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Summer 2009

Shorefront Gift Preserves Timeless Views

For generations, island residents have enjoyed a scenic overlook in Seal Harbor that offers ocean views from a roadside pullout and breathtaking vistas from a cliff top reached via a short walking trail. Maine Coast Heritage Trust now owns this community treasure, thanks to the great generosity and vision of David Rockefeller—whose family watched over this land for decades.

The overlook was once part of a cliff walk that traced the bold coastline in Seal Harbor. This gift will ensure that island residents can continue enjoying expansive views out to sea from these cliffs. “We are honored to be the long-term stewards of this beautiful overlook,” observes Brian Reilly, MCHT’s project manager on Mount Desert Island. “We plan to work closely with the community and neighbors to ensure that the property is cared for and safe to enjoy.”

The overlook on Cooksey Drive lies near two other Seal Harbor properties on which MCHT holds a conservation easement: 38 acres at Lower Day Mountain and 50 acres encompassing a trail to Hunters Beach. All three conserved tracts are part of a network of public walking paths long enjoyed by community members. MCHT appreciates the generosity of these private landowners and the ongoing help maintaining trails provided by the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society.

Stewards of the Land: MCHT’s New MDI Steward

Over the past decade, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has acquired many new preserves and conservation easements (voluntary agreements with landowners that help protect the ecological and scenic values of their land). To maintain these properties, the Trust has expanded its stewardship staff. The newest Regional Steward to join MCHT is Billy Helprin, who works three days a week caring for lands and easements on Mount Desert Island. Billy joins two other stewards in the Somesville office—Terry Towne (who oversees island preserves and easements around Mount Desert Island) and Douglas McMullin (who stewards easements and preserves from Castine east to Deer Isle and Isle au Haut).

Billy brings a wealth of varied work and schooling experiences to his new role at MCHT. He did graduate work in wildlife biology in Utah and Wyoming, studying desert bighorn sheep, bison and elk. Later, he received a master’s in teaching and taught high school science in urban settings. Since Billy and his wife moved to Mount Desert Island seven years ago, he has maintained his interest in environmental education and habitat conservation through volunteer work and contractual jobs doing shorebird and duck surveys.

Billy will monitor lands held under conservation easement, working closely with landowners and neighbors to ensure sound stewardship. The three regional stewards in Hancock County work collaboratively on projects that require multiple staff members. “I greatly enjoy working on a team,” Helprin notes, “and look forward to assisting Terry and Doug.”

Helprin will offer public walks, as well, on Trust preserves such as Babson Creek (for more information, see www.mcht.org/preserves). For Helprin, the Regional Steward position blends his professional interests and his own land ethic: “it’s a great chance,” he says, “for me to do right by the things that can’t speak for themselves.”

Continued Progress Protecting Northeast Creek

Earlier this year, Maine Coast Heritage Trust helped secure a critical 35-acre wetland in Bar Harbor. This undeveloped parcel off Crooked Road includes wetlands fronting on both Aunt Betsy’s Brook and Northeast Creek. The largest estuary on Mount Desert Island, Northeast Creek is one of the most pristine estuaries remaining in all of New England. The newly conserved wetlands provide an essential buffer that helps protect the Creek’s excellent water quality and wildlife habitat.

The protected parcel lies entirely within the identified boundary established for Acadia National Park (ANP). MCHT jointly purchased the land in partnership with Friends of Acadia. The two organizations expect to transfer the property to ANP later this year when park funds become available.

MCHT has focused extra effort on land conservation along Northeast Creek in recent years. In collaboration with partner groups, the Trust has helped protect more than 338 acres of land along the estuary since 2001.

Collaborative Effort Underway to Protect Black Island

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working with landowners and community members to explore options for conserving the unique values of Black Island, one of the scenic gems in the Gott Island archipelago off Bass Harbor. At 451 acres, Black is a prominent, wooded island that has long been a favorite destination for area residents drawn by its pink granite, cobble beaches and rich history. The island’s undeveloped shores provide roosting habitat for bald eagles that nest on adjacent Placentia Island (owned by The Nature Conservancy).

Black Island, while thickly forested now, was once home to approximately 50 stonecutters when the property was quarried in the late 1800s. A rail line ran from the quarry site near the island’s center to a stone wharf where granite was loaded into vessels for transport. Much of the quarry on site went to build the post office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Over the past year, MCHT has worked to help four different owners of Black and adjacent Little Black Island consider conservation strategies that meet their respective needs and the Trust’s conservation goals. Using a variety of tools, ranging from conservation easements to outright land acquisition, the Trust hopes to permanently conserve the island’s outstanding scenic, recreational, and ecological values long enjoyed by the public. Negotiations will continue this summer; for an update or to help support our efforts, please contact Bob DeForrest or David MacDonald in the Mount Desert Island office at 244-5100.

Bequest Gifts Advance Land Conservation

Making charitable gifts in a tight economy can be challenging, but planned giving tools allow you to support causes you care about without any cash outlay. One of the easiest and most meaningful ways to help preserve landscapes you cherish is to include a bequest gift to Maine Coast Heritage Trust in your will.

Bequests can take many forms, depending on the donor’s wishes and circumstances. Some individuals use a bequest to donate proceeds from a property (sold by their estate), while others name MCHT as a beneficiary of the estate “residue” (what remains after other gifts and obligations are met).

Gifts can be designated for a specific purpose (such as land conservation on Mount Desert Island) or given unrestricted (allowing MCHT’s board to determine where funds are most needed). Smaller gifts typically augment the annual fund in the year they are received, while larger gifts are dedicated to special projects or initiatives.

During the past year, MCHT gratefully received distributions from the estates of three individuals who loved Mount Desert Island and were well known in local communities for their passionate commitment to conservation: Virginia Lloyd, Sigrid Berwind and Jonathan Stein. “Each was a long-time friend of MCHT, and their generous bequests are truly gifts that keep on giving,” notes David MacDonald, MCHT’s Director of Land Protection. “Depending on how long it takes an estate to settle, we often receive bequests in installments and each one is a welcome gift that helps extend our work.”

Bequests offer donors a chance to shape the future, as Jonathan Stein acknowledged when he set up his bequest six years before his death in 2006: “The older I get,” he noted, “the more I realize we must take affirmative steps to ensure that these wonderful treasures are protected.”

Come Visit Us!

MCHT is delighted to announce the opening of our newly completed office building and trails on the surrounding Babson Creek Preserve on Route 102 in Somesville. Please celebrate with us at an Open House on July 20th from 3-6 PM. The building (which was constructed in ways to minimize environmental impacts) now provides a base for the organization on Mount Desert Island, where we have rented office facilities since our launch in 1970. “With eleven staff on MDI and a growing number of area preserves and easements to manage,” notes Dir-ector of Land Protection David MacDonald, “we will benefit greatly from having a permanent home here in Somesville.”

For those seeking to enjoy the trails at the Babson Creek Preserve, there is a trailhead kiosk and two pull-off parking areas as you enter the property’s access drive south of the office building.