$2.35 million conservation deal prevents development of heart-shaped Brooksville island

Harbor Island, seen here from above, was purchased recently by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust for $2.35 million. The island, home to just one cottage on its south side, will be preserved for conservation.
Chris Pinchbeck | MCHT
Harbor Island, seen here from above, was purchased recently by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust for $2.35 million. The island, home to just one cottage on its south side, will be preserved for conservation.
Posted Jan. 21, 2013, at 5:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 21, 2013, at 6:11 p.m.

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BROOKSVILLE, Maine — Maine Coast Heritage Trust has purchased a 22-acre heart-shaped island in Brooksville.

The group bought the island from the Kurt and Waller families for about $2.35 million, according to Senior Project Manager Ciona Ulbrich.

In a news release announcing the sale, dated Jan. 15, the company said about $1.5 million was secured in about two months through grants and private donations, with the remainder financed through a loan.

Local land trusts in Blue Hill and Brooksville have had the island on their priority list for protection because of fears the island may become developed, which some say would detract from the cove’s charm.

Ulbrich said in an interview Monday that the purchase did serve an ecological goal, but that the primary motivation for conservation was aesthetic. The island is situated in the middle of Buck’s Harbor, a small cove along Eggemoggin Reach. It is a central landmark in the view for the properties around the cove, including the Buck’s Harbor Marina and the Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club.

“This island is so-center stage to Buck’s Harbor that [development] would just change the whole character of the place,” she said.

Unlike many islands, Ulbrich said, soil on Harbor Island could easily have accommodated a sizable amount of development. The island has been listed for a couple years, which Ulbrich said made its future uncertain, so local conservation groups in Blue Hill and Brooksville had made conservation of the island a priority.

“We are thrilled to have secured a conservation outcome for this island in spite of the odds,” Ulbrich wrote.

Franklin Kurt bought the island in 1927 to save it from being logged for pulp, Ulbrich said. Kurt’s sister married into the Waller family, and the island was held in trust by several members of both families, Ulbrich said.

The island was listed through the real estate firm LandVest for $3.85 million, according to a listing on that company’s website. The Kurts and Wallers saw the island’s future as their chance to leave their mark on the region, Ulbrich said.

“The family really believes in our goal here, and that’s how we could get to the difference in purchase price,” she said. “This is part of that family’s legacy.”

Terry Sortwell, regional manager for LandVest’s office in Camden, said the company is pleased with the sale, despite taking $1.5 million less than the listed price.

“The island has been owned by one family for nearly a hundred years, and they wanted to preserve its natural beauty for future generations,” he wrote in a Jan. 8 post on his company’s website. “This sale to MCHT means the island will be protected in perpetuity. It’s an ideal outcome for everyone.”

Ulbrich said MCHT is reaching out to the town of Brooksville and local residents for suggestions on conservation options for the property, which could include public access.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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