CAPE ELIZABETH – You win some, you lose some.

A day after surviving an attempt to cut off $350,000 in municipal funding for its Robinson Woods land purchase, the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust learned it lost out on another leg of deal – a grant from the state Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program.

The land trust’s executive director, Chris Franklin, said Monday that his group had asked the program for $370,000, about one-third of what it needs to complete the $1.1 million deal to secure 63 acres adjacent to a larger 80-acre wooded area it bought from the Robinson family in 2003. Apart from preserving the land in its natural state in perpetuity, the new property would help the land trust realize a long-sought goal, completion of a cross-town greenbelt trail.

However, with no new bonding to replenish its pool, the Land for Maine’s Future board on July 12 exhausted the last $9.25 million it has on hand to aid conservation easements. Since 1987, the program has helped to restrict development on 530,000 acres across the state. This year, it gave money to 22 of 38 applicants, to help buy easements on lots ranging from 25 to 21,700 acres. The proposal from the land trust did not make the cut.

“We didn’t make it out of the nominating committee,” said Franklin. “We’re not too surprised. There are a lot of great conservation projects out there. We’ve were fortunate to get two grants from them in the past, but we didn’t get this one.”

According to the purchase and sale agreement signed with the Robinson Family, the land trust has one year to secure two-thirds of the funding necessary to complete the transaction.

“We don’t have time for concern,” said Franklin. “The mentality is that this is going to get done. We have full confidence that we’ll be able to raise the necessary funding.

“The community already loves this property,” he added, calling its well-maintained trail system a “turnkey opportunity” for land trust. “It’s just a matter of reaching out to the community and asking them to step up to help preserve this wonderful piece of land forever.”

Franklin said the land trust is beginning to schedule walking tours “to get people excited about the property,” with dates to be determined.

On Sunday, more than 30 artists participated in the land trust’s fourth annual “wet paint” auction, setting up easels at picturesque spots across town and auctioning off their day’s artistic endeavor.

“It’s an event that really captures what we try to do,” said Franklin. “These places that we see every day, the artists make us pause and see them in a new light with fresh eyes.”

The event raised $55,000, said Franklin, although not all goes to capital endeavors such as the Robinson Woods purchase.

“Some of that goes to our operational budget, and stewardship, and that kind of thing,” said Franklin.

Meanwhile, the town has forwarded to the land trust a proposal made by Councilor Jim Walsh for amending the Shore Road Path project by diverting a small portion (about 875 square feet) away from the road and onto the 2003 Robinson Woods lots. Walsh’s proposal is a scaled-back version of an earlier request by the town, the refusal of which prompted the July 11 attempt to take back $350,000 in municipal funding.

Town Manager Michael McGovern is meeting with state transportation officials at a previously scheduled discussion of the logistical issues that need to be resolved in order to complete the path. Walsh’s suggested changes, including giving the paved path a gravel surface where it crosses land trust land, will be presented at that meeting.

Meanwhile, the land trust will consider the Walsh proposal at its next meeting, Monday, July 25. That meeting will be closed to the public, said Franklin. Although the land trust receives much of its funding from public sources, the nonprofit is a private entity not subject to Maines Freedom of Access and Right to Know laws.

McGovern said Tuesday that two councilors will attend the land trust meeting. Only two will go, he said, to avoid triggering laws that would force the meeting to be held in public.

Portland artist John Santoro captures the lines and colors of
the fertile fields at Jordan Farms. Santoro was taking part in the
Cape Elizabeth Land Trust’s fourth annual “wet paint” auction. More
than 30 artists set up easels throughout town Sunday to create art
that was sold off later that night, raising $55,000. (Photo by Rich
Billie Hirsch of Cape Elizabeth parades a painting for the
audience at the auction, which was held at Ram Island Farm. (Photo
by Rich Obrey)

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