Cape Elizabeth Land Trust completes $1.1M preservation purchase
CAPE ELIZABETH — More than 60 acres were added to 80-acre Robinson Woods Tuesday afternoon when the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust closed on the $1.1 million acquisition of Robinson Woods II.
The trust completed the funding at the end of September, raising $1.2 million, and bought the land after working to organize the purchase for about five years.The remaining $100,000 will be used for the ongoing needs of the property.
"Strategic land conservation requires a number of things," trust President Ted Darling said Tuesday, noting more than 250 organizations donated to the cause. "... It requires patience, perseverance and participation in the political process. The public outpouring of support was really far-reaching and we greatly appreciated that."
The woodlands contain valuable habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, and about a mile of trails that are part of the town's 7.5-mile Greenbelt network, which runs from Fort Williams Park to Kettle Cove.
Combined with Robinson Woods, bought by the trust in 2001, the purchase will be used for recreation and educational purposes, Darling said. It will also complete part of the town's broad land preservation vision, which began in the mid-1970s.
The woods are named after John Robinson, who owned the land and passed it down to his four nephews, who still own adjacent family property. Only three smaller properties near the woods are not permanently protected, and the trust will continue to work on purchasing those, Darling said.
The Town Council dedicated $350,000 to the land trust in June last year and authorized the funding at their meeting Nov. 14. Almost half of that pledge, $150,000, will come from the town's land-acquisition fund. The remaining $200,000 is money from a refinanced 20-year bond.
The town's money was the largest single donation to the land trust for the purchase of the woods, with the only requirement being that the land trust must provide a public access easement for the town across the property.
"I'm utterly, utterly thrilled," said former Town Council Chairwoman Sara Lennon, who presided over her last council meeting Nov. 14 and voted to authorize the town's donation. "This is definitely one of my top five favorite projects I've worked on in my six years on the council. I would love to see this used as a model for the town to partner with CELT to be poised to buy these really valuable pieces of property."
Lennon said this purchase shows that Cape Elizabeth residents value open space, pointing to a trend nationally of smaller, local groups coming together to preserve land.
But despite the town's large donation, a 400-person survey commissioned by the Future Open Space Committee in July found that 57 percent of residents said the town does not need more open space, with a 94 percent of those residents indicating they were satisfied with the open space already preserved by the town.
Only 35 percent said they wanted more open space, with 8 percent saying they didn't know.
Still, 57 percent of those surveyed said it was "very important" for the town to have a plan to preserve open space, with 60 percent favoring the preservation of walking and hiking land, as well as access to salt and fresh water versus other types of property.
Town Manager Mike McGovern said although the survey indicates a conservative approach to preserving open space, when specific parcels are identified, they receive strong private support, as indicated by the trust's ability to raise money for Robinson Woods.
The land trust sought donations from the public, with those donations matched by a grant from resident Paul Coulombe.
Additional funding for the property came from individuals, private foundation grants, the trust board of directors, and organizational land reserves.