Cherished Land Becomes an Open Classroom
Imagine your classroom isn’t just a room with four walls but a mossy coniferous forest, salt marsh, and epic granite outcropping overlooking a winding tidal creek and the hills of Acadia. The students of The Community School of Mount Desert Island (TCS) have been so lucky, thanks in part to the generosity of a landowner who opened 72 acres on Babson Creek to them. When the landowner decided to sell the property, The Community School and Maine Coast Heritage Trust began working together to protect this ecologically varied oasis and ensure the school’s students—and other community members—can continue to enjoy access to it.
This land is very familiar to Misha Mytar, MDI Senior Project Manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust. It’s visible from Babson Creek Preserve, home of MCHT’s office on MDI, and has long been a conservation priority for us, especially given our focus on marsh protection and efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the coast. “This parcel connects to Acadia National Park and MCHT’s Kittredge Brook Forest Preserve, forming a network of undeveloped land and important habitat, including salt marsh,” says Misha. “When the opportunity came up to work with The Community School to protect the ecological integrity of this area and continue to make the land available to the students and others, we were thrilled.”
After several years of working with the landowner, MCHT and TCS secured an option to purchase the property earlier in 2022 and have been working together on a plan for TCS to own the land to be used for educational purposes, with MCHT holding a conservation easement limiting development of the property to protect habitat and the viewshed. Should TCS no longer own the property, it would be transferred to MCHT.
Jasmine Smith, founding director at TCS, says of the project, “Not only are we extending our classroom space to inspire the next generation of stewards and curious, mindful thinkers, but the land will now be protected in perpetuity. That just warms my heart. Both organizations are meeting their missions and collaborating on a long-term effort that is broadly beneficial.”
TCS fosters a strong sense of place in students, encouraging a deep and abiding attention to the natural world around them. Jasmine is excited to share this ethic with the community by offering more nature-based programs and inviting others in the community to explore and enjoy the land. She says, “We are really committed to accessibility at The Community School in general, and we’ve already generated a long list of ideas and started reaching out to community members, groups, and fellow teachers in the area.”
Many have already given generously to the project, and partners closed on purchase of the property in August, but fundraising continues for essential stewardship funds to care for the land over time. We hope to complete fundraising for the Babson Creek Learning Forest by the end of 2022, at which point many will breathe a sigh of relief knowing the land will be permanently protected and cared for, and that TCS students and other community members can continue to learn and grow here.
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Over the past six years, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has worked with partners to complete 36 marsh protection projects from York to Washington counties, conserving a total of about 1,800 acres of marsh and upland buffers.
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