BREWER, Maine — One way to ensure that local land used by the public today for hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities is still around a century from now is by placing it in the hands of the Brewer Land Trust, according to the group’s leader.
“The goal of the land trust is to preserve lands within the city of Brewer, or adjacent outlying areas, to keep them open to the public for historic uses,” Tim Brochu, president for the group, said recently. “We want to preserve it so everyone can use it.”
The Brewer Land Trust was quietly founded in 2006 by a small group of residents, who have spent most of the past four years applying for and gaining nonprofit status and creating guidelines for the organization.
“What we’re trying to do now is bring more people in,” Brochu said.
The land trust meets at 3:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at the Brewer Auditorium, and the group’s annual meeting is 3:30 p.m. Dec. 8, for those interested in finding out more.
Members include Brochu, Craig Bailey, head of the membership committee, treasurer Ron Harriman, and members-at-large Janet McIntosh and Bob Shepard.
The land trust would like “to cooperatively protect and preserve the natural and scenic resources of the City of Brewer and State of Maine, [and] encourage open space and green areas,” the group’s website states.
Fostering a trail system that connects public areas and regional trails is another mission of the trust, it states.
Property owners have several avenues when considering transferring their property to a land trust, including selling the land to the trust at fair market or a lesser selling price for a tax benefit, or donating the property outright.
“There is a tremendous tax write-off, which provides an incentive,” Brochu said.
Property owners also can keep their property and protect their lands from future development by establishing a conservation easement, he said.
“We probably have approximately 10 acres that we own and another 20 to 25 acres of land tied up in permanent, perpetual easements,” Brochu said.
With conservation easements the landowner continues to own the land but gives up rights to develop the property in accordance with the terms of the agreement with the land trust. Owners also can establish specific uses for their property.
The Brewer Land Trust purchased 7 acres on the Brewer side of the old Bangor Waterworks dam, just north of the Penobscot Salmon Club and Penobscot County Conservation Association.
“Several developers were looking at it and it took pretty much every penny we had” to purchase it, Brochu said, adding that the trust paid only the city’s assessed property value.
Land trust members would like to create walking trails and a picnic area on the parcel, and remove the remnants of a road down to the dam and the old fish ladder, which is still visible at low tide, he said.
“It’s just a mess,” Brochu said. “In the near future, you’ll probably see something happen there.”
Felts Brook empties into the Penobscot River at the recently purchased site, and protecting the stream is a focus of the land trust, he said.
“The Felts Brook corridor is a really good area to target,” Brochu said. “It has trails, hunting, fishing and [supports] kayaking.”
The Brewer Land Trust also has land on Dirigo Drive allocated to it from Lowe’s, which had to mitigate filling in approximately 1.3 acres of wetlands for its store on outer Wilson Street, Brochu said.
That land swap was done in partnership with city planners, he said, adding, “We’re totally independent of the city other than we work with the city.”
Brewer has an area of 10,106 acres and there is a lot of undeveloped land that could be preserved for future generations, Brochu said.
“We’ve acquired several pieces of property and others with easements,” and are looking for more, he said.