Woodward Point (Contributed image)

It’s about promise. 

On Jan. 24, Brunswick’s Town Council will consider making the town a partner in the Woodward Point Project. That project nears both goal and deadline for raising the $3.5 million needed to purchase nearly 90 acres of shoreline that encompasses much of a longtime, saltwater cattle farm along the New Meadows River. The farm’s open fields, mixed habitat, good condition and more than two miles of shoreline are unparalleled in southern Maine. 

And thanks to the cooperative work of Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Brunswick Topsham Land Trust and their many supporters, we, the public, are within sniffing distance of forever access to this special land. 

If these two partners in preservation can raise the 300,000 remaining dollars needed by April 1st, they will be able to complete the purchase of Woodward Point and begin the work of imagining its public future. Which, by land and from the sea, will include you. 

Enter — I hope — the town of Brunswick. A good chunk of that remaining money could be realized from town funds already earmarked for public water access. Those funds came to the town from the controversial sale of 946 Mere Point Road in 2017, a waterfront property on Maquoit Bay that arrived in town hands when its owner failed to pay taxes over years.  

After the sale, Town Councilors reaffirmed the need to create and support public access to our waters and said they’d use proceeds from the sale to help do so. Woodward Point then is a dream answer to that promise. 

Perhaps Woodward’s values are best appreciated on foot. So here, even in winter’s midsection, are impressions from a recent walk at Woodward Point. I hope they will impel you to ask your town councilor to support partnering in this promise…and even, if possible, to consider doing so yourself. 

It’s no secret that a Maine winter asks imagination; it invites it. Especially near the sea on days when even the salt water ices over. But Mainers are good at seeing ahead to warmer seasons and possibility. All it takes is the gift of a pocket of sunshine, some thawing mud and the soft rustle of water on the shore. 

The other day I got such a gift during my walk at Woodward Point. I use the word “gift” advisedly, because I was there both with permission and a guide. The land is not yet public, and Angela Twitchell of Brunswick Topsham Land Trust had secured permission, while Keith Fletcher of Maine Coast Heritage Trust had offered to be my guide. 

The day was one of superior light — cold and bright, with a filter of cirrus near the sun. Keith and I set out to on a roughly half-mile walk to the sea over a long, late-mown field. In summer, this field plays host to tens of nesting bobolinks; on this day it bore only a crust of snow and a lone set of iced ski tracks.  

A sense of scale often vanishes on such a long field, and for stretches of our walk, I had the illusion that the sea was no nearer than it had been minutes before. That slow approach in itself is a rare experience along the Maine shoreline, where such parcels have gone over mostly to development with only private access. But for many decades Woodward Point had thrived as a saltwater farm, mostly raising cattle, and that and annual mowing account for its remarkable fields. 

As the peninsula thinned and we neared the water, I saw also that we were looking down at the calm waters adjacent to the New Meadows River. Another of the land’s gifts is its elevation and the perspective it offers. And there on a bluff above Woodward Cove, I met myself…or rather, I touched the memory of my other visit to Woodward Point some months back: 

It’s a light-wind, high-sky summer day, and the tides are aligned for one of my annual rites, a circumnavigation of Sebascodegan Island. With the tide’s hand at my back, I’ve just reached the little bridge that links Sebacodegan’s “Great Island” with the mainland; sliding my kayak beneath that bridge at slack tide will be simple (though books and experience tell me that mid-tide’s 6 or 7 knot flow through there is another matter). 

On this day, just east of the bridge, I turn north again. 

Nearby, Woodward Point rises before me as two substantial humps of land held by three prongs of water, Woodward Cove, what I’ll learn later is called the “Little Bullpen,” a tidal inlet that empties to shellfish-rich mud at low tide, and the New Meadows River. 

This, I can see, is no usual Maine point. Even given its 30-foot rise, I note that only a fringe of trees rings a large field on top. I have reached a rarity — the large, intact print of a saltwater farm whose field sweeps nearly a half-mile up from the water’s edge.  

On the point’s other peninsula, large pines tower. A more usual Maine scene. But from those pines I hear a favorite song; a wood thrush issues his flute-like notes. Here is Henry Thoreau’s favorite bird, one that needs deep wild to feel at home. Thoreau thought this thrush the symbol of good land, because it asked not for a patch but for an intact stretch…that could only be called natural. 

After I nose along the shore and look up at the bluff, I realize that this is a place beyond my paddling experience. By that, I mean its span and variety are measurable only with walking; a quick glance won’t suffice. How often have I seen this? I ask myself. Answer is easy: never…in coastal southern Maine. 

Returned from the reverie of that summer paddle, I joined Keith and walked back up the field into a light north wind. It was 25 degrees; winter had only begun; who knew what’s in store? But I could see ahead to what this land can become: a public haven for birds, animals and us — walkers, birders, paddlers, clammers, and more, all those who would visit and value this place where the nature of land kisses the nature of the sea. I could see the promise. 

I hope our town councilors and you can too. 

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident and chair of the towns Conservation Commission. He writes for a variety of publications. His recent book, Critical Hours — Search and Rescue in the White Mountains, was published by University Press of New England in April, 2018. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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