This past week, young families hiked together to a waterfall in New Gloucester. Millennial paddlers explored an island off Cumberland. A mountain-biking couple discovered new destinations in North Yarmouth. A grandfather with his granddaughter went fishing along a river in Standish. Accessible trails hosted veterans in Scarborough. Trillium appeared on the forest floor in Freeport. Fiddleheads sprouted in Gorham. An emergency room doctor took her evening run in Yarmouth. Farming families planted seeds and tended lambs and calves on conserved farms across the Portland area.

We are working harder than ever to provide safe, beautiful places for the Portland-area community to connect to nature in the outdoors. As nonprofit land trusts supported by individuals throughout the region, we have passion for clean water, local farms, fields and forests, and trails that are free and open to everyone.

The increased use of our trails in recent weeks illustrates the need to continue to invest, respond and grow. We are working together because the Portland area needs more protected land, better and longer trail systems and more support to care for these valued landscapes.

As the seasons change, the spring peepers, first flowers, migrating birds and new crops give us hope for a healthy summer and a resilient future. Even as life changes, one thing remains the same: our conserved land. Local trails and accessible coastline, rushing rivers and quiet woods have become lifelines for physical and mental health.

Our organizations and many others have worked for over 30 years to protect special natural places in the Portland area and Casco Bay. The escape in nature that so many have enjoyed in recent weeks is the result of action by scores of landowners who chose a conservation outcome for their family properties, the result of investment by thousands of individuals in preserving the Maine landscape and the result of effort by countless legislators, state and local officials and volunteers.

While the Portland area, like all of Maine, is loved for its quality of life and outdoor opportunities, open land in the region is disappearing fast. The land trusts in the area are working together to create a bold shared vision for the Portland region’s green space and trails.

Our emerging vision includes greenbelts that connect municipalities and cross watersheds, supporting both habitat corridors and long-distance recreation. We support fundamental expansions of off-road networks for commuting and recreation. We know that the retention of forests is an imperative for carbon sequestration and clean drinking water. We will continue to protect farmland so that food can be grown locally. Coastal marshes are a priority resource for the resilience of Casco Bay in the face of rising sea levels and ocean temperatures. We will provide leadership for expanded and stronger Maine State Parks in the Portland area, and larger state and federal Wildlife Management Areas close to where people live. Outdoor recreational opportunities should exist within walking distance of every neighborhood. We will invest in guaranteed and expanded public access to Casco Bay and local rivers.

We are the Portland area’s land trusts: Rachelle Curran Apse of Presumpscot Regional Land Trust; Rich Bard of Scarborough Land Trust; Chris Cabot of Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust; Tim Glidden of Maine Coast Heritage Trust; Jenny Grimm of Falmouth Land Trust; Alan Stearns of Royal River Conservation Trust; Katrina Van Dusen of Freeport Conservation Trust,  and Kara Wooldrik of Portland Trails.

We are committed to working together to increase permanently conserved access to nature near home for everyone throughout the region. Please join us in this effort by connecting with and supporting your local land trust. It is more important than ever.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.