Bordered by the Penobscot River and Marsh Stream, Treat Point encompasses 91 wooded acres along an intertidal marsh that supports bald eagles, river otter, Atlantic salmon and sturgeon. “This confluence of waters is really the heart of Penobscot Bay,” observes Catherine Schmitt of Maine Sea Grant. “It’s the largest intertidal marsh in the entire estuary and a diverse, productive ecosystem.” The Treat family farmed and fished on the peninsula two centuries ago, and their family cemetery is there. Since then, generations of hunters, birdwatchers, hikers and snowmobilers have enjoyed this high promontory overlooking a 371-acre State wildlife area along Marsh Stream.
In 2007, a developer gained approval for a 14-lot subdivision, Treat Point Shores, that could have ended traditional use, jeopardized water quality, and fragmented valuable wildlife habitat. The developer was open to reselling the land for conservation, but at a price no nonprofit entity could afford. “Sometimes we consider projects as good as gone,” reflects MCHT Project Manager Ciona Ulbrich. “But this one came full circle and—thanks to the slow economy, willing landowners and a far-sighted donor—we were able to acquire Treat Point recently.” The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will be the long-term owner and steward of Treat Point, fostering its ecological values and managing traditional uses.
As the economy lost momentum, the Treat Point Shores home sites failed to sell. The property’s listing price dropped by roughly half, and—fortuitously—a local donor approached the Maine Community Foundation (MCF), wanting to support land conservation in the vicinity. “MCHT helped identify this project and then saw it through to completion,” notes Jennifer Southard, MCF’s Director of Philanthropic Services. “The donor is very pleased with the outcome and so are we.”
“When I first learned that Marsh Point might be subdivided, I was heartsick,” recalls the donor (who prefers to remain anonymous). “But at that point, neither I nor anyone I knew had the means to preserve it. I never dreamed the opportunity would arise again and I would be able to help—using an inheritance from a loved one who cherished this setting and often sketched Treat Point. It was especially meaningful to preserve this land in her honor.”
“The whole process was new and baffling to me,” the first-time donor reflects, “so I was thankful to have help from MCHT and MCF. After all the hard work, the magnitude of what we’ve done has begun to sink in. Now when I kayak around Treat Point, looking up at its wild forest and steep bluffs, I realize what a huge accomplishment it is—preserving this unique place forever. I am so grateful that there is a community of people, foundations, and land trusts who really care about what happens to the beauty that surrounds us. And I feel privileged now to be a more active part of that community.”
This past summer, a generous gift to Maine Coast Heritage Trust added a spectacular 192-acre headland with 3 miles of bold shoreline to its preserve on Frenchboro Long Island. Rich’s Head connects to MCHT’s Frenchboro Preserve by a narrow isthmus with a cobble beach that looks out to Mount Desert Island. The headland’s long-time owner, MCHT friend and supporter David Rockefeller, gave the entire property to the Trust, thereby expanding the Frenchboro Preserve to 1,150 acres and 8 miles of coastal hiking trails.
Mr. Rockefeller and his wife Peggy (co-founder of MCHT) bought Rich’s Head decades ago to preserve its unspoiled beauty and panoramic vistas. In 1986, they donated an easement to Acadia National Park allowing for agricultural use but preventing other development. They graciously allowed MCHT to include their land in its trail network so local residents and visitors could enjoy quiet hikes and picnics there. “Because of the Rockefellers’ long-standing generosity in sharing their land with the public,” notes MCHT project manager Bob DeForrest, “few people even knew that this headland was privately owned. But this exceptionally generous gift guarantees public access into the future so visitors through time can enjoy this breathtaking setting.”
One morning last summer, on a visit downeast with an MCHT partner and supporter, my host and I took a hike up Pigeon Hill, a small summit near the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben. Four years ago, the Land for Maine’s Future Program helped conserve this traditional hiking trail—when I was its Director—yet I’d never been on the land. A photo taken from the summit adorns the wall of my new office at MCHT, and I wanted to experience the view first-hand.
When we reached the open summit, the sun had lit up the waters before us—a sparkling expanse stretching from the peaks of Mount Desert Island to Pleasant Bay. This single panorama includes dozens of conserved gems (such as MCHT’s new preserve at Willard Point). I was moved beyond words by the spectacular vista and felt so grateful for the efforts people have made to sustain the whole of this gorgeous landscape.
In so many landowners and Trust supporters I met this summer, I witnessed a quiet passion for cherished lands that fills them with energy. At one home, there were three generations of a family—each completely engaged with the land. The youngest member was playing on the shore, while his uncle was toweling off after a sea urchin dive, and his parents and grandfather sat with me talking about the land’s future and acknowledging its priceless gifts to their family.
One of my greatest delights in being at MCHT is having the opportunity to hear accounts of this enduring love for the land. Often, it seems, a lifelong commitment to conservation takes root in childhood experiences outdoors. Davis Pike, who with his family helped establish MCHT’s Hamilton Cove Preserve downeast, told friends at a Trust gathering this summer about camping on that land as a child. In the boundless quiet of those nights, he would listen to whales breathe as they passed through Grand Manan Channel. Clearly, the profound depth of connection he felt then has not diminished through the intervening decades.
My own passion for conservation traces back to childhood explorations outdoors, especially those sailing—which I began at a young age. I find both peace and challenge on the water. Viewing the coast from offshore invites reflection on the passage of time and the importance of place. Out sailing, I imagine the coast as it was a century or two ago, and appreciate the generations who have made their living from its bounty and been sustained by its beauty. I think about what the coast might be like a century from now. Even knowing that there is more work ahead, I’m encouraged by all that is being done today to ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities for livelihood and inspiration.
That vision is key to our land conservation and stewardship work at MCHT, and I was honored this summer to meet many thoughtful individuals who share a long-term commitment to the Maine coast. I look forward to meeting many more of you and hearing your stories in the years ahead.
MCHT welcomes as its new Board Chair Kurt Klebe, who has already demonstrated his leadership abilities as Chair of the Trust’s Strategic Planning Committee, and as a member of its Development and Communications committees for the past five years. When he’s not helping guide MCHT, Kurt is a partner at Verrill Dana in Portland.
Kurt succeeds Tom Ireland, who is stepping down after 5 years of exceptional service at the helm (and 15 more as an active board member). In addition to his inspired leadership as Chair, Tom served as MCHT’s President during the transitional year leading up to last April. Despite economic uncertainties, Tom kept the Trust thriving—exceeding fundraising goals, celebrating a memorable 40th anniversary year, and boldly backing a $10 million land conservation initiative on Mount Desert Island. Tom has graciously agreed to continue serving on MCHT’s Council.
This summer, an array of engaging trips, tours and special member programs complemented the Trust’s productive field season in land protection and stewardship. We’re continually extending our commitment to connect people with the land, and have launched new educational programs for members, outings for school groups, and preserve profiles in this newsletter. Trust members and friends have generously offered glowing feedback on these new initiatives, as this recent note indicates:
“We want to thank you for the enjoyable field trip with MCHT… it was a great experience and reminder of the benefits of land conservation. Every exposure we have to your organization impresses us and makes us feel good about our donations to MCHT. Keep up the good work.”
— Phillip and Susanne Hubrig
To sustain our conservation efforts, and to help more people experience the tangible benefits of land conservation, we depend on steadfast support from our members—particularly through our Annual Fund. You should recently have received our 2011 Annual Appeal; please take a minute today to send in your contribution. Thank you!
Future editions of Maine Heritage will feature profiles of MCHT preserves to help acquaint readers with the great diversity of places we’ve conserved—from well-known large sites to smaller, quieter settings like this preserve.
The Frank E. Woodworth Preserve lies at the center of MCHT’s “Greater Pleasant Bay Whole Place” downeast, a scenic and ecologically rich region. Spanning 127 acres on Willard Point, at the end of Ripley Neck, the Preserve encompasses a mile of protected shoreline, 3-acre Hog Island, and two smaller islands accessible at low tide.
The preserve is named for a local fisherman who was a longtime friend to the George Milmine/Joseph Parsons family that owned Willard Point for nearly a century. The Milmines donated “forever wild” conservation easements on much of their land in the 1980s and then, in 2007, MCHT acquired the land (with funding support from the Land for Maine's Future Program) so it could become a publicly accessible preserve.
Ripley Neck was a rusticators’ summer colony in the late 1800s, and many properties there have remained in the same families ever since. Over the generations, summer visitors often forged close friendships with local families. Those ties were evident at a celebration MCHT held last summer honoring Frank Woodworth’s legacy. “One of Frank’s daughters told me she and her husband carved their initials on a birch tree at the Point more than 50 years ago as young sweethearts,” observes MCHT Regional Steward Deirdre Whitehead. “It’s a place of fond memories for many local people.”
A 1.8-mile loop trail leads through moss-carpeted woodlands, with red spruce, white birch, balsam fir and northern white cedar—many of the trees more than a century old. The trail emerges at the shoreline overlooking the upper reaches of Pleasant Bay. Several tidal rivers converge off Ripley Neck, supporting a wide array of shorebirds and waterfowl.
Local residents come to the Woodworth Preserve to enjoy traditions maintained on this land for generations—such as picnicking, clamming and hunting. When MCHT began building trails, Harrington selectmen generously helped transport bog bridging to the preserve. Whitehead invited an afterschool program to visit the Preserve this year for a hike and picnic. “The kids loved it,” she says, “and some have taken their parents back since.”
Directions: The Preserve is situated 8 miles down Marshville Road from Route One in Harrington. The road turns to gravel and parking at the trailhead is limited to four vehicles. If the lot is full, please return another time. A signboard at the trailhead has a property map and use guidelines. The preserve does not provide boat access: boaters can use the Harrington Town Landing on Marshville Road.
Nearby Conserved Lands: The Downeast Sunrise Trail runs through Harrington. To the west is Petit Manan—part of the Maine Coastal Islands Wildlife Refuge, and Pigeon Hill, which MCHT helped conserve with Land for Maine’s Future Program support and is now owned and managed by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy.
Among the many stewardship challenges facing land trusts, control of exotic invasive plants is one of the fastest growing. Invasives grow aggressively and can wreak havoc on ecosystems—outcompeting native plants, changing habitats and eliminating traditional food sources of indigenous wildlife. Regional Steward Amanda Devine helps coordinate MCHT’s multi-pronged efforts to limit the spread of invasives on its lands, taking a strategic “early detection-rapid response” approach that considers the biology of each species. Trust stewards first seek to contain what’s there and keep it from spreading. They then work to reduce the infestation, using methods ranging from cutting, digging, and mowing to targeted injections or painting of herbicides (done by Devine who is a licensed applicator).
“Our goal is to go after the target species with minimal impact on surrounding vegetation and wildlife,” Devine observes. “Each intervention carries risks, but there’s a risk as well to doing nothing and letting invasive plants take over. We customize our approach to reflect the needs of a given place.” At Witherle Woods Preserve in Castine, for example, Regional Steward Douglas McMullin is smothering Japanese knotweed with black plastic (and may soon try carpet remnants) because the land lies in an aquifer recharge zone and even herbicide injections (into individual plant stems) would be unacceptable.
The Trust is pioneering some new approaches to invasive plant control. At Aldermere Farm in Rockport this summer, MCHT reared and released Galerucella beetles—which prey exclusively on purple loosestrife. “Biological controls like this are used carefully and selectively after years of testing,” Devine explains. “We captured some beetles (from the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maine, which has used this beetle successfully), and placed them on potted loosestrife plants covered with netting. In August, when the beetles had multiplied, we set those pots by the purple loosestrife in Lily Pond. The beetle populations will decline as the purple loosestrife recedes.”
Trust stewards work to inform landowners near MCHT preserves about the growing threat posed by exotic invasives. On Mount Desert Island, MCHT and Acadia National Park have established the MDI Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), inviting area landowners to map the presence of invasives through an online reporting system. MDI’s CISMA has identified target species and compiled educational flyers on these for interested landowners. Local citizens are encouraged to join occasional volunteer parties that work to remove identified infestations (with landowner permission). “We have a fairly defensible area as an island community,” notes Regional Steward Billy Helprin, “so we think an organized, regional control effort here will stand a chance.”
By educating yourself and others about problematic species, you can help limit their spread. Review the following resources and make careful plant choices for your own property. Many invasives (such as purple loosestrife, burning bush, and barberry) are promoted for home gardens—despite the hazards they pose to natural ecosystems.
A lifelong resident of downeast Maine, Jasper Cates was a passionate protector of his home region. He made his living lobster-fishing in Cutler, and helped found the Cutler Association (which established a town office, library, town park and affordable housing). Mindful of the needs of future generations and the importance of a healthy environment, Cates repeatedly opposed inappropriate development along the downeast coast (including an oil refinery proposed for Machiasport during the 1970s).
In 1986, when a developer acquired 247 acres on Western Head in Cutler and proposed a 31-lot subdivision, Cates joined forces with MCHT, helping inspire the Trust to launch a $5 million campaign that secured several valuable headlands downeast. He went on to serve on MCHT’s board/council for more than two decades.
“Jasper was a true believer in the principle of land as the underpinning for community,” reflects MCHT’s former President Jay Espy. “I have yet to meet anyone with a more heartfelt connection to place.”