Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Neighbors of a 150-acre parcel of undeveloped natural habitat on Biddeford’s coastline are concerned about what will become of structures that are located on the site.

The Timber Point property, which is home to endangered and threatened migrating and nesting birds and other wildlife, was purchased in 2011 with a combination of private donations and public grants. It is now part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, or RCNWR.

In addition to wildlife, the property also contains several structures including a home, built in 1931 by former owner Charles Ewing, that is perched on a small cliff overlooking the ocean.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the national refuge system, has undertaken a mandatory environmental assessment of the property and dealing with the house has become a controversial issue. There are a variety of opinions ranging from maintaining it as is, improving it, removing it, and several options in between.

Originally a decision on the matter was expected by today, but that has been pushed back. A decision is expected early next year.

Neighbors and some others are concerned about the impact of the decision for those living in the area ”“ both human and wildlife.

Of greatest concern to some is a proposal by a private organization, “Timber Point Center,” to develop the site.

A group of concerned citizens, calling themselves “Friends of Timber Point” sent a joint letter to Earle Shettleworth, the director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and other organizations.

The Friends of Timber Point say they are wary of a “scheme” by Timber Point Center that includes a multi-million dollar plan to fill and widen a road, install a parking lot and run an overnight meeting facility on the Timber Point property.

“We view these plans, through the ”˜Timber Point Center,’ as contrary to the RCNWR goals, purposes, and initial representations,” the letter states.

Shettleworth has been singled out, because the group is asking that the historic preservation commission ”“ that he heads ”“ not support granting historic status to the Timber Point buildings.

“The Timber Point Center appears to be using historic preservation status as cover for its intentions to use the refuge for its purposes,” according to the letter. It continues, “We are confident your office will investigate and vet claims that we find dubious and allow Timber Point to remain the rare, quiet refuge it has been for decades.”

On its website, however, the Timber Point Center has a much different description of how it would like to see the Timber Point buildings used.

“We envision the renovation and restoration of the 14-bedroom Timber Point estate, and its reuse as a small, overnight convening facility,” according to the site.

Those who would be welcomed include: neighbors and the local community, as well as conservationists, researchers and scientists, scholars and historians, artists and writers, wellness practitioners, nonprofit organizations, and civic and educational leaders across diverse fields and disciplines, the site states.

The vision includes working with area colleges, land trusts, historic preservation, conservation organizations and businesses to explore and develop solutions to societal problems.

As stated on the website, steps will be taken to keep traffic to a minimum; traffic has been stated as a major concern for those living in the area.

Vans will be used to transport people, and the center will work with the neighborhood, the city and the refuge to “develop a comprehensive and cohesive traffic plan,” according to the website.

The center is envisioned as “a low-impact gathering place,” and a primary goal is that those who attend programs at the center “become better wildlife stewards” and “engaged in conservation efforts.”

“Our desire has always been for TPC to be a nature destination ”¦ a place where the entire community can enjoy and perhaps learn more about nature and the environment,” stated Timber Point Center founder Josephine Power, in a letter on the center website. “We believe the buildings are historically significant and will add to, rather than take away from, those experiences.”

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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