State and Municipal Funds Bolster Coastal Land Conservation
2014 was a strong year for land conservation projects on Maine's coast, many of which received funding from state and municipal sources. Projects ranged from protecting popular hunting and fishing areas, to expanding downtown riverfront access to ensuring scenic islands remain available to the public for outdoor exploration. "Maine voters and local communities continue to recognize land conservation as an integral part of creating a healthier and more prosperous Maine," reflected Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) President Tim Glidden. "These targeted investments increase public access to the land and protect our state's natural resource infrastructure."
In Falmouth, Town Officials approved a $200,000 allocation to protect the northern half of Clapboard Island. This picturesque setting is now a MCHT preserve where the public can picnic, hike, and swim for the first time in more than 100 years. In Scarborough, the Town Council voted unanimously to spend $2 million from the its land bond fund to support the Scarborough Land Trust's acquisition of the 135-acre Benjamin Farm, one of the last open spaces in a highly populated part of the Town.
Land Conservation activities were boosted in mid-July when the state's Land for Maine's Future (LMF) program approved the allocation of more than $9 million to support 30 proposals across the state, including more than a dozen coastal projects. LMF highlights included protecting a local swimming hole in Deer Isle, a multi-generational dairy farm in Cumberland and, in the midcoast, a scenic pond that is frequented by hunters, hikers, and snowmobilers. "The importance of the LMF program to local conservation efforts cannot be overstated," shared Kennebec Estuary Land Trust Executive Director Carrie Kinne. "Support from this program is a vital part of the effort to transform Gardiner Pond in Wiscasset into a permanently protected conservation area available for the public to enjoy throughout the year."
In critical show of support, the residents of St. George approved a public referendum which allocated $25,000 for the High Island conservation project--which has a goal of guaranteeing future public use and maintaining traditional youth outdoor recreational activities at the Blueberry Cove Summer Camp. "Every child should have the opportunity to spend a night on a Maine Island," said Leslie Hyde, Town of St. George Conservation Commissioner and Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine. "We were pleased to be able to lend support to this worthy cause." Maine Coast Heritage Trust will be working in the coming months to raise the balance of funds required to conserve the island.
In all of these examples, state and local funding has been instrumental in leveraging gifts from private individuals, local businesses, community organizations, and the federal government. Land for Maine's Future Program dollars are typically matched at a nearly 3 to 1 ratio, greatly improving the state's return on investment.