is the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust, which I helped found in the 1980s. I have been appalled to witness the total erosion of confidence that has been evidenced after the inaction of the CCLT. Their total disregard for the tenets of an easement donated to their stewardship in 1997 is dumbfounding.
We do not know the fate of the Payson property, the large parcel of oceanfront land in Cumberland that the town paid $3 million for. It was warned of the environmental consequences of its grandiose plans for opening to an unfettered public a fragile and protected ecosystem. The issue goes well beyond a cozy relationship between the town, developer and CCLT, and the dealings the town has had with each.
What it foreshadows is a violation of trust in the future protection of properties, donated in fee or easement, that have been the bedrock of the widely heralded conservation effort in Maine. If allowed to follow its present course the residents of the state will be the losers, as will the natural resources that have made Maine such a wonderful place in which to live.
If I were in a position to donate land or an easement in this moment in time, would I? Probably not.