Rich Knox: Four-Season Island Stewardship
By Doug Warren
Only three wooded acres in size and surrounded by Middle Bay mud flats at low tide, Crow Island might not seem like much to the casual observer. But to Rich Knox, the tiny island has always been “the bees’ knees.”
That’s what Rich’s kids called Crow Island when he would take them there for adventures during their wonder years, and the name stuck. “It was a one-minute boat ride from our home near Simpsons Point in Brunswick,” Rich recalled, “but it was still a world away.”
Crow Island remains a special place for Rich, who serves as a four-season, volunteer steward for the property, which became a Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) Preserve in 2002. He proudly notes that he checks on the island “winter, spring, summer and fall” by paddleboard, canoe, snowshoe and on foot. “Winter is great,” he added. “I enjoy walking on ice over mud.”
Volunteer stewards like Rich perform a vital function for HHLT, helping to manage properties preserved in perpetuity by the land trust.
“HHLT depends upon volunteers like Rich to monitor and maintain our preserves and trails,” said Reed Coles, HHLT executive director. “We all benefit from their dedication for conserving nature’s beauty and wildlife.”
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Rich studied economics in college at Lewis and Clark in Portland, Ore., and landed in Maine in 1987. He rented a house in Brunswick’s historic Pennellville neighborhood and first walked to Crow Island from Simpson’s Point in 1988. “I didn’t know anything about conservation back then,” he admitted. After earning a master’s in communications, Rich worked for Central Maine Power before joining Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), the state’s largest land trust, 15 years ago. Today, he serves as MCHT’s director of communications – and he knows a lot about conservation.
He utilizes that knowledge in his care of Crow Island. The preserve, which is part of the Maine Island Trail system, has a small, natural harbor on the south end with a raised, level campsite that can accommodate up to six people with tents. No open fires are allowed, and dogs must be leashed from April 15 to July 31 to protect nesting birds.
Rich says his duties largely involve keeping the island clean of floating debris, maintaining the campsite and picking up after hunters, who sometimes leave shells behind and occasionally cut live trees to form blinds. There is an osprey nest on the northeast corner of the island and aptly named Crow Island is visited by a wide variety of wildlife, including eagles, egrets and eiders.
Rich Knox is happy to have a role in keeping Crow Island (aka “the bees’ knees”) a tiny, green gem in Middle Bay. “For me, it’s a passion,” he said. “I love the place and the role of volunteer steward is a pleasure and an honor.”