2017-03-24 / In the Know

Trust celebrates 40 years of conservation

By Kathy Mills Special to the Leader

The signature elm at Pleasant Hill Preserve, where Scarborough Land Trust is building trails. (Courtesy photo) The signature elm at Pleasant Hill Preserve, where Scarborough Land Trust is building trails. (Courtesy photo) “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

These familiar words from Margaret Mead ring especially true as Scarborough Land Trust celebrates 40 years of land conservation this year.

From a small group of people who established the land trust in 1977 to over 400 contributors who made history with the purchase of Pleasant Hill Preserve in 2014, Scarborough residents who care about their town have been key to local land conservation.

Amazing Scarborough

Scarborough has an amazing combination of natural features that make this town special: Maine’s largest salt marsh, 8 miles of coastline on Saco Bay, four beautiful beaches, five rivers, prime farmland, mature forests and wide open vistas. Scarborough’s rich natural heritage is critical to our quality of life and quality of place.

At 50 square miles, Scarborough is also one of the largest towns in southern Maine, and has been one of the fastest growing towns in the state. With 20,000 people, it is one of the biggest communities in Maine, ranking in the top 10.

Resident support for land bonds also sets Scarborough apart. To our knowledge, we are the only town in Maine that has voted three times by overwhelming majorities to support bonds for land conservation. Scarborough’s Land Bond Fund has played a significant role in conserving some land trust properties, especially as state conservation funding has been reduced.

Conserving land while Scarborough grows prompted trust founders to action and continues to motivate our work. It is also a priority clearly shared by Scarborough residents through their support of land bonds.

Lands, trails and partners

So where do we stand after 40 years of land conservation in Scarborough? With community support, the trust has conserved more than 1,500 acres that include 6 properties with trails that are open to the public year-round. Our lands offer a variety of landscapes to explore in all seasons.

Visiting the Silver Brook Trail behind the farmstead at Broadturn Farm on Broadturn Road will take you to our largest property, a 434-acre landmark farm that has been brought back to life by the trust and farmers John Bliss and Stacy Brenner.

Just down the road is Fuller Farm Preserve, our largest network of trails on 220 acres of sweeping open fields and woods that nudge up against the Nonesuch River. Sewell Woods on Ash Swamp Road offers a gentle woods trail on 35 acres that crosses Stuart Brook.

New trails at Warren Woods on Payne Road take you to a green oasis of 156 acres tucked between Eight Corners and Cabela’s. Next to Camp Ketcha, Libby River Farm Preserve encompasses 75 acres with trails that lead to an observation deck overlooking the marsh.

Last year, we built our first handicapped accessible trail, the first trail at Pleasant Hill Preserve, with more to come on this rare 135-acre parcel of open space in Scarborough’s largest neighborhood. Our guided nature walks offer opportunities to learn more about the land and wildlife on these beautiful properties.

The trust also works with partners to conserve land. With Friends of Scarborough Marsh, we helped protect the 45-acre Gervais property and the 3-acre Jannelle property, both of which have been added to Scarborough Marsh. We helped Maine Farmland Trust protect Frith Farm, Comstock Farm and Waterhouse Farm. With Portland Museum of Art and Prouts Neck Association, we helped conserve the land and viewshed of the Winslow Homer Studio.

None of this would be possible without strong community support, an active board of directors, hard-working staff and dedicated stewardship volunteers who help take care of our lands.

Once we protect land, our work has just begun. We must take care of our lands forever, and volunteers are the backbone of our land stewardship. Looking ahead

“Conserving land for people, for wildlife – forever.” Our tagline says it all about our work, past, present and future. In the coming year, we will be building more trails at Pleasant Hill Preserve, completing a conservation project on Bradford Lane, planning for more trails at Broadturn Farm and tackling a priority list of stewardship needs.

We just launched a new website that provides updated information about our conservation work and public programs. Visit us at www.scarboroughlandtrust.org.

In this 40th anniversary year, we celebrate all of the people and partners that have worked to benefit Scarborough’s land, wildlife and community, and look forward to the next decade of progress.

Kathy Mills is executive director of Scarborough Land Trust.

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