This spring, construction began on a set of 40 stairs set into an embankment along the Cathance River, where the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has an easement to a large parcel of conserved land. Thanks to a $10,000 boost from the Maine Land Trust Grant Program, the steps will be completed in the spring of 2024. Courtesy of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust

A set of 40 stairs carved into a steep embankment along the Cathance River will now be completed thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Maine Land Trust Grant Program. The steps are a key connecting piece of a project that the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust began five years ago: rerouting a trail that wends along the river to avoid a new expansion to the adjacent Highland Green retirement community.

The BTLT owns or holds easements on 3,200 acres spread across Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin. Two hundred thirty-one of those are along the Cathance River, a narrow waterway that’s a popular destination for hikers, birdwatchers and whitewater paddlers.

“One part of our mission is to connect people with the natural world through recreation,” said BTLT’s Director of Conservation Margaret Gerber. “And the Cathance River Nature Preserve is one of the most widely used trail systems in the area that we manage.”

Since 2004, L.L. Bean has given over $400,000 to nearly 60 local land trusts through the Maine Land Trust Grant Program. Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which partners with a network of just about 80 land trusts across the state, decides on the recipients each year and distributes the funds.

This is the third time the BTLT has received a grant from the Maine Land Trust Grant Program — it was awarded $4,000 in 2011 and $5,000 in 2015. Jason Sulham, a spokesperson for L.L. Bean, said the rationale for L.L. Bean’s consistent contributions to local land trusts over the past two decades is to enable people to experience the restorative power of being outside.

“Through the L.L. Bean Maine Land Trust Grant Program, we are able to ensure that outdoor places will be available for generations to come,” he said.


The footbridge built this past spring by OBP Trailworks spans a narrow gully and is 40 feet in length. Together, the footbridge and stairs improve the accessibility of the Cathance River Trail. Courtesy of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust

Angela Twitchell, MCHT’s Land Trust program director, said the BTLT stood out as a grant applicant because it was looking to complete a project that it had already begun work on. This spring, BTLT contracted with OBP Trailworks to build a 40-foot footbridge and a set of 12 steps to help make a portion of the trail more accessible. BTLT was one of just three land trusts in the state to receive the largest grant amount of $10,000, which it will use to build 28 more steps into the embankment that leads to the footbridge.

“This was a really important final step of this access improvement to make sure that it was accessible for many people,” Twitchell said of the stairs. “The new bridge was put in to reroute the trail, but without the steps, it would be really hard for older people and maybe kids to use that trail.”

Sean Groenstein, a senior at Bowdoin College, said he is looking forward to the completion of the trail. A whitewater paddler from Wyoming, he said he makes frequent trips to the Cathance River each spring, carrying a kayak on his shoulders along the trail — and sometimes bushwhacking — to scout runs.

Groenstein described the Cathance, which is only a 15-minute car ride from campus, as “a quick escape from town into an isolated forest and access to one of my favorite whitewater runs in Maine.”

Once the project — slated for spring 2024 — is completed, there will be a contiguous 5 miles of trail along the Cathance River beginning at Head of Tide Park in Topsham.

“Reconnecting this more extensive trail system is what this trail reroute really enables, and that’s a great thing for hikers, that’s a great thing for birdwatchers and that’s a great thing for all of the students who attend CREA (Cathance River Education Alliance) camp during the summer and love to visit Clay Brook Bridge during their time there and play in the mud,” Gerber said. “This is one of our most important trail systems, and we’re thrilled that it’s reconnected.”

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