At this wonderful time of giving and thanks, we want to express our deep gratitude to the many hundreds of loyal supporters who made the work of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) possible this year.

BTLT is a member-driven community organization that works collaboratively with municipalities and partner organizations to conserve the remarkable natural resources of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin.  Just as important as conserving these natural places is connecting the people of our region to them.   We made great strides in 2019 in both of these areas.

BTLT’s star achievement of 2019 was our collaboration with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust to conserve Woodward Point, nearly 90 acres of land with two miles of shorefront on Woodward Cove and the New Meadow River in Brunswick. This spectacular property was opened to the public in September and in just a few months has become an indispensable entrée to the waterfront for the people of our area, where public access to the coast is so limited.

BTLT also created brand-new trails on the Tarbox Preserve in Topsham.  This beautiful wooded 124-acre property has frontage on both the Cathance and the Muddy Rivers.  Last July our staff and regional field team cleared old logging roads, hauled stone, and removed roots and boulders to create a trail on the north side of the property that winds along stone walls, through fern gullies, and past towering pines to a peninsula overlooking the Cathance River.  We encourage you to get out on this beautiful new trail in all seasons of the year.

BTLT completed two other significant conservation projects in Topsham in 2019:  the Robert Williams Preserve, totaling 73 acres with 5,600’ of river frontage on the tidal portion of the Cathance River; and the 53-acre Schoodic Forestry parcel, with more than two miles of frontage on the Androscoggin River in a part of town without much conserved land.  In addition to protecting wetlands and wildlife habitat, it will allow for public access to the river for hiking, fishing, and enjoying nature.

The theme of the Land Trust’s community outreach this year has been “Honoring Our Heritage, Building Our Future.”  We honored our heritage in grand style with a year-long celebration of BTLT’s signature property Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, complete with nature and history walks, citizen science, and a festival of music and food at the farm in September.  2019 marked 25 years since we undertook conservation of the farm and 20 years since we opened our award-winning farmers’ market.  We are proud of all the work BTLT does to support local agriculture, and the market is the centerpiece of these efforts, providing a vibrant market to 39 local farmers, bakers, cheesemakers and others producers. In the “Building our Future” category, we continued to build robust partnerships with local schools and some of our most meaningful days this year were spent with dozens of school children getting their hands dirty and learning where local food comes from at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden.

Another major initiative in 2019 was the member and community survey BTLT conducted last summer.  Over 520 people responded to the survey with great feedback on what we are doing right and where we can improve.  We expect to respond to some of the survey results immediately, with plans for things like better signage and more guided walks at BTLT properties.  Other survey findings will be incorporated more gradually through the upcoming review of our five-year strategic plan, helping us to ensure that as an organization we are meeting our members’ expectations and responding to identified community needs.

As we celebrate our many achievements in 2019, we are also aware that every conservation success today entails future responsibility.  When the Land Trust conserves a property, it also takes on a commitment – in perpetuity – for responsible stewardship of the land.  A firm financial footing is essential to ensure we are able to meet that responsibility.  In 2019, BTLT increased the size of its stewardship endowment to $700,000, making significant progress toward our five-year goal of $2 million. We also created the BTLT Legacy Circle to recognize and thank those who include BTLT in their estate plans.  We are proud to report that 18 individuals and families have already made such a commitment.  Legacy gifts are the cornerstone of BTLT’s long-term sustainability and ensure that the places we conserve today will remain well taken care of for generations to come.

We thank all of our members and supporters for making the successes of 2019 possible.  We look forward to 2020 and the possibilities that await us to conserve special places and connect the people of our region to them.  Happy New Year!

Angela Twitchell and Emily Swan are the executive director and president, respectively, of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

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