I was recently struck by how much land in the Midcoast is actually under water. Perhaps this was in part because we were trying to put our boat into the water and weren’t quite yet in the mode of watching the tides. Not wanting to make our two little girls trek the 100 yards or so back from our mooring or heave them through the mud ourselves, we waited out the tide a bit so we could make it in to the dock.

It made me think of this mucky area more as land, dimpled with mud snails, clam holes and new sprouts of eelgrass, than as ocean. This is all part of the landscape of our town and can be considered right along with the shore-side lands that abut it. Of course, it isn’t that simple when for the majority of hours of the day, it is covered by water and is a strange mysterious place to most.

There are any number of activities going on in that intertidal area including people clamming, kayaking, kids playing in the mud, and any number of structures that are a part of it, as well, like floating oyster aquaculture cages, lobster buoys, or wharves. All of these things happen at the intersection of the wild ocean and where we humans meet it at the shore. The difficulty lies in how well we understand the resources there and how we figure out the best way to take care of them.

An unlikely-seeming partner is becoming more involved in this discussion. While you might think Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust would be focused on land, it is, in fact, a steward of a number of coastal properties. Its geographic range includes the towns of Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin and the total acreage of conservation areas is roughly 2,500. So, the scope is large, as is the mission, which is essentially threefold: Providing access for recreation, protecting and stewarding cherished landscapes and natural resources, and supporting local agriculture and other traditional land uses, which includes waterfront access for commercial purposes.

Most people likely know BTLT’s role in the Saturday farmers market at Cyrstal Spring Farm, but likely don’t know how it’s helping local clammers, as well.

One of BTLT’s recently acquired properties, Woodward Cove, is a perfect example of this. Located off Gurnet Road, the 18-acre site provides access for bloodworm harvesters and clammers to valuable mudflats.

Executive Director Angela Twitchell says, “The land trust had been talking with the town and marine resources folks, trying to locate places in town that are historic access points for clammers and conserve them so clammers don’t lose access over time.”

Through an unusual partnership between Maine Coast Heritage Trust, BTLT, and the Unitarian-Universalist Church, which purchased the land after its downtown building burned in 2011, this coastal access point has now been protected for the long term. This is just one of several coastal properties that are protected by the stewardship of BTLT.

Given its dedication to coastal lands and water access, it makes sense that BTLT has entitled its upcoming annual meeting, “Coastal Conservation and Community Impact.” The meeting, which will be held on June 22, at Topsham Public Library, features Dan Devereaux, Brunswick marine resource officer, and Monique Coombs, seafood program director at Maine Coast Fisherman’s Association, both of whom will talk about the values and challenges of maintaining access to coastal resources and the role land conservation can play in maintaining a healthy working waterfront.

The event is open to the public and designed to stimulate a discussion about the best way for the land trust to support coastal stewardship moving forward.

In any discussion of the management of coastal resources, it is critical to understand the connectivity between land and water. BTLT’s involvement in this discussion helps to bridge that gap. By hosting this presentation at its annual meeting, the land trust has opened up a new dialogue between a non-profit, managers, and harvesters to determine solutions that achieve multiple goals and demands from our coastal areas.

If you are interested in learning more about BTLT or for more information about the upcoming meeting, please visit their website at btlt.org, or contact Outreach and Education Coordinator Lee Cataldo at [email protected].

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