Machias Bay holds great significance for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and petroglyphs along its shores attest to the Tribe’s ancestral ties to place. The Bay has a higher concentration of petroglyphs than any other coastal setting along the entire eastern seaboard of North America.
Many significant petroglyphs lie near the mouth of the Machias River at Picture Rocks, a sacred site the Passamaquoddy protected in 2006 with help from Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Now MCHT has conserved Long Point, a remarkably unspoiled headland just across from Picture Rocks. This 66-acre acquisition encompasses more than 2 miles of undeveloped shoreline, including sacred tribal sites. The property also supports traditional activities such as shellfish harvesting, bird-watching, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
MCHT acquired Long Point in June, and is actively raising the $1.1 million needed to cover the purchase and ongoing stewardship costs so the Trust can manage the land as an accessible preserve. Thanks to a challenge provided by neighboring landowner Bob Brack and a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, there is a one-to-one match on all qualifying gifts (contact MCHT’s development office to learn more about how to support this project).
Several years ago, Long Point was the proposed site of a 26-lot subdivision that would have ended traditional access and transformed the wild character of the larger 180-acre peninsula (which has just one modest camp and a derelict house among nine parcels of land). “When we began exploring ways to conserve the exceptional natural and cultural values here,” says MCHT Land Protection Project Manager Patrick Watson, “we found neighboring landowners very supportive. The Brack family has already donated a conservation easement on their adjoining land, and others may soon follow.”
Over the past six years, archaeologists have conducted digs at two shell middens on this headland to learn more about human use over the past 3,000 years—the time period represented by the region’s petroglyphs. Both sites hold valuable clues to Wabanaki heritage, observes University of Maine archaeologist Dr. Brian S. Robinson. He hopes that further research may help explain the high concentration of petroglyphs, and whether multiple cultures once made this their homeland.”Preserving this land,” Robinson says, “gives tribal people a place to access their own ancestry, an opportunity to connect to a spiritual worldview that goes back thousands of years.”
MCHT soon will begin shaping a management plan for the property that balances daytime recreational use with the needs of archaeologists and tribal people. “We’ll take extra care to ensure that public use does not impinge on research or sacred sites,” explains MCHT’s Director of Stewardship, Jane Arbuckle. “The process of getting a preserve ready for visitors takes planning and time, but before long we’ll likely have an improved trail network on Long Point.”
In the last issue of Maine Heritage, I promised to share more about land conservation trends so you could understand the backdrop of our new strategic plan. Maine Coast Heritage Trust formed in 1970 at a time when voluntary land conservation was just taking hold, and during the early decades momentum built steadily. Opportunities for significant land protection abounded, and obvious development threats spurred widespread support (which included public financing and private philanthropy). Acreage under the care of MCHT and its conservation partners rose markedly, particularly with large-scale acquisitions like Marshall Island and the Bold Coast preserves.
Fast forward to 2013, and the backdrop for our work is quite different. Land conservation has grown considerably more complex, involing greater time and expense to ensure each project’s success. Many state and federal grant sources are at risk, and the costs of land stewardship are rising steadily (reflecting growth in land and easement holdings). Conservation work depends increasingly on individual donors who may value protected lands—not only for their wildness and wildlife—but also for the broad public benefits they provide (such as fostering active lifestyles, protecting air and water quality, mitigating climate change, and providing food or forest products).
The countless community benefits conservation provides are most evident to those engaged with the land. So our strategic plan calls for MCHT to involve more community members at all levels of our work. Our cover story in this issue is a case in point, though it might look at first like a traditional example of a land trust simply preserving a threatened headland.
This project came to MCHT because of deep community concerns about losing a local place with archaeological importance, spiritual significance, and educational potential. The Town Planning Board, when reviewing a proposed 26-lot subdivision on this rocky, 66-acre site, recognized that inappropriate development could threaten coastal waters and fisheries, jeopardizing traditional livelihoods of area residents.
Concerned neighbors invited assistance from MCHT and—in turn—pledged their support helping protect much of this unspoiled peninsula. Trust staff, having worked previously with the Passamaquoddy Tribe and archaeologists, invited their input early on in planning. The circle of partners keeps expanding all the time—to include the Abbe Museum, potential donors, and more.
What makes this collaborative approach to conservation so exciting is that each land protection project marks the beginning of new and fruitful community connections. In the case of Long Point, we envision an array of educational activities there—including archaeological research, public walks and paddles, and initiatives with area schools.
Each project like Long Point, in which diverse community members engage with the land, is transformative—drawing more people into the work of land conservation and revitalizing communities.
And therein lies the future!
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is bringing more high school students to its preserves, thanks to a new partnership with Teens To Trails (T3), a nonprofit that works to get more Maine teens active outdoors through support of high school outing clubs. “This is a natural alliance for us,” says MCHT Stewardship Director Jane Arbuckle. “We really want to get more young people outside, and some of our larger preserves are perfectly suited for these clubs to enjoy hiking, paddling and low-impact camping, and to help out with care of the land.”
For T3’s annual raffle, MCHT offered two free stays for outing clubs at its cabin on the Saddleback Island Preserve—won by the Windham High School Outing Club and the Cony High School Outing Club in Augusta. Bill Baker, of Old Quarry Ocean Adventures in Stonington, contributed a free night of camping and gear to help club members prepare for their paddles. T3 Founder Carol Leone says she was taken aback by MCHT’s enthusiastic response to her request. “When we asked about the raffle, the reply was ‘That’s fine, but what more can we do?’ People like Jane are so inspiring!”
Both Arbuckle and Leone see potential for further outing club stays in coming years, recognizing the lifelong value of having teens connect with Trust preserves. “These places,” Leone says, “offer amazing experiences that can really change how one relates to the natural world.”
Whaleboat Island, lying between the southern end of Harpswell Neck and Chebeague Island, is the largest undeveloped island in Casco Bay—stretching 1.75 miles long but only two-tenths of a mile at its widest point. Generations of families in surrounding communities have come to Whaleboat to picnic and explore—enjoying its beauty and commanding views. MCHT acquired this landmark eleven years ago, thanks to support from surrounding communities and the Land for Maine’s Future Program as well as the generosity of the previous owners, the Etnier family.
Early residents thought the island resembled the long dorries used by early whaling ships, with its low saddle between higher ends. Spruce-fir forests mark both the island’s ends, with thick shrubs and grasslands in between. The shoreline has several pockets of salt marsh and a few cobble beaches, set amidst long stretches of ledge and cliff. “It’s a really inviting island, and a sturdy one that sees a lot of public use,” notes MCHT’s Regional Land Steward Amanda Devine. “Yet even the big groups practice Leave No Trace: it’s impressive how well visitors care for the island.”
Whaleboat has no established trails but visitors can enjoy shoreline explora-tions. They may spot nesting osprey, roosting bald eagles or even a resident family of turkeys. Over the years, there have been signs or sightings of raccoon, coyote, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare and possibly muskrat or fisher.
The earliest evidence of human use on Whaleboat dates back between 500 and 2,000 years, and appears to have been seasonal—judging from artifacts found in shell middens. Year-round settlers cleared the island and farmed there for periods between 1774 and 1906, but the only signs of settlement that remain now are crumbling foundations, stone walls, and a dug well.
Directions: The nearest public launch is at Mere Point in Brunswick (about 5 miles northeast of Whaleboat). Anchorage sites are possible along both shores, depending on the winds. The best landing for small craft is at a cove along the southeastern shore (larger boats should anchor outside the cove and row ashore, taking care at extreme low tides). Other landings along the western shore lie near the meadow area (where a small beach exists at low tide) and at the northwestern shoulder (where there’s an east-west jog in the shoreline).
This spring Maine Coast Heritage Trust lost two of its leading lights:
Gordon Abbott, Jr., and Kathryn W. Davis. They were both sources of inspiration to many and will be deeply missed by friends and colleagues at the Trust.
Gordon was active on MCHT’s board for decades—part of a life devoted to conservation, outdoor pursuits, community, and family. He wanted to leave places better than he found them, and devoted much of his life to supporting organizations that shared his vision. In addition to his service for MCHT, Gordon worked for 18 years directing The Trustees of Reservations; helped found the national Land Trust Alliance; and helped establish the Center for Rural Massachusetts.
Gordon had an insatiable hunger for learning and read voraciously. At age 63, he earned a Master’s in American Studies. A journalist and teacher at various times during his long and varied career, he authored three books—including a land conservation history titled Saving Special Places.
“At Trust meetings, Gordon was always a source of good counsel,” reflects MCHT President Tim Glidden. “From the Trust’s earliest days, he championed sound stewardship—recognizing that need long before others could imagine how large a part of our work it would become.” Gordon’s steadfast devotion to the Trust continues even now through his decision to have MCHT the recipient of all memorial gifts in his name.
Kathryn W. Davis shared a similar zest for life that carried her through 106 years. A remarkable visionary and philanthropist, she spent summers in Northeast Harbor and supported the well-being of the Mount Desert Island community in countless ways. After graduating from Wellesley College, Mrs. Davis embarked on international travel and completed a doctorate in political science. Over her long and generous life, she worked tirelessly to—in her words—“bring new thinking to the prospects of peace in the world.”
During her nineties, Mrs. Davis took up kayaking—a passion that deepened her appreciation for the nation’s rivers and coastlines. While continuing her support for education, the arts and medical research, she began giving generously to conservation groups like Scenic Hudson and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. With her family, Mrs. Davis helped anchor the Trust’s future work in the Mount Desert Island region, pledging extraordinary gifts to the Campaign for the Coast and to the recent MDI Initiative. “Her optimism, intellectual curiosity and generosity were inspiring,” reflects President Tim Glidden. “She always looked for new opportunities to learn and to help.” Mrs. Davis sought no special recognition for her exceptional generosity, believing simply—as she once told a reporter—it’s more fun “to live in a world that you are helping to get better.”
The summer season is Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s busiest time. To help get everything done, we’re getting assistance this year from a summer stewardship crew, office interns and farm workers. We’d like to thank everyone who is pitching in:
Editor’s note: In our discussion of Pond Island’s acquisition in the last Maine Heritage, we neglected to mention the crucial role that a group of conservation-minded individuals, led by Betty Eberhart and others, had in raising funds for the island’s initial purchase by the Philadelphia Conservationists, Inc. We regret the oversight. That grassroots effort attracted support from more than 100 friends and neighbors who care deeply about Pond Island.