Securing Water Access on Little Deer Isle
Nearly every road on Deer Isle passes a quiet cove or pocket beach, yet many residents lack easy access to the shore for marine harvesting and recreation. To address this longstanding need, Maine Coast Heritage Trust is helping the island community secure a unique property along Eggemoggin Reach well suited to both working and recreational uses.
When islanders learned of community plans to acquire a popular property at the base of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, they turned out in record numbers and voted overwhelmingly in favor of the town owning the 2-acre "Bridge End" parcel. "Many community members have long recognized the value of this gateway property," observes Ciona Ulbrich , who is currently co-directing MCHT's land protection work.
"No other available lands in the area provide the accessibility and options that this site does--allowing residents to work on a boat, launch a skiff or enjoy a family picnic."
Given the high cost of waterfront lands, though, the road to community ownership can prove steep and circuitous. Local residents talked privately for years about town ownership of the beach, a setting where generations of islanders have enjoyed school picnics. But some islanders resist having the community take on new responsibilities and costs. After many kitchen-table discussions, a handful of local residents formed Bridge End Citizens' Initiative--seeking to raise the $400,000 needed for acquisition so the Town would have to cover only ongoing maintenance. At a celebration in early July, initiative leaders announced that, thus far, roughly 65 individuals had contributed enough to fund more than 75% of the acquisition costs.
The Initiative's Chair, Jean Wheeler (an Advisory Council Member of MCHT), says that a local donor's pledge of $50,000 helped move people from discussion to action: "that gift energized us and gave us a real sense of possibility." MCHT offered to help lead negotiations with the landowners, facilitate the transaction, and gather the contributions raised by local fundraisers.
Wheeler credits the landowners, Carl and Robin Rosenquist, for their great patience with the community's necessarily slow timeline, and acknowledges the critical role MCHT has played, saying "Without the Trust's support, this absolutely wouldn't be happening."
The Initiative needs to reach its fundraising target by late July to complete the acquisition. Loring Kydd, who chairs a five member Town Committee charged with gathering ideas and planning for the land's future, would truly like to see this campaign succeed. This sentiment was shared by Deer Isle resident Lew Ellis: "I am very excited that MCHT is working hard to ensure that the town of Deer Isle and surrounding towns will have much needed shore access. What a great place to picnic and swim and watch the maritime activity on the Reach."