A History of Success: Conservation in Coastal Mountains Land Trust’s ‘Focus Areas’
Since its founding, Coastal Mountains Land Trust has focused its efforts on preserving our regions most spectacular landscapes. These areas, the Ducktrap River, Bald and Ragged Mountains, Hurd’s Pond, and Passy Greenway contain vital wildlife habitat, for flora and fauna from bald eagles to smooth sandwort. They provide clean water, clean air, and scenic vistas. They are places to find peace and explore. They define our region’s remarkable sense of place.
Thanks to our organization’s work over the last 30-plus years, these areas will remain natural and open to public use permanently. These are our ‘focus areas’; large natural landscapes that contain the highest priorities for conservation in our service region. Conservation in focus areas form the backbone of our land protection work.
We adopted these focus areas as the result of three different rounds of conservation planning, the first in1995 and the second in 2001, and the third in 2005. Many landowners generously donated land and easements in these areas. And we have completed multiple campaigns to help conserve land, from the Ducktrap campaign, multiple campaigns for Bald and Ragged, private fundraising and grants for Hurd’s Pond, to a Land for Maine’s Future grant and the community campaign for the Belfast Rail Trail along the Passagassawakeag River.
Strategically pursuing focus areas has been tremendously successful. While there is still work to be done in each area, we have conserved the vast majority of the Ducktrap and Bald and Ragged focus areas and have done incredibly meaningful and well-loved projects in the Passy Greenway and Hurd’s Pond areas.
The Ducktrap River
As part of the 26 organization Ducktrap Coalition, we have conserved a total of 1,941 acres along the Ducktrap River and its three major tributaries through 27 unique projects, since 1995. We have protected over 85% of the rivers shorefront. 1,136 of acres form the Ducktrap River Preserve, that is open to the public for hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, and hunting, with a further 805 acres transferred to the State of Maine or conservation easements.
Bald and Ragged Mountains
Since 2003, we have conserved 3,029 acres on Bald and Ragged Mountains through 42 individual projects, including the ridgeline of both mountains, and the shores of Mirror Lake and Grassy Pond. We have fostered the creation of a 20-mile trail network on the mountains and are currently constructing the Round the Mountain Trail on Ragged Mountain. The Round the Mountain campaign is nearly finished, and there are only a handful of parcels left to conserve in this focus area.
Passy Greenway and Hurd’s Pond
In the Passy Greenway, the area along the Passagassawakeag River estuary, we created three preserves: Stover, Head of Tide, and Stephenson, all within five minutes’ drive of downtown Belfast, and helped fund the creation of the Belfast Rail Trail. Prior to our work, Belfast had no permanently conserved land, excepting municipal parks and a single agricultural easement. The Belfast Rail Trail is likely the most popular trail in Midcoast Maine, with hundreds of visitors daily, rising to thousands on busy summer days. In and around Hurd’s Pond in northern Belfast and southern Swanville, we have conserved 371 acres around Hurd’s Pond and its wetland system as part of the Meadow Brook Preserve.
As we move forward into the 2020s, we will continue to use the focus area model, with the goal of protecting larger landscapes. At first we will stay focused on finishing the work in these areas. But as we finish with those projects, we will work to conserve new focus areas in Knox and Waldo counties, and will share with you the results of our next ten-year conservation plan later this year.