Scarborough Town Councilor Karin Shupe speaks Monday at a press conference where federal officials announced over $10 million in funding toward climate resiliency projects in Maine, including $1.4 million for the Scarborough Land Trust and its partners. Drew Johnson / Leader

The Scarborough Land Trust and its partners will receive $1.4 million in federal coastal resiliency funding that is expected to have a lasting impact on the Scarborough Marsh.

“I think this is really a monumental point for the history of the marsh,” Andrew Mackie, director of the Scarborough Land Trust, told the Leader.

The grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is part of a $123 million package, over $10 million of which is going to efforts in Maine. It was announced Monday, Earth Day, at a press conference at the Eastern Trail parking lot off Pine Point Road.

The land trust will lead a partnership of five nonprofit organizations and 10 federal and state offices and agencies to implement the grant, including the town of Scarborough, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine DOT, Maine Audubon, Eastern Trail Alliance, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

“All the collaboration and all the agencies and organizations involved in this grant really says one thing: how important Scarborough Marsh is to the community and to the state,” Mackie said. “It’s a significant natural resource in the state of Maine; it is vital for fish and shellfish habitat, endangered species, for recreation, for storm buffering – and everyone realizes that.”

Over the three-year grant period, the partnering organizations will coordinate and plan for a series of projects, programs, studies and more to deal with the impacts of climate change in the present and prepare for the future in a multi-pronged approach. The intent is to establish a framework of continued collaboration after the grant period, and “set the stage for projects that will come after this grant,” Mackie said.


Scarborough Marsh is still feeling the effects of past human activity, such as using the marsh for agriculture and transportation. A higher frequency of storms and ensuing flooding, as well as development in the area, pose newer threats. While the impacts of climate change and sea level rise are already being felt, Mackie said, they will be larger in the future.

Using the grant, the partners will pool knowledge and expertise. For example, Maine Audubon, which has been at the forefront of marsh education at its Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, will head up public outreach. The grant puts them in a position to make a greater impact, said Andy Beahm, executive director of Maine Audubon.

“We’ve taken probably thousands of members of the public, particularly school kids, through there to help them learn about marsh systems, but this is something beyond that,” Beahm told the Leader. “It builds upon that experience and knowledge of the marsh and taps in the Maine Audubon to help do outreach work.”

Maine Audubon will also conduct a feasibility study on its center on Pine Point Road. The building is designed to handle flooding, but more frequent flooding has started to take a toll on the aging building, which is owned by MDIFW. Repairs were conducted this winter but those are short-term fixes, Beahm said, and a study can determine whether it’s best to renovate, rebuild in place, or relocate elsewhere along the marsh.

“The grant allows us to expedite the process and make tangible decisions about what the future of Maine Audubon’s presence at Scarborough Marsh is,” Beahm said.

Many of the partners involved in the grant, including the town, are already working on marsh studies and conservation projects. The funding allows for further collaboration.


“We’re doing a vulnerability study, we’re starting the open space plan and we have a climate action plan coming down the road,” Town Councilor Karin Shupe said. “I think when you have this grant proposing all this studying going on in the marsh, it’s going to further support the studies that we’re already doing as a town.”

Shupe has taken the council lead on the town’s “30 by 30” initiative to conserve 30% of land in Scarborough by 2030, for which the land trust is the town’s major partner. Communities across the country have developed the same goal, while the White House has adopted a 30% land conservation goal on a national scale.

Shupe hopes the numerous studies, both part of and separate from the grant, will help influence policy decisions, such as increasing setbacks from natural resources. With rising sea levels, giving the marsh space to spread out has been a priority of marsh proponents.

“I feel between the open space plan and grant studies, we really should be able to pinpoint certain areas where we need to be protecting and where we can add on to our ’30 by 30′ goal by acquiring more land,” Shupe said.

The importance of the grant is pivotal to the health of the marsh, Mackie said, but he gives a lot of the credit to past efforts to protect the state’s largest contiguous saltwater marsh for getting them to this point.

“The stage for this was set years ago,” he said. “I think it’s about time.”

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