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Success at Otter Brook for HHLT and for Harpswell 2017

By Ed Robinson

Thanks to widespread community support, 68 acres along Otter Brook will be conserved for wildlife, clean water and future generations. (Rob Bryan photo)

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) has completed a major fundraising project to create a new 68 acre Otter Brook Preserve. In keeping with more than 30 years of conservation efforts in town, this property will be kept forever wild as a haven for wildlife and as a place of enjoyment for future generations of Harpswell residents and visitors.

Otter Brook is one of the larger freshwater streams in our community. Starting near Mountain Road, it flows north through forested uplands and marshes before draining into Ewing Narrows. The diversity of habitat, plants and wildlife is unusual for Harpswell, making this an important area for conservation.

After a year of fundraising, HHLT owes a big thank you to local citizens for their support. Clearly Harpswell’s residents treasure the wild and scenic places that make our town special. From the pristine islands of Casco Bay to the shores of Otter Brook to the high forested ridges flanking Long Reach, we are blessed with diverse habitat for humans and wildlife alike.

Funding for the Otter Brook project came from local individuals, small foundation grants and a $75,000 contribution from the town, which was approved by voters at our last Town Meeting. In total, HHLT raised $550,000 for the project, which covers acquisition and funding to care for the property and trails into the future.

The Otter Brook project supports the goals set out in Harpswell’s Open Space Plan, which seeks to protect the character of our town through preservation of critical natural areas, while also allowing for future residential and commercial growth.

The Otter Brook Focus Area is one of 12 identified in the Open Space Plan, and it provides important habitat for wildlife, including warblers, whitetail deer, bald eagles and fishers. This area is also vital for the protection of freshwater and marine resources, and it drains into Upper Middle Bay, Ewing Narrows, and Harpswell Cove, with important shellfish flats.

It is appropriate to thank the landowners who agreed to sell these properties to HHLT, since they clearly had other options. Fortunately they believe in protecting special places and securing public use of the land for generations to come.

The new Otter Brook Preserve will provide future generations with many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and learn about nature. HHLT’s Nature Day Camp learned about Otter Brook, and the bugs and toads that live there, this summer. (Curt Chipman photo)

The Otter Brook Preserve will offer many recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors. It is estimated that the new preserve will support up to 1.5 miles of trails. Besides hiking, the trail network will allow for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Folks who enjoy birding and wildlife viewing will find opportunities to observe and photograph their favorite species. Campers participating in HHLT’s Nature Day Camp will explore the stream and learn about the bugs and frogs and toads that live there. The new Otter Brook Preserve will be a community resource for generations to come.

HHLT plans to open Otter Brook in 2017 once parking and other arrangements are completed, and the Land Trust welcomes community feedback as plans are made for trails and public access. Contact Reed Coles with comments at info@hhltmaine.org or 207-721-1121.

Click here for more information about the Otter Brook Project.