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About

Harpswell’s heritage is inscribed upon its beloved land and sea – its shimmering islands and bays, timeless spruce forests and bogs, whispering coves and saltwater farms. Healthy fisheries and verdant landscapes are vital to our town’s economy and our culture.

Migratory birds, shellfish and other animals depend upon our forests, fields and wetlands. Lifelong residents and newcomers enjoy the scenic beauty and small-town atmosphere that make Harpswell unique.

The natural and cultural landscapes that define our town are the keys to its future as a home, a source of livelihood and a place to visit. Protecting Harpswell’s heritage is a timeless responsibility we all share.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting the natural resources of Harpswell, Maine. Our mission is to protect Harpswell’s natural open spaces, islands, shoreline, and cultural heritage for current and future generations through education, conservation and landowner assistance.

As of the middle of 2017, the Land Trust has conserved nearly 1,600 acres of land in Harpswell. Of this conservation land, 495 is in preserves owned by the Land Trust and always open to the public. The rest is in conservation easements on privately-owned land. Some of these easement properties allow public access. The Land Trust maintains around seven miles of walking trails.

HHLT’s preserves truly offer something for everyone. From beaches to woodsy trails, from tide pools to scenic picnic spots, Harpswell is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. For more information about where to go, feel free to browse our map of public access land in Harpswell or a list of the properties and their features.

The Land Trust offers a variety of fun and educational programs for the community, including public events, a sunset cruise, Nature Day Camp and programs with local schools.

The Land Trust collaborates with other organizations and entities, including the town of Harpswell, to achieve common goals.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust is a small non-profit organization with just two staff members. It is supported by generous members and dedicated volunteers. For more information about joining, click here.

Our History

Harpswell Heritage Trust was incorporated in 1983 by the Harpswell Historical Society. Its initial purpose was to acquire a preservation easement on the historic Tarr-Eaton House in Harpswell Center.

For nine years, Harpswell Heritage Trust played a supporting role to the Historical Society, which controlled the governance and the funds of the Trust through an interlocking Board of Directors. During the 1980s, the Trust continued to acquire easements and acquired its first preserve. As the land conservation movement in Maine and across the nation became more active, the directors realized that the missions of the Harpswell Heritage Trust and the Harpswell Historical Society were quite different. The decision was made to separate.

In 1992, the independent Harpswell Heritage Trust had its first town-wide membership drive. During this time, the Trust was run entirely by volunteers. Dedicated board members pursued conservation projects and built financial support for the organization. In 1999, the word “Land” was inserted in the Trust’s name to reflect its primary activity of preserving lands. With part-time administrative assistance, a membership database was set up and notebooks were developed for each Trust property. The conservation work of the Trust continued throughout this period with the acquisition of four preserves and six easements.

In 1998 the Land Trust offered its first year of the Explore Harpswell Nature Day Camp.  Still held annually for elementary school children, the camp introduces children to a variety of habitats in Harpswell through fun and hands-on exploration. Over the years, the Land Trust has also sponsored many events for the public, including walks and talks.

In 2001, the Land Trust hired its first Executive Director and in 2002 it rented its first office space. In 2006, the Land Trust received a gift of a 1.5 acre lot in North Harpswell as a location for its permanent home. In 2007, the Land Trust completed construction on its new office building. Besides an office and a small conference room, the new building contained a community meeting room for Land Trust programs and for use by other community groups. The Land Trust continued to acquire new easements and preserves.

In 2002-2003, the Trust ran its first capital campaign, the “Special Places for Harpswell Campaign.” The goal of the campaign was to raise $1.7 million for the simultaneous acquisition of the 19-acre Skolfield Shores Preserve and the 3.5-acre Johnson Field Preserve at Mackerel Cove, both signature open spaces that were threatened with imminent development. Thanks to the dedication and generosity of many donors and other supporters, the campaign succeeded in just 15 months.

In 2012 the Land Trust hired its first Outreach Coordinator in an attempt to enhance its educational programs and outreach to the community. In 2014 the Land Trust created the Forever Fund as an operations endowment to ensure that it will have the resources to care for conserved properties forever.