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Houghton Graves Park: Beauty in a Small Package

By Ed Robinson

On beautiful Orr’s Island you will find a small oasis that merits a visit. On the west side of Route 24, between the Orr’s Island Library and the Post Office, you’ll see a sign for Houghton Graves Park. It is likely that you have driven by the small marsh many times without stopping to see what awaits you there. This three acre parcel is owned by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT), with public access for all.

As the sun broke through morning haze one fine spring morning, I parked my car along the road and rolled down my window. I was greeted by the call of one of my favorite birds, the cheerful “terr – EEEE” of the red winged blackbird. Several of these friendly birds were riding cat tails around the marsh, hoping to attract a mate. As I walked the grassy path along the edge of the marsh, I could see a robin and some nuthatches working the tree line. There is a nice mix of shrubs and trees on the gentle knoll west of the marsh; white birch, pine, beech and some fine old apple trees.

This “pocket park” was donated to HHLT in 2006 by Russell Houghton, Patty and Allan Graves. The family ownership of the property reaches all the way back to 1763 when 30 acres was acquired by Michael Sinnett. Down through time, the property was used for raising dairy cattle, horses and garden produce. The beach was used to access fishing and clamming, along with harvesting seaweed. Starting in the 1920’s, George Graves and his wife Josephine Beal Graves began taking in boarders, eventually building two cottages on site, The Snuggle Inn and Spyglass. By 2007, the cottages had fallen into disrepair and were removed.

Following the path around the marsh and down the slope toward the sea, I caught my first glimpse of sheltered Beal’s Cove. At high tide, with little breeze to stir the surface of the ocean, the water reflected the lovely shoreline of the opposite peninsula. Two pairs of eider ducks swam quietly along, the males in their glorious black and white plumage, while the females wore a more reserved mix of cinnamon, tan and brown. A view toward the outlet of the cove revealed a profile of lonely Rat Island. As I stepped down onto the rocky beach, I enjoyed a scene of rocks and firs in shadow, in contrast to morning’s light on the far shore.

The HHLT website provides more information on this fine property. Spend a few minutes walking here, or take a picnic down on the beach to enjoy this hidden beauty on Orr’s Island. Pack your camera, and leave the stress of the day in your car, because this lovely little park will put you back in touch with the natural beauty all around you.

July 2012