BRUNSWICK — Two land trusts are working to acquire more than 80 acres of shorefront to provide public access at Woodward Point.
The trident-shaped property has 10,000 feet of shoreline, open fields, trail systems, and some of the town’s most valuable mud flats – all capable of supporting hiking, paddling, picnicking, hunting and shellfish harvesting.
“This is one of the most remarkable properties left (along Casco Bay),” Keith Fletcher, Maine Coast Heritage Trust program manager, said at a June 19 Town Council meeting.
Working in collaboration with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, MCHT asked the council to send a letter of support for a national grant application that would secure $1 million toward the nearly $3.5 million cost of acquiring and maintaining the property.
The application – enthusiastically backed by a unanimous council – kicks off a two-year fundraising campaign to buy the property at what Fletcher called a “bargain price” of $2.5 million (it was appraised at $2.8 million) from Andy Cook and Jaki Ellis, who farmed the land for 37 years.
It also comes less than a week after the town sold a 4-acre, tax-acquired property at Mere Point Road on Maquoit Bay that was at the center of debate about public access last summer.
The connection to Mere Point Road was not lost on councilors.
Councilor Jane Millett suggested the land trusts review tapes of the panel discussion around the Mere Point property to get a sense of the public programs that matter to residents.
Fletcher said the acquisition plan as not prompted directly by the Mere Point Road saga, but by Cook’s and Ellis’ intentions to keep the property for conservation.
Cook said Monday that he and Ellis came by the farmland in the 1970s, when they were paddling kayaks along the shore and were struck by its features. They asked the owner if they could buy a few acres for farming; he surprised them by offering the entire 89 acres.
At one point, Cook and Ellis raised cattle. The eastern peninsula of the parcel has since been hayed, and includes an open field that Fletcher suggested is the most arresting natural feature of the land.
“The vastness of these fields are almost mind-boggling,” he said.
“We want to pass that on,” Cook said, just as the former owner had hoped when he sold the land.
MCHT, a statewide organization, will own the property, but the local land trust will co-manage the maintenance and programs.
Cook and Ellis intend to keep a few acres for themselves, but will move out of their home on the property. The homestead and a campground will not be included in the conserved land intended for public access.
That portion of the property will also stay on the town’s tax rolls, which town assessor Cathleen Jamison said amount to $6,200 annually.
The town will lose about $2,000 in taxes on the conserved open space land, but several councilors said they expected the economic impact of the recreational area would more than make up for the loss by boosting the area’s economy.
The Maine Coast Heritage Land Trust and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust hope to raise almost $3.5 million over two years to acquire more than 80 acres of coastal land at the tip of Woodward Point. The scenic Brunswick farmland will be set aside for public access.