Three Rivers Land Trust
Three Rivers is proud to have conserved three new properties in 2018, thanks to the support of our members and partners! In June, we purchased Hansen Pond in Acton, with funding the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Fund (MNRCP), and individual donors. We’ve been discussing conservation of this property for more years than anyone can remember, but at least since 2012. This 273-acre parcel includes pine-oak forest, more than 6000 feet of frontage along the Little Ossipee River, about 4700 feet of frontage on remote Hansen Pond, and 149 acres of wetlands. The property contains sand and gravel deposits in environmentally sensitive areas, so the permanent protection of these wetlands was critical. We will be conducting wetland restoration and building trails on the property in the coming year.
In August, we purchased Walnut Hill IV in the Walnut Hill region of Alfred, adjacent to the Sousa Preserve. This 93-acre parcel includes Blanding’s turtle habitat, vernal pools, forested wetland, and inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat. It was also purchased and protected with MNRCP funds.
In November, we accepted the donation of the Ricker Field from Donna Jacobsen. This field is adjacent to our office, The River House, which Mrs. Jacobsen gifted to us in 2016. It winds along the Littlefield River, and includes farmland and songbird habitat, and perhaps most notably “The Globe” sledding hill which got a lot of use this past winter!
Community partnerships remain an important part of our work. In the summer, Alfred naturalist Pat Smith conducted orchid research on the Walnut Hill I property in Shapleigh. As in past years, we benefitted from the hard work of students at the Maple Stone School in Acton; they built a trail at the Sousa Preserve in Alfred and cleaned up the cemetery at Hobbs Farm in Acton. Their biggest project was laying out a trail to the top of Goat Hill in Acton. We plan to continue that work in 2019, and turn it into a universal-access trail.
In October, we joined with Farm-to-School and Alfred Elementary School to conduct an in-class education program and a field trip to Shaker Woods Preserve with the 5th grade. We plan to return in the spring to learn about watersheds and examine seasonal changes with the same ground, and we hope to make these programs a semi-annual tradition for Alfred fifth-graders, possibly expanding to other towns in the future.
The Land Trust continued regular operations throughout the year. In 2018, the full Board of Directors and the Executive Committee each met monthly. Several educational conferences, seminars, and webinars were attended by various board members throughout the year. All 2018 easement stewardship visits were completed and documented. In April, with great help from Jessica Burton from the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, we held a board retreat to complete our Comprehensive Plan, which combines regional conservation planning with strategic planning. Board members continue to be very active in running this mostly-volunteer organization, but we have grown to the point where more staff is necessary. In 2018, we began the process of hiring our first part-time executive director, and we were thrilled to welcome Cheri Brunault to the position in March 2019.
Development Director Ruth Gutman continued to take the lead on both traditional and social media outreach, fundraising, membership development, and event planning, in addition to maintaining the membership database and website. A printed newsletter was distributed once; several e-newsletters were sent; the Facebook page and website were regularly updated; and we had a presence at several community festivals and association meetings to promote interest in conservation and solicit new members.
Our many 2018 events included: animal tracking at the Gruber property in Shapleigh on Great Maine Outdoor Weekend in February; our annual meeting in May; our fourth annual local food breakfast to kick off the Springvale Farm Walk in July; an educational program on bird adaptations for kids at the Lebanon Summer Camp; a kids’ bike event at MacDougal Orchard in September; a party at Goat Hill hosted by Maine Farmland Trust in September; kite-flying at Goat Hill in October; a field trip with Alfred Elementary 5th-graders in October; and several public walks on our protected properties.
Perhaps our most difficult decision of 2018 was the sale of the Gruber House, which we inherited from long-time and founding board member Charles Gruber in late 2016. The Shapleigh home included a historic farmhouse and barn and about 50 acres of forest with pond and river frontage. Board member Anna Desmond, volunteer Fred McLeod, and a stellar advisory committee of Shapleigh residents oversaw substantial repairs to the house and maintained the property as we researched options for its future. After considering many possible uses, we made the difficult decision to sell the house and barn. We will keep the bulk of the forest, improve the trail system, and build a small parking area to facilitate public access. The sale was completed in early 2019, and the proceeds will support future conservation efforts, and enabled the hire of our first executive director. Charles’ generosity will benefit our organization and our region’s conservation for many years to come.