News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 17, 2013
MCHT purchases Harbor Island for $2.35 million
Raises initial $1.5 million through “phone tree”

Harbor Island, a 22-acre island in Buck’s Harbor

Maine Coast Heritage Trust announced its purchase of Harbor Island, a 22-acre heart-shaped island in Buck’s Harbor, for $2.35 million.

Photo courtesy of Chris Pinchbeck

by Anne Berleant

Maine Coast Heritage Trust announced its recent purchase of Harbor Island in the center of Buck’s Harbor on Eggemoggin Reach. The cost of the 22-acre island was $2.35 million, of which $1.5 million was raised through pledged private donations and grants.

Maynard Forbes, interim president of the Conservation Trust of Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot, said around $1.3 million was raised through more than 30 individual donors from Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club and community members, with former commodore John Eysenbach instrumental in making contacts for the fundraising effort.

“The Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club…looks out on the island [and] a good portion of the local community in Buck’s Harbor is somehow involved in the yacht club,” said Forbes, in a phone call after the announcement.

“We essentially had a phone tree …people talked to their neighbors and mostly had them call me,” said Ciona Ulrich, MCHT senior project manager. Blue Hill Heritage Trust also contributed to the fundraising effort.

In addition, the Pew Charitable Trusts awarded a significant matching grant, one of three foundations who helped MCHT reach the $1.5 million mark.

MCHT secured a loan for the remaining $850,000. “Like any normal homeowner,” Ulrich said, “You try and get a mortgage.”

Paying off that mortgage is not so simple, however. Ulrich outlined two scenarios, one that raises enough local funds for MCHT to own the island outright, and one that has the trust place a permanent conservation easement on the island and then selling land for private ownership.

“This is where this project gets really complicated because it’s at an early stage,” she said.

A conservation easement can include public use of the land, Ulrich said. “There are a lot of ‘ifs’ that way. My board hasn’t voted on it. It’ll come together in a few months.”

If there’s enough local interest in the community, “then there’s funding options,” she said. “Either way the island is going to be conserved.”

According to MCHT’s press release, the Trust will have a “final conservation outcome, hopefully within six months.”

“Having it owned outright by MCHT and controlled as a conservation preservation, that’s the best,” Forbes said.

Harbor Island has been owned for nearly a century by the Kurt and Waller families, who bought the island in 1927 to save it from being logged for pulp. It had been for sale with LandVest for a couple of years, “which made its future a real unknown,” according to the MCHT press release

“Harbor Island is what makes Buck’s Harbor,” said Forbes. “The project is a positive thing for the Buck’s Harbor area.”