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BRUNSWICK — Two land trusts have raised nearly half the funds needed to preserve land at Woodward Point.
On April 16, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coast Wetlands Conservation Program would provide $570,000 to preserve 96 acres at the site. The conservation effort was launched last summer by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust in collaboration with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
So far, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust have raised $1.62 million of the $3.5 million necessary to buy and conserve the property. Their deadline is April 1, 2019.
The land has 10,000 feet of shoreline, open fields and trail systems, with the capacity to support outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting and picnicking. The area also cradles “two commercially significant shellfish beds,” according to a press release from Pingree’s office.
Working with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust applied for a $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June 2017.
“We ranked well, but it was very competitive,” Keith Fletcher, Maine Coast Heritage Trust program manager assigned to the project, said. “They gave us a partial award, and of course we are very happy with this result; it’s essential to completing this project.”
In addition to the most recent federal grant, Richard Knox, director of communications for the Maine Coast Heritage Land Trust, said the trusts have also received a $400,000 state grant from Land for Maine’s Future.
Knox added the organizations are also factoring in a bargain sale price from the landowners, Andy Cook and Jaki Ellis, in the total amount raised. Knox said the $2.5 million asking price was $278,000 less than what the owners “theoretically could have asked for” on the open market.
“We count that gift of a bargain sale of land toward our goal, and if you do the math, that means we’ve raised approximately $360,000 from private individuals,” he said.
Even with the most recent award, Fletcher said the organizations involved have “a long way to go” in their fundraising.
The trusts are relying on private gifts, from organizations and individuals. Those interested in donating can visit the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust website or email Angela Twitchell, the trust’s executive director.
The two groups decided to work together on the project, Twitchell said, when they realized they had an “overlapping mutual goal” of conserving Woodward Point. For a local land trust, she added, having the support of a statewide organization is helpful.
“We had conserved some adjacent properties, but when this opportunity came up, with the price tag, we didn’t feel as a small local land trust we had the capacity to do that on our own,” she said.
Twitchell said the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust also has a history with the landowners. Cook and Ellis intend to keep a few acres of the land, but will move out of their home on the property; the homestead and campground will not be included in the conserved parcel.
She added while the Maine Coast Heritage Trust will own the land once it is purchased, the two groups have a memorandum of understanding stating the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust will assist in the stewardship and preservation of the area.
Fletcher said the Woodward Point parcel is particularly unique. When scouting for a piece of land to preserve, he said his organization looked at all available pieces of property the same size or larger than Woodward Point along the coast in York and Cumberland Counties.
“Of all that shoreline, we chased it up everywhere that was tidal, we only found 13 parcels in all of York and Cumberland County (and) most of those will not be available for conservation,” he said. “This really might be our only chance to preserve a piece of land.”
In terms of how it will be used for public access, Fletcher said the state trust goes through “a pretty deliberate process” to reach out to neighbors and other stakeholders, such as clammers, to develop a management plan.
Twitchell said her organization is excited to meet the public demand for more shoreline access in Brunswick on the heels of contentious debates around the subject – specifically, discussions over 946 Mere Point Road.
“In Brunswick in particular in the last couple of years, it just became really obvious that people have a need for more access to our shorelands,” she said. “For me, that’s the exciting thing: that there’s clearly a demand for this.”
The Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust have raised $1.62 million towards the $3.5 million needed to acquire and maintain over 90 acres of land at Woodward Point. The organizations’ deadline to raise the money is April 1, 2019.