Falmouth town councilors voted this week to spend $200,000 to help purchase and preserve part of Clapboard Island for public use, $100,000 less than was originally proposed.
The town’s financial support aids a fundraising campaign led by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which must raise a total of roughly $1.6 million to purchase about 17 acres of the private island and pay for its future stewardship.
The Town Council voted 5-1 on Monday, with one member absent, to withdraw the money from the town’s unassigned fund balance.
So far the land preservation group has raised about $500,000, said Keith Fletcher, the trust’s project manager for the island acquisition. Maine Coast Heritage Trust has until Aug. 15 to close on the deal, he said.
“(The town’s donation) is a lot of money, and it’s going to help leverage other dollars,” Fletcher said. “We had actual funders who were saying they would wait for the town to act.”
Of the total $1.6 million project cost, about $1.4 million is required to buy the land alone. The remaining $200,000 will pay for future management costs, such as storm cleanup, trail maintenance and installing signs to help visitors navigate.
Included in the 17 acres on the north end of the island is a seasonal residence, which the trust plans to separate into a 2.3-acre parcel that will be sold to help cover the cost of the purchase. While Fletcher was reluctant to discuss a potential price on the property, he said it would likely fetch a substantial portion of what is left to be raised. About 15 acres of wooded land will remain for public use, he said.
Still, Fletcher said, the public’s help is needed to close the fundraising gap.
“I think people need to step up to the plate,” said Susan Gilpin of the Friends of Clapboard Island group, who helped push for the acquisition funding.
Wildlife thrives on the island, Gilpin said. A pair of bald eagles and three pairs of nesting ospreys call the island home. The trees there are also worth noting, she said, including the southern-most hemlock spruce forest, which is typically found on islands farther north in Penobscot Bay and parts of Down East Maine.
Falmouth Town Council Vice Chairwoman Karen Farber, who voted in favor of the project, said the decision to spend the money came after considering the will of local voters, who have expressed a desire for the town to preserve open space.
Clapboard Island is part of Falmouth. Farber said the island’s proximity – about a mile off Falmouth Foreside – makes it an attractive addition to the town’s public spaces.
“This is a kind of place that mom and dad can go with kids,” Farber said. “It’s reachable by families.”
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: