Two local conservation groups this week announced a merger that they said will increase educational opportunities and resources for the community.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Cathance River Education Alliance will join forces in July, the organizations announced Wednesday. The land trust was established in 1985 and has more than 1,100 members. It protects 68 properties totaling more than 3,100 acres. CREA was founded in 2000 and offers a popular summer camp for children, school field trips and community programs.

“We started this process thinking about administrative efficiencies but came to realize we could do more for the community — and do it better — as a single organization,” CREA Board President Ellen Bennett said. “One of our board members, Dave Keffer, said it so well when he described this union as ‘one plus one equals three.'”

The groups have been partners since the early 2000s, when the land trust was granted a conservation easement at the Cathance River Nature Preserve. The organizations have managed the trails there together and co-hosted educational programs and events.

“Our organizations have been linked from the beginning,” CREA Executive Director Caroline Eliot said. “We’ve been partners for many, many years.”

Eliot said the merger will expand educational opportunities for children. CREA’s summer camp has a waitlist of 200 students, and its school field trip program is booked through the fall. There’s a plan to offer a second summer camp location at a land trust property and expand the field trip program to land trust properties.


“It’s a way to do things more efficiently and effectively,” Eliot said. “It’s really a win-win for both organizations. … We’ll be able to bring our expertise to a fairly diverse array of landscapes and educational assets that (the land trust) has.”

In addition to identifying properties for preservation and maintaining them, the land trust in recent years has established community resources like the Saturday farmers market at Crystal Spring Farm and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden and Labyrinth in the Woods meditation site, also at Crystal Spring Farm.

“If you want to get people enthusiastic about protecting the landscapes in their community, you have to get them to appreciate the landscapes for what they offer,” Eliot said. “We can do this more effectively by working together.”

The two groups have shared office space at Brunswick Landing since July 2020.

“It made taking this next step very easy,” Eliot said.

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