Stuart Brook in Sewell Woods, one of the areas protected by the Scarborough Land Trust. Scarborough Land Trust

SCARBOROUGH — The town of Scarborough is growing fast. As development occurs, the lost of forested, farm and other land in its natural state is also taking place. That’s why the work of the Scarborough Land Trust, a private, nonprofit, community-based organization that works to protect land for people and wildlife, is important.

One of the major roles of the trust, which began in 1977 and owns about 1,500 acres in Scarborough, is protecting land. That goal is more pressing as development is occurring at a faster rate, Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Mackie said.

“We feel like we have about a 10-year window, might even be less than that, where we’re competing with the development that’s going on in Scarborough,” he said. “So we’re going to protect some key pieces. And we’re not trying to protect everything. Growth is going to happen, we understand that, we appreciate that, that’s part of who we are, we’re not anti-growth. But we also realize that we’re losing a lot of our natural lands and our farms. And that if we want to keep some of this, and keep enough to have the wildlife that we’ve had, to keep the rivers functioning the way they are, to protect Scarborough marsh, to allow access for people to nature in different parts of the town, that we have to protect more. And we got to do it fairly quickly.”

In fact, the organization recently hired a conservation director whose job is specifically to go out and protect more land. The organization also works closely with many developers to work in ways that align with conservation goals.

There is a big focus on protecting farmland. Historically, Scarborough has lost a lot of such lands. Protecting farmland is important and allows Scarborough to still produce food locally, according to trust staff. A new trail is being built at Broadturn Farm in 2023, with a goal of opening in Spring 2024.

Currently, the trust has eight major preserves such as Pleasant Hill Preserve, with parking and trails. The organization has other properties as well without that type of infrastructure and public access, but are managed more for wildlife habitat, watershed protection, etc. Some of the property is mostly forest, or along the Scarborough Marsh. They also own a working farm they lease from to two farmers.


The Land Trust has three major objectives: land protection, stewardship, and education and outreach.

Land acquisition is the most common method for the organization to protect the areas it protects. Conservation easements are also done, a legal agreement between a private owner with the organization. Gaining land is an increasing challenge in Southern Maine due to the increasing prices of land and competition with businesses and other buyers.

Stewardship is the management and caretaking of these properties. The trust has their own stewardship director as well as about 80 volunteers. Part of the challenge of stewardship is managing protection of the land and wildlife and still provide the recreational activities that people want, according to trust staff. Adaptability is needed to deal with challenges and problems that crop up, as well as development that can interfere with nature, they say.

The organization also works to get people involved and educate them about these natural lands. “The third [objective] is really education and outreach, getting people out onto the properties, getting them connected to the natural and agricultural world,” Mackie said. “We spend a lot of time creating programs, especially for youth, for kids, and we’re increasing that part of our program each year.”

The organization runs many programs for adults, youths, and families, such as snowshoe walks, bird walks, fern walks, tree walks, wildflower walks, programs on big trees, climate change, and more.

There is also a focus on protecting rivers in the town. Scarborough has five rivers. The forefront of these is the Nonesuch River, the longest of them which starts in Saco, wraps all the way around town, and ends in the Scarborough Marsh.


Another goal is accessibility on trails, such as for those with limited mobility or language barriers. To provide greater access, the organization works to redo trials and put in new boardwalks, bridges, signwork, etc, where necessary. Recently, the text on all the kiosks has been translated. The organization is working on getting signs out with QR codes that allow access to five different languages.

It is a priority for the public properties to be safe and accessible to all, Mackie said. “[It’s about] making sure that the properties feel safe,” he said. “Making sure that all groups know that they are welcome and that this is theirs, their land, and that they get to enjoy it. And then trying to balance all those uses that don’t always seem very compatible.”

The organization has learned to leverage every dollar at its access to protect as much land as possible, though almost all of their money comes from individuals and businesses, Mackie said. The trust has to raise about $400,000 every year, which doesn’t include individual project budgets. For this reason, donations of land and money are incredibly important, he said. The trust has a community business partner program that has lots of benefits for the business, he noted.

The trust also works on restoration for land in Scarborough, such as restoring habitat at Blue Point Reserve and issues around Scarborough Marsh.

Fore more information, including how to volunteer, contact, donate, and engage in programs, visit the website The organization also has a Facebook and Instagram page, and an e-newsletter every month.

“Our job is to own and manage these properties forever, you know,” said Mackie. “And forever, that’s a pretty daunting word. And so we have to do these things.”

Comments are not available on this story.