The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) is a member-driven community organization that works collaboratively to conserve the remarkable natural resources of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin. Our conservation vision extends beyond individual parcels of land to embrace a wide range of characteristics that define our region’s quality of place.  Key to our mission is connecting the people of our region to the land and enriching community appreciation of the natural world. 2018 has been a busy year for the Land Trust thanks to the generous support of our more than 1,000 members.

First and foremost is land conservation, and leading the pack there is Head of Tide Park, the result of a 12-year collaboration between BTLT, the town of Topsham, and many other individuals and organizations. Spanning 12 acres of land on both banks of the Cathance River, Head of Tide Park’s amenities include hand-carry boat access, a riverfront trail connecting to BTLT’s Cathance River Nature Preserve, and a picnic area to bird-watch, fish, swim, and just enjoy being outdoors in a beautiful setting – and all of this is open to everyone!

This is just one of several projects that created or improved public access to the outdoors for the people of our region in 2018. Others include conservation of the Smart parcel behind Riverview Cemetery in Topsham, which permanently protects a large section of the recently built Topsham River Trail; construction of a bridge connecting BTLT’s Chase Reserve trail to the Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail thanks to the hard work of Eagle Scout Sam Hughes; and completion of a trail on BTLT’s Woodward Cove property in East Brunswick that ensures public access to these productive clam flats.

Our most recently completed land conservation project is Neptune Woods at Brunswick Landing and its great new mountain bike and multi-use trails opened in October. No project better exemplifies BTLT’s proud history of partnering with other organizations – in this case, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, 6 Rivers New England Mountain Bike Association, and Mid Coast Hospital – to create access to the out-of-doors for the people of our region.

We can’t leave the list of land conservation successes in 2018 without mentioning the exciting Woodward Point property which, when complete, will conserve nearly 90 acres and two miles of shorefront on Woodward Cove and the New Meadow River in Brunswick. While this project (being done in a wonderful partnership with Maine Coast Heritage Trust) is ongoing and still in need of significant funding to be completed, we count the progress we have made to date as one of our most important accomplishments of 2018. Expect to hear more about this project in 2019.

Virtually all of BTLT’s work supports community wellness, from protecting clean water, open spaces, and recreation, to supporting access to healthy food, and much more.  But this year we pursued this mission more deliberately. Here are just a few of our wellness-focused accomplishments in 2018:

  • Bringing Coffin School and Mt. Ararat Middle School students and children from Perryman Village to the Tom Settlemire Community Garden to learn about growing and appreciating healthy food;
  • Redoubling our efforts to spread the word about BTLT’s Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm to SNAP benefits recipients, resulting in a doubling of the number of SNAP users shopping at the market ;
  • Participating in the Merrymeeting Food Council and Merrymeeting Gleaners to bring local, healthy food to our food pantries;
  • Bringing a series of trail runs and forest bathing walks to BTLT trails; and
  • Producing a comprehensive Mid Coast Trail Guide, an updated Brunswick Outdoors Map, and an on-line wellness resource that embraces every conceivable way to get active in our area.

When the Land Trust conserves a property, it also takes on a commitment – in perpetuity – for responsible stewardship of the land. It’s a weighty responsibility, and BTLT has worked hard to build a financially and institutionally sustainable organization capable of fulfilling it. Our national accreditation in 2012 and 2018 re-accreditation recognize BTLT as a land trust that has its ducks in a row, both organizationally and financially.

In recent years, BTLT has achieved a lot and it has been  accomplished under the leadership of Brad Babson, who in 2018 wrapped up seven years as president of BTLT’s board. We at BTLT have always known how much Brad’s vision and perseverance have done for our organization and our community. We were extremely gratified to see Brad recognized for these qualities in the wider community as a recipient of Camden National Bank’s 2018 Leaders & Luminaries award.

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2018 possible and we look forward to 2019 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them.  Happy New Year! Find out more about all of the projects mentioned above at www.btlt.org.

Angela Twitchell is the executive director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust; Emily Swan is the BTLT president.

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