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Big changes at Harpswell Heritage Land Trust

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
January 28, 2022

Today we announce big news about Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. This December, the Board of Trustees accepted the retirement of our long-standing Executive Director, Reed Coles and appointed Outreach Director Julia McLeod as Acting Executive Director, effective as of February 1, 2022.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust staff. From left to right: Katie Neal, Priscilla Seimer, Julia McLeod, Reed Coles and Amelia Graham.

Julia has been with the land trust for almost ten years, starting at Outreach Coordinator in 2012 and transitioning to Outreach Director in 2019. “This appointment is in recognition of Julia’s impact on HHLT’s activities, standing in the community, and leadership skills,” said Board President Wendy Batson. The Board of Trustees look forward to seeing the organization move forward under Julia’s leadership and will re-assess the “Acting” in her title this summer.

“I am excited for this new challenge,” Julia said. “I’ve loved working for the land trust and getting to know the incredible natural areas and wonderful people in this community.”

Reed was only the nonprofit’s second ever Executive Director. He took over from Spike Haible in 2005 and has served in the role ever since. Reed will be staying on as a part-time Lands and Stewardship Director through much of 2022. He will be doing work he loves – ensuring we complete the purchase of the Tondreau property, pursuing other conservation projects, overseeing our obligations to our easements and, most critically, drafting a report on land acquisition possibilities for the future. He will be working closely with Priscilla Seimer, our Stewardship Coordinator.

Two other staff positions are changing at the same time. Katie Neal is moving into the role of half-time Office Administrator. She brings her considerable skills in non-profit management to bear in this new, much-needed role. Katie has been working in a very part-time capacity as Communications and Membership Assistant since 2019.

Amelia Graham, our Development Associate, moves from 32 hours a week to full-time this year as well. This will allow her to take on some of the communications work that Julia previously handled. Her excellent work since she was hired last March has backstopped HHLT’s very successful fundraising efforts in 2021.

All of these staff changes augur well for HHLT’s continued ability to live into our core mission – to preserve and protect Harpswell’s natural resources, cultural heritage, and access to the outdoors now and forever.

About Julia McLeod

When Julia was hired as a half-time Outreach Coordinator in 2012, HHLT had just one other staff member, Reed. The board made the decision to add her position to increase the land trust’s communications, education, and outreach to the community. In the years since, Julia has led HHLT to a deeper and broader connection with many people in the Harpswell community and beyond. She has spearheaded efforts in communications, programs, collaborative partnerships, and volunteer coordination. As is typical in a small nonprofit, Julia has worn a lot of hats in the past 9+ years.

Her communications efforts have helped HHLT educate and engage with a wide variety of people who live in or love Harpswell. She began HHLT’s email newsletter, which now goes to more than 3,500 subscribers. She overhauled the website, taught herself how to do graphic design, created trail guides and brochures, jumped into the world of social media, oversaw two database migrations, came up with and supported new initiatives, built up HHLT’s merchandise, and more.

Drawing on her background in education, Julia grew HHLT’s programming from less than five events per year and one week of Nature Day Camp to more than 40 events per year (pre-pandemic), 12 sessions of the very popular Nature Day Camp (in 2021), and innovative, nature-based science programming for all students at Harpswell Community School. Some of the first students that Julia taught at Harpswell Community School will be graduating from high school this spring.

Julia has been recognized for her innovative outreach and education accomplishments by being featured in the state-wide Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine and through multiple presentations at land conservation and environmental education conferences. During her tenure at HHLT, the land trust’s membership base has grown from 527 members to 928 today and thousands of people have taken advantage of programs and events. Julia has entered collaborative partnerships on behalf of HHLT with many community groups and nonprofits.

“It is difficult to adequately describe Julia’s positive impact on HHLT’s activities and standing with our community,” said Reed. “Her creativity, thoughtfulness, energy, and inclusiveness have vastly expanded our presence in Harpswell and beyond. And I believe that as our third Executive Director, Julia will have a substantial positive impact on current and future generations of Harpswell’s citizens.”

Julia’s past professional experience includes nonprofit work, environmental education, journalism, and farming. Her degree from College of the Atlantic in Human Ecology, a discipline that investigates the relations between humans and their environments, did much to shape her view of the world. She lives in Bowdoin with her husband, who owns and operates Scratch Farm, and their two children, Sophie (age 9) and Otto (age 6).

About Reed Coles

After graduating from Wesleyan University, Reed spent a decade working in public policy for the City of New York and negotiating with developers. It proved to be good preparation for the process of land acquisition and conservation after he returned to Harpswell. On his return from New York, Reed spent 10 years as Harpswell’s State Representative, where his main focus was on natural resource management, environmental protection, and marine resources. He was also active in town affairs, culminating with the adoption of Harpswell’s current Comprehensive Plan in 2005.

When he became Executive Director in December 2005, HHLT was operating out of a one-room office on Orr’s Island. A search for larger quarters ended in 2006, when 1.5 acres on Route 123 was donated to the organization and HHLT’s current office building was constructed. During his tenure, HHLT more than doubled the amount of land it owns, which protect Harpswell’s waters and wildlife while providing extensive outdoor recreation opportunities for the public. The protected lands added during Reed’s tenure include Curtis Farm Preserve, Otter Brook Preserve, the Liberty Farm addition to Skolfield Shores Preserve, the Helen and Walter Norton Preserve on Birch Island, Houghton Graves Park, Little Ponds Preserve, Strawberry Creek Preserve, and substantial portions of the shorelines of White and Little Yarmouth Islands.

Under Reed’s leadership, and with the support of a dedicated and active Board of Trustees and talented staff, HHLT has grown to include five staff members and has achieved accreditation by the national Land Trust Alliance. Accreditation shows the community, donors, and partners that HHLT is meeting the highest national standards for excellence and conservation permanence.

“It’s been an outstanding 16 years,” said Board President Wendy Batson. “Reed has overseen enormous growth in this organization and has clearly left a legacy in Harpswell. We are grateful for his contributions, which have positioned us well to continue HHLT’s important work into the future.”

Updated Contact Information

You are welcome to reach out to any of HHLT’s staff members with comments, questions, or anything else. You can call the office at 207-721-1121. Some email addresses are changing, so here’s how to reach us. Please update your address books.

Julia McLeod: director@hhltmaine.org
Reed Coles: lands@hhltmaine.org
Katie Neal: info@hhltmaine.org
Amelia Graham: development@hhltmaine.org
Priscilla Seimer: steward@hhltmaine.org

With warm wishes in the New Year,

The board and staff at Harpswell Heritage Land Trust