← Back to The People Behind Harpswell Heritage Land Trust

Sharon Oehmig: A Steadfast Steward

By Phil Croteau

The act of volunteering is a fantastic way to explore new interests, build communities, and form lasting relationships with like-minded individuals. In the case of Sharon Oehmig, volunteering with the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) to maintain the trails at Long Reach Preserve has opened numerous doors to other opportunities within HHLT and the community at large.

two adults smile at trailhead

Sharon and her husband Ken (Priscilla Seimer photo)

After spending time with her husband, Ken’s family in the Brunswick area throughout the years, Sharon and Ken fell in love with Harpswell’s natural beauty and its sense of community. After Ken began a job working from home, they decided to take advantage of the opportunity and moved from Massachusetts to Harpswell in 2005.

Sharon did not waste any time getting involved with HHLT. She gives her husband credit for prompting her to begin volunteering with the land trust. They found themselves referencing the trail guide printed in the Harpswell Anchor, and visited many of the HHLT preserves as a way to get to know the town. Sharon and Ken ended up settling down near Long Reach Preserve where they still reside today. “Long Reach Preserve was our gateway to an involvement with the land trust. It’s probably one of my favorite places in Harpswell,” she said. Almost 20 years later, Sharon continues to serve as a Community Steward at Long Reach Preserve.

Sharon’s passion for trail stewardship is infectious. “Stewardship is something that is so visible to everybody. What really hit home for me, especially during the pandemic when our preserves saw a lot of extra use, is just how grateful people are,” she remarked.

Sharon’s involvement with HHLT has not been limited to trail work. “One of the things I love about the land trust is that there are so many ways you can engage and get involved,” she said. Sharon has spent almost 12 years on the Board of Trustees and has served on many of the land trust’s committees. Currently, she is a member of the Stewardship Committee, the Executive Committee and the Lands Committee while also chairing the Finance and Investment Committee.

“I’ve been thrilled to be able to be a part of committees where I am contributing but also learning,” she explained.

Of Sharon’s many contributions to Harpswell over the years, she pointed to her involvement in the Harpswell Hiking Challenge and her role in building the bog bridging at Curtis Farm Preserve as two of her proudest accomplishments. “Being part of a team is a great way to get to know and build the community,” she said.

Community building is another one of Sharon’s passions, and she believes HHLT has played a large role in building a sense of community in town. “I think the biggest unexpected benefit of moving to Maine for me has been finding a community and an organization that allows you to develop and engage a lot of different parts of your life and personality,” she said.

One of the most important aspects of community building is to provide a welcoming space for people of all experience levels and abilities to become involved. Accessibility came to the forefront in Harpswell with the unveiling of the newest section of the Town’s Cliff Trail, which Sharon has worked on and visited with family and friends. After visiting the new section of trail with some folks with limited mobility, she reflected, “To give that experience back to someone who thought they could never experience that again is really meaningful and something we can all do for each other.”

Like Sharon, working with the community over the years has had an impact on the land trust as well. In particular, HHLT has expanded programming tremendously over the past 10 years. “I don’t think of the land trust as just a conservation organization, as wonderful as that is. I’m seeing it more and more as a force for all kinds of good in the community,“ Sharon described.