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Summer 2013

Forging a New Trail Partnership

Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Kitteredge Brook Forest Preserve will soon have an expanded trail network, thanks to a collaboration involving MCHT, MDI High School, Acadia National Park and Friends of Acadia. These partners recently agreed to improve an existing trail system next to the high school and to add a spur so that more people can enjoy the wildlife-rich, 500-acre preserve MCHT conserved in 2011.

The school’s outdoor science class has already begun work on the trail network. “Students love doing something real and hands-on,” says their teacher Jennifer Riefler. “We have students with a range of backgrounds and skills all working alongside each other and taking ownership and leadership.”

MDI High School Principal Matt Haney envisions “infinite growth possibilities in the new partnership as the school takes more and more learning outside.” Students may work on the trails and preserve through service-learning projects or senior exhibition projects. MDI Regional School System Superintendent Howard Colter says that both he and the school board see this as “a lovely grassroots model that we hope will expand over time. We’re always looking for ways our students can be part of the larger community, get physical activity outdoors, and be active learners, so this is all very promising and exciting.”

Students, community volunteers, and Friends of Acadia crew leaders will help MCHT construct the new trail. “This forest has diverse ecological habitats and extensive wetlands,” says Regional Steward Billy Helprin, “so we’ll site trails carefully, minimize stream crossings, and build bridging where needed.”

The new trail will be open to the community for pedestrian use, with parking available at the high school. “The Forest has few existing trailheads with ample parking so we’re delighted the school can help make the preserve more accessible,” notes Helprin.

While not formally part of the Village Connector Trail system, this trail crosses through Acadia National Park. “The Kitteredge Brook Forest Preserve is a really special place,” says Park Visitor Specialist Charlie Jacobi. “We’re pleased to help the community gain access to this remote and beautiful area.”

Providing Water Access for Work and Recreation

As part of its coastwide commitment to land protection, Maine Coast Heritage Trust helps communities preserve shore access for recreation, marine harvesting and a variety of other uses. Two recent projects on Mount Desert Island permanently protect the traditional water access that local residents have long enjoyed.

Thanks to a donation from Downeast Audubon, MCHT recently assumed ownership and management of a traditional community access point along Echo Lake. Local residents have long used this “Echo Vista” roadside pullover to swim on hot days and to go ice fishing or skating in winter. MCHT will provide continued access and take steps to minimize erosion on this small, gravelly parcel.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust recently supported improvements to the Bernard boat ramp at Bass Harbor, a project important to the town’s working waterfront and to local residents who enjoy getting out on the water. The upgrade was funded by a Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP) grant from the state, matched at 50 percent by town wharf revenues and a $5,000 contribution from MCHT.

MCHT: A Resource for the MDI Community

More than 40 years ago, Maine Coast Heritage Trust opened its first office on Mount Desert Island and began work to protect significant ecological, recreational and scenic lands along Maine’s coast. While pursuing this statewide mission, MCHT has maintained a unique relationship with MDI—often initiating projects that primarily benefit the local community.

The two MCHT staff members most active on and around Mount Desert Island are Misha Mytar, MDI Land Protection Project Manager, and Billy Helprin, Regional Land Steward. “A lot of the projects we work on,” Mytar says, “come to us from community members and partners who identify situations where our expertise could prove helpful.” To contact Misha or Billy, call 244-5100 or drop by the Trust’s office at its Babson Creek Preserve in Somesville.

Supporting Local Foods and Farms

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is hosting MDI’s first-ever Kids Can Grow (KCG) program, which encourages families to produce their own fresh vegetables. Overseen by University of Maine Cooperative Extension (UMCE), KCG helps youth between ages 7 and 12 create their own raised bed gardens at home, with group classes and a mentor to support them.

The new KCG site is at MCHT’s Babson Creek Preserve in a community garden that offers plots to area residents. “This is an awesome spot, with a central location, water, tool storage, and nice meeting space,” observes KCG organizer John A. Correa. The program already has 15 young people and their families participating, supported by a dozen UMCE Master Gardener volunteers.

“We’ve had a wonderful community response so far, and generous business support,” observes Billy Helprin, a Regional Steward for MCHT. “For example, Lee Worcester (of Eastern Maine Recycling) and Tom Savage (of Savage Forest Enterprise) contributed all the soil/compost mix and lumber needed for 19 raised bed gardens.”

Just across town, MCHT recently helped ensure the agricultural future of a farm field threatened by development. Beech Hill Farm, a 76-acre property owned by College of the Atlantic (with an agricultural easement held by MCHT), produces organic vegetables for the college community and local food pantries, as well as for retail and CSA customers. When an adjoining 1.5-acre field leased by the farm was listed for sale in 2011, COA asked MCHT to help secure this prime farmland (a rare resource on an island where less than 5 percent of soils carry that select federal designation).

Thanks to all those who donated to its recent MDI Initiative, MCHT was able to support conservation of this important agricultural resource. The college has purchased the field, which is being incorporated into the farm’s original agricultural easement. “We’re grateful for MCHT’s help in this acquisition,” notes Beech Hill Farm manager Tess Faller. “The newly purchased land is one of our most productive and level fields, and one of the earliest ones that we can work in spring.”

The protected field has more than 200 feet of frontage on Beech Hill Road, helping sustain the open vistas enjoyed by local residents and park visitors.

The President’s Circle: An Invitation

Maine Coast Heritage Trust recently established The President’s Circle to recognize members making leadership gifts of $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 or more. Each member will receive invitations to special events, select communications from MCHT’s President, and two free gift memberships, as well as being acknowledged in an annual publication. To learn more about becoming an inaugural member, please contact nblanchard@mcht.org or speak with Nicky Blanchard at 207-729-7366, ext. 127.