News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 10, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, May 10, 2018
BHHT to acquire Meadowbrook Forest
2,012 acres in Surry and Ellsworth

Meadowbrook Forest

Blue Hill Heritage Trust plans to buy the 2,012 acre Meadowbrook Forest in Surry and Ellsworth from The Conservation Trust, which acquired the property April 30.

Photo courtesy of Blue Hill Heritage Trust

by Anne Berleant

A former timber forest in Ellsworth and Surry, stretching from Route 1 down towards Ellsworth Road and the Patten Stream wetlands complex, will join the 5,500 acres currently conserved by Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

The 2,012-acre Meadowbrook Forest is one of three parcels purchased April 30 by The Conservation Trust, according to a press release, in a collaborative effort with local and national conservation groups, including Maine Coast Heritage Trust and The New England Forestry Foundation.

“The wetlands in there is magnificent,” BHHT Executive Director Hans Carslon said. The large wetland area also helped secure a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant that will cover 80 percent of the cost, with additional funding from the Anahata Foundation, a private, Connecticut-based organization with local ties.

BHHT will purchase the property from TCT this summer, at which time the price will be made public, Carlson said, with property taxes to be paid to Surry and Ellsworth under the open space tax designation.

“Because it’s mostly wetlands, it’s good property for conservation rather than development,” he said.

About two-thirds of the property lies in Ellsworth and one-third in Surry, but BHHT’s involvement in the conservation effort does not signal an intent on the trust’s part to begin conserving land in Ellsworth, Carlson said.

“It really wasn’t on our radar,” Carlson said. “[The Conservation Trust] came to us.”

Meadowbrook Forest was last timber-harvested 12-13 years ago and already shows new forest growth, he said. Inside are over nine miles of logging roads that are in good shape for hikers, walkers, strollers and bicycles despite the presence of a significant amount of wetlands. The property will be open to hunting and other traditional uses.

The Meadowbrook Forest, combined with acquisition of The Surry Forest, will more than double BHHT’s conservation holdings, and signals a new facet of the trust’s work, dealing with large block forests, Carslon said.

“[BHHT’s growth] started under [former director] Jim [Dow] and really blossomed in the last year,” Carlson said. “A lot of the reason that we’re able to pull off this work is we’re increasingly collaborating with other organizations.”

The two other parcels TCT purchased, all from H.C. Haynes, Inc., which sold BHHT The Surry Forest in 2017, are the 13,799 acre Spring River-Narraguagus Forest property in Ellsworth, which The Nature Conservancy will acquire, and 2,070-acre Venture Brook Forest property in Washington County,to be sold to the New England Forestry Foundation.

BHHT’s acquisition of thousands of acres of forest land means more work for the trust, which has hired forester and wildlife biologist Sandy Walczyk, of the Maine Forest Service.

“I’m very excited about this,” Carlson said. “She’s going to bring some skills to the table.”

BHHT is coordinating with TCT on public access during the transition of ownership. A public meeting on the property and purchase will be held on May 30 at the Surry Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.