Maine Coast Heritage Trust – Beyond Preservation

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When Nova Tower moved to Portland from New York City in 2009, she was overwhelmed to find an abundance of pristine beaches and wooded trails within easy reach. “You just don’t have that anywhere else,” she said.

Nova Tower and her family are enjoying a summer day at Goslings, a pair of islands in Casco Bay that MCHT kept in 2014.

It wasn’t until Tower lived in Maine for a few years that she learned that land trusts were responsible for so many shelters that she adores, keeping them safe, free and open to the public forever. “The idea of ​​a land trust was quite an alien concept,” says Tower, who now co-chairs the Next Wave Council of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, his group of young supporters. “But they are over there doing this important work to give communities access to these beautiful places.”

MCHT’s impact extends beyond the creation of the reserves that Tower rewards. In partnership with more than 80 state land trusts, the organization is committed to making the coast more resilient to climate change, feeding the hungry, preserving history, strengthening waterfronts and helping to supporting Maine communities in other unexpected ways.


Feed the hungry

Maine’s food insecurity rates are above the national average, and traffic to pantries has skyrocketed during the pandemic. At Erickson Fields, a former dairy farm in Rockport, MCHT feeds many of these Mainers while training local teens in sustainable agriculture and maintaining a precious green space just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Camden and Rockport.

Since partnering with Maine Farmland Trust to purchase the property in 2008, MCHT has developed a four-acre vegetable farm that produces over 20,000 pounds of produce each year, which the group supplies to local pest control organizations. hunger and schools. “When families come in and see that they can get lettuce that was grown in Rockport and picked fresh that morning, you just see them light up,” says Vera Roberts, AIO Food Pantry volunteer in Rockland. . “It means so much.”

At MCHT’s Erickson Fields Reserve, local teens work with volunteers to grow and harvest produce, which is supplied to pantries and schools in the area. The property also has a popular hiking trail.

A team of teenagers harvest the produce, alongside volunteers and MCHT staff, and they learn about sustainable agriculture and environmental science. More than 50 teenagers have worked at Erickson, and many have made careers in the field.

On the adjacent lands, MCHT has built a trail that winds around the garden, through meadows and forest, and connects to the nearby Beech Hill Preserve, which is managed by Coastal Mountains Land Trust. Roberts is happy to see that the land serves the community in so many different ways. “What you get out of this garden benefits such a large area,” she says.

Reinforcement of functional seafronts

In Lubec, commercial fishing is the beating heart of the community, but for generations locals have had to brave dangerous brackish water to access their boats and deliver their catch to the dock.

MCHT helped Lubec create a safe harbor in Johnson Bay for fishermen and boaters.

In 2019, MCHT helped the city apply for a federal grant to build a safer waterfront; paid over $ 100,000 to pay for assessments, environmental studies and other costs; and helped the city connect with other organizations that could support the effort.

The city received the nearly $ 20 million grant last year and plans to develop a new boat launch, breakwater and protected mooring ground, as well as docks with water. place for the Maine Marine Patrol to guard a ship year round, reducing their emergency response time. at sea. “If it hadn’t been for MCHT,” says Carol Dennison, Chairman of the Board of Lubec, “this project would never have seen the light of day.

Save the story

On the island of Malaga, in Phippsburg, MCHT was instrumental in uncovering a horrific chapter of racial injustice. A community of blacks and mestizos lived on the island from the mid-1800s until 1912, when the state evicted residents, exhumed their dead buried, and sent some of them to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded.

In 2001, the owner of the island, who wanted to see it safe from development, sold it to MCHT. Soon after, archaeological work at the site began, and researchers uncovered artifacts such as padlocks, fragments of crockery, and cast iron stoves, which provided real-life evidence for the island community. “This work debunked the myths and misconceptions that had circulated for years about how the people of Malaga lived and what they experienced, and that was so important,” said state archivist Katherine McBrien. “Until the arrival of the MCHT, Malaga was that island that nobody talked about.” In 2010, Governor John Baldacci issued an official apology for what happened in Malaga.

Archaeologists search for artifacts on the island of Malaga.

MCHT created a mile-long trail on the island, placed markers at the original sites that tell the story of the people who lived there, and opened Malaga to the public in 2002. “It’s a thing to read about history, but when you in a place, it shows how real and personal it is, ”says McBrien. “If Malaga were private property, no one could learn from it. The descendants could not reconnect with their history, and this is such an important part of the healing process.

Fight climate change

Solutions to sea level rise and housing shortages usually don’t go hand in hand, but on Mount Desert Island, MCHT and Bar Harbor’s Island Housing Trust have teamed up to tackle both crises with one project. . In 2014, a 60-acre MDI-headed parcel known as Jones Marsh was for sale. The MCHT also observed it because there was a salt marsh surrounded by undeveloped uplands.

Salt marshes play a vital role in combating climate change, protecting developed coastal areas from flooding by absorbing rainwater like a sponge and cushioning strong winds during storm surges. Marshes also filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, store carbon dioxide, and provide habitat for birds and seashells. Properties like MDI’s that are adjacent to higher land that has not been developed are especially valuable, because as sea level rises, grasses can migrate to the highlands.

In Jones Marsh, Bar Harbor, MCHT is preserving a precious salt marsh and Island Housing Trust is developing housing needed for the workforce.

Misha Mytar, MCHT’s senior project manager for MDI, found that Jones Marsh also had another important feature: proximity to Bar Harbor, which made it an ideal location for workforce housing. As real estate values ​​have skyrocketed on MDI and elsewhere, many of those working on the island have been shut out of the market. “Communities all along the coast are in desperate need of housing for this missing link,” said Island Housing Trust Executive Director Marla O’Byrne.

MCHT and the Housing Trust therefore joined forces to acquire the 60-acre property. MCHT purchased 30 acres of salt marsh for conservation, and IHT acquired the other half to build 10 energy efficient housing units and sell them to residents who meet income criteria. “Our mission is to protect the earth,” Mytar says. “But we also have a responsibility to play the role we can to protect these communities and make sure they are livable for the people of Maine.”


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Entire islands protected

The only conservation organization working statewide to protect the coast from development and keep it open to all, MCHT has permanently preserved hundreds of places from Kittery to Lubec for the past 50 years. Learn more about the organization’s efforts to mcht.org/conservation.


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