THE NEW BIRCH ISLAND PRESERVE.

THE NEW BIRCH ISLAND PRESERVE.

HARPSWELL

The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust closed on a 43-acre piece of property on Birch Island in Harpswell on Friday.

The new preserve on the northeastern part of the island is the land trust’s second preserve on the island — a property on the southern tip of the island was secured in 1988. The two areas on opposite sides of the island are not connected by any path or easement. The new conservation area will be named after Walter and Helen Norton in honor of their conservation work in Harpswell.

“It’s land which has a great variety of habitat, and also includes extensive mud flats,” said Reed Coles, executive director of HHLT. “So we’re protecting not only the upland habitat for wildlife, but we’re also protecting an extensive amount of clam flats for clammers and marine resources in general.”

An easement over mud flats on the northern end of Birch Island, combined with HHLT’s preserve on the southern end of White Island to the north, will protect the clam flats that run between the two islands for generations to come, said Coles.

The primary purpose of the preserve is to conserve the upland and marine wildlife habitat, but the land trust plans to open it up to the public in the future. Coles said that they don’t expect to have any formal opening for the public until next year “at best.” For now, their focus will be on cleaning garbage off the preserves.

“We will talk with the Maine Island Trail Association about putting it on the trail as a campgrounds/campsite. We may do something more in the future with more active management: that is provide a dock and a float and a ramp and put some formal trails in. But that’s an expensive project and would require a lot more fundraising,” said Coles.

The land purchase was made possible through a grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program. While HHLT raised and contributed $35,000 to the purchase as well as a conservation easement in Duck Cove, the grant paid for a vast majority of the $510,000 property. The previous owner of the land, William P. Harvey, held off on putting the property on the market while HHLT pursued the grant to purchase the lands and finally closed on the property last Friday.

“It’s highly valuable habitat — both marine and terrestrial — with a lot of variety on it. So it’s going to be important for migratory birds, for a lot of fish species, clams, shellfish, etc.,” said Coles. “And it’s never going to be developed, so that means we’re going to protect those things forever.”

Island items

The new preserve on the northeastern part of the island is the land trust’s second preserve on Birch Island — a property on the southern tip of the island was secured in 1988.

THE NEW conservation area will be named after Walter and Helen Norton in honor of their conservation work in Harpswell.


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