Protecting Otter Brook for Our Future

Residents of Harpswell, and our visitors, value the wild and scenic places throughout our town.  From the pristine islands of Casco Bay to the forested ridges of Long Reach Preserve, we are blessed with diverse habitat for humans and wildlife alike.  Protecting the special places in our town has been the focus of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) for more than 30 years.  Working with local landowners, HHLT is now focused on conserving vital undeveloped land along Otter Brook in North Harpswell.

Otter Brook Corridor Focus Area Location 11 17 15The owners of two separate parcels comprising 68 acres with 3300’ feet of frontage along the west side of Otter Brook have offered to sell their land to HHLT in order to protect the natural habitat forever, preserve its role in protecting the valuable shellfish flats of Ewing Narrows and Harpswell Cove, and provide permanent public access for hunting, hiking, and other outdoor recreation.

In March 2009, the voters of Harpswell adopted an Open Space Plan to protect the natural and historic character of our town through the preservation of critical land and marine resources.  While allowing for future growth, the Plan identified 12 Focus Areas across the town as priorities for conservation efforts.  Town officials, the Harpswell Conservation Commission, local citizens, and HHLT worked together to identify these areas.

One of those Focus Areas the Otter Brook Corridor, plays a vital role in protecting important shellfish flats and marine water quality in Middle Bay, Ewing Narrows and Harpswell Cove.  It also provides valuable wildlife habitat and an important wildlife travel corridor from the Brunswick border all the way south to Mill Cove on Harpswell Sound.  This area is important for our town’s fishing community, tourism economy, wildlife, and those who enjoy spending time outdoors.

Otter-Brook-smallLocated within the Focus Area between Route 123 and Hildreth Road, Otter Brook is one of the larger freshwater streams in our community.  Starting at the Mountain Road, it flows north through forested uplands and marshes and empties into the upper end of Ewing Narrows.  The brook’s broad diversity of freshwater habitat, plants and wildlife is unusual for Harpswell, making this a particularly valuable area for conservation.   The undeveloped land along the brook offers important security cover and feeding areas for many species, both resident and migratory, including warblers, bald eagles and fishers.

In 2013, the Town granted HHLT a conservation easement of 12 undeveloped acres on the east side of the stream as a first step in conserving Otter Brook’s contribution to our town.  Now we have a chance to take a critical second step.

A major fundraising effort– including requests to individuals, foundations, and the town–will be required to acquire these properties, similar to the successful efforts to secure the Johnson Field Preserve on Bailey Island and the Skolfield Shores Preserve in North Harpswell which drew hundreds of donations from across our community.

In coming months, HHLT will be sharing a great deal of information about this project with the community through news articles and public meetings as it embarks on a campaign to seize the opportunity to protect these important properties before they are sold for development.

You will have the opportunity to learn more about the land itself, its wildlife, its importance to a clean marine environment, and the potential for public use into the future.  If you would like more information, please contact HHLT’s Executive Director Reed Coles at 207-721-1121 or info@hhltmaine.org.