Staff and volunteers with Maine Audubon get ready to make repairs to the trail at East Point Sanctuary in Biddeford Pool on Sunday. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD – East Point Sanctuary, is a 27-acre property in Biddeford Pool and sits on a peninsula. It overlooks the rocky Maine coastline, and has views of Saco Bay and the Gulf of Maine, and the Wood Island lighthouse. The about 1-mile trail on the property traverses through wildlife habitat and is one of the best places in southern Maine to view shorebirds. 

East Point, owned by Maine Audubon and a private owner who has granted an easement over their property, is “one of the most stunning places we have,” Maine Audubon Outreach and Network Manager Nicholas Lund said Sunday morning. A group of Maine Audubon staff and volunteers gathered to do maintenance on the property that included repairing several footbridges on the trail and picking up trash and debris from the beach. Lund noted the East Point Sanctuary is one of the few undeveloped properties in southern coastal Maine that many take advantage of and is an important part of Maine Audubon’s work. 

In addition, to its magnificent views, the Biddeford Pool site is a great place to see birds, Lund said. Of the eight wildlife sanctuaries operated by Maine Audubon that are free to visit and open to the public, “East Point has hosted some of the rarest birds” in the state, he said. “Many oceanic birds (that come to Maine) in the winter are only seen here.” 

But, Lund said, the mission of Maine Audubon, which is associated with but independent from the national Maine Audubon Society, is about more than birds. “We help protect all wildlife and wildlife habitat in Maine,” Lund said. The state’s oldest wildlife conservation organization, founded in 1843 – initially as the Portland National History Society – teaches children about wildlife, employs scientists, and advocates for conservation legislation in Augusta, he said. 

Many of the 10 or so people gathered on Sunday had ties to Maine Audubon, either as staff, like Lund, and Maine Audubon Director of Properties Peter Balcher and his assistant James Kennedy who both headed up the work crew. 

Also helping out were Marion Sprague and Seth Davis who together run the Maine Audubon’s Young Birders Club. About 25 young people, from the ages of 11 to 17 belong to the club which travels to sites around the state to bird watch. The Young Birders last visited East Point on an early February morning looking for owls, Sprague said – though they didn’t see any that time. 

On Sunday, Maine Audubon staff and volunteers replace a footbridge on the trail at East Point sanctuary in Biddeford Pool. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

Not all who came to help were associated with the wildlife conservation group, such as Jeff Goldsmith, a recent transplant to Biddeford Pool from Cincinnati, Ohio. However, he had one of the longest associations with East Point of the group and many fond memories of the place. 

Although Goldsmith didn’t become a full-time Biddeford Pool resident until last year, he said he had been vacationing in the area since he was a baby and visiting the site before it was acquired by Maine Audubon in two installments, one in 1975 and another in 1981. 

“I’ve been coming here for 70 years, having clambakes, sleeping out at night, watching sunrises,” Goldsmith said. “It’s a lovely spot that we want to keep in good shape.” 

Biddeford resident Brad Coupe also went along. He noted the good work Maine Audubon was doing fighting invasive plant species that have taken hold in parts of the state.  

Maine Audubon is becoming more and more invested in fighting invasive species of plants in Maine, Lund said, which are most prevalent in the state in the southern region. 

Kennedy said the prevalence is due in part to the larger population of migrating bird species that visit the area and spread seeds from areas other than Maine. 

Last year, Kennedy said, Maine Audubon contracted with a private firm to do selective killing of some of the non-native plants in the area like the Asiatic bittersweet and the Asian honeysuckle. The effort, he said, has been very successful and much of the regrowth are plants native to the area. 

Lund said native plants aren’t just important in and of themselves. 

“Restoring native plants is not just about native plants,” he said. “When invasives come in and push out natives, insects can’t eat them.” And if there are no insects, then the birds have nothing to eat, Lund said. 

Besides battling invasive plant species on its own property, Maine Audubon is also trying to get Maine property owners to plant native species on their land, Kennedy said. “It’s part of our larger mission and focus,” he said. 

Each spring, Maine Audubon has a plant sale at its Falmouth headquarters on Gilsland Farm as part of its effort to restore and rebuild Maine’s natural biodiversity “by planting the native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that support the widest array of wildlife,” according to the organization’s website.

“As Maine becomes more developed, we’re trying to get ahead of the game,” Kennedy said. This year, he said, Maine Audubon sold 3,000 native plants at its spring sale. 

“We talk a lot about a lot of environmental problems, like climate change, and we feel powerless,” Lund said. 

“Native plants are great because it’s something you can really take control of and feel like you’re doing,” he said. 

-Managing Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or [email protected] 

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