An Undeveloped Island is Protected in Midcoast Maine
Release date: December 20, 2021
Maine Coast Heritage Trust says that Sheep Island in Owls Head has been secured for conservation in perpetuity and will become a public preserve
(December 20, 2021 – Topsham, Maine) – Statewide land conservation organization Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) announced today that it has officially acquired and protected Sheep Island off of Owls Head and will make it available as a public preserve. The undeveloped 59+ acre island, situated in West Penobscot Bay, is only a short paddle from Owls Head Harbor and is a long-favored destination for boaters and the Owls Head community.
The newly protected island rounds out a collection of Owls Head preserves owned and managed by MCHT, including nearby 225-acre Monroe Island, which offers an expansive trail network and overnight campsites and 47-acre Ash Island, known for its sand bar and granite ledges. The Trust also worked with the town of Owls Head to create the Richard Carver Harbor Park, which provides parking and improved commercial and recreational access to the harbor.
“All of these conservation projects together have made this an incredible part of the coast to explore,” says MCHT regional land steward Amanda Devine. “You can park in town, put a kayak in the water at Richard Carver Harbor Park, paddle to Monroe to camp overnight, then paddle over to Sheep Island for a picnic. More skilled paddlers can navigate the strong currents around Ash Island.”
Sheep Island went up for sale in 2020 for $1.95 million. At that time, a small local movement formed to explore ways to protect the island and secure its longstanding tradition of public access. The island has long been a favorite destination for its pocket beaches and unspoiled beauty.
MCHT began fundraising to protect the island in the fall of 2020, spurred on by a generous lead gift followed by numerous others. In the spring of 2021, a long-time MCHT donor agreed to purchase the island to give MCHT time to fundraise for the acquisition and stewardship costs through the fall of 2021.
The fundraising effort was a success, thanks to a matching gift from an anonymous donor that released two dollars for every dollar donated to the project in the final months. Ultimately more than fifty donors pitched in to ensure Sheep Island’s protection and fund ongoing stewardship costs.
“The Owls Head community is incredibly lucky to able to add Sheep Island to our small cluster protected islands,” said Marilyn Meserve, Owls Head resident and Sheep Island donor. “These three special islands sitting right off our mainland are a rare and valuable asset to the community and they enjoy a ton of use by our local residents. Losing these to development would have been a tragic loss for this community.”
Members of MCHT’s stewardship department will spend the first part of 2022 conducting a natural resource inventory and beginning to clean up the piles of derelict lobster traps and other trash that has accumulated over the years. MCHT staff looks forward to working with community members to ready the preserve for public use and develop a long-term management plan.
The Trust also recently announced success in the fundraising campaign to protect and open to the public Little Whaleboat Island West in Casco Bay. These, along with other newly conserved coastal access areas, will be added to their collection of 150 preserves open to the public.
ABOUT MAINE COAST HERITAGE TRUST
MCHT is a dynamic, multifaceted organization with initiatives ranging from preserving coastal access for communities to high impact ecological work focused on reconnecting waterways and improving coastal resiliency to climate change. A leader in Maine’s nationally renowned land conservation efforts since 1970, MCHT maintains a growing network of almost 150 coastal and island preserves free and open to everyone and leads the 80-member Maine Land Trust Network to ensure that land conservation provides benefits to all Maine communities. Get involved at www.mcht.org.
David Warren, Planned Giving and Major Gifts Officer/ Maine Coast Heritage Trust