Sheep Island Stays Open
“Almost every kid who grew up on Owls Head has been to Sheep Island,” says Dick Carver, Owls Head native, fisherman, and former town selectman.
“Fishermen, fishermen’s kids… families would picnic on the beach and play Treasure Island.” He mentioned this earlier this fall, when he bumped into Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s David Warren on a Midcoast trail. David has been leading our fundraising effort to protect Sheep Island, and this didn’t come as a surprise.
When Sheep Island went up for sale in 2020, David and the local project manager received a flurry of emails, calls, and Facebook messages from Owls Head community members asking if MCHT could conserve Sheep and ensure this tradition of public access continued.
We were on it, and we had to act fast. Thankfully, a lead donor stepped up with a sizable gift, followed by a cadre of others. 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. This effort was spurred on by a generous matching gift that released two dollars for every one donated.
We closed on the purchase of the island in November of this year, thanks to these generous donors and countless others who made gifts of all sizes.
“Conservation of this island was a real community effort,” says David. “And it’s no wonder people love it.” As islands go, Sheep Island is easy to get to. Not far from the mainland, boaters can pull small craft right up to the beach. It’s not far from Ash Island, which has been an MCHT preserve since 2010, and Monroe Island, which MCHT acquired for public access in 2018. Around that time, MCHT worked with the town of Owls Head to create a public park at Owls Head Harbor with much-needed parking and improved water access for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
“All of these conservation projects together have made this an incredible part of the coast to explore,” says MCHT land steward Amanda Devine. “You can park in town, put a kayak in the water at Richard Carver Harbor Park, and 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 and explore that beautiful island.”
This isn’t just exciting for boaters, but also for people who enjoy views of these undeveloped islands and the wildlife that benefits from this protected habitat.
Next spring and summer, if you’re in Owls Head, you’re likely to run into Amanda caring for Monroe and Ash and bringing Sheep Island online as MCHT’s newest Owls Head preserve.
More Stories from the Coast
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.
MCHT collaborates with The Community School to protect important habitat and create permanent outdoor education space on Mount Desert Island.
Protecting connected habitats is key to making the coast more resilient to climate change, and healthy, free-flowing rivers are among the most important types of connected habitats.
MCHT helped conserve a few downtown acres in Milbridge in 2017. Four years later, this land has been transformed into the Milbridge Commons Wellness Park—a place where people can walk by the water, play, and pick free produce.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is fundraising to permanently conserve Little Whaleboat, Nate, and Tuck islands in Casco Bay—to ensure people will always be able to access these special places.