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 conserving our region's most spectacular landscapes, that also contain wildlife habitat. 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.
Because of our work, these areas 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 is the priority of our land protection work.
We adopt specific focus areas as the result of conservation planning, the first in 1995, the second in 2001, and the third in 2019. Many landowners generously donated land and easements in these areas. Once land is identified, we usually establish a campaign to secure the land and ensure both protection and access.
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 River, the Bald & Ragged mountains, and have done incredibly meaningful and well-loved projects in the Belfast and Hurd’s Pond.
The Ducktrap River
As a leader of the 26 organization in the 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 fundraise for 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 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 established areas. As we finish with each project, we will work to conserve new focus areas in Knox and Waldo counties.