Conservation-recreation corridor expands on Cathance River

Posted Nov. 06, 2013, at 10:37 a.m.
Angela Twitchell
Courtesy of Peter Greeno
Angela Twitchell
Ann Flannery (from left), the former landowner of a 29-acre parcel of land in Topsham recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, looks at a map of the land while surveying the property with Julie Isbill of the National Park Service.
Courtesy of Angela Twitchell
Ann Flannery (from left), the former landowner of a 29-acre parcel of land in Topsham recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, looks at a map of the land while surveying the property with Julie Isbill of the National Park Service.
Moss covers one of the of several historical, man-made quarries on a 29-acre parcel in Topsham recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust on the Cathance River.
Courtesy of Angela Twitchell
Moss covers one of the of several historical, man-made quarries on a 29-acre parcel in Topsham recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust on the Cathance River.
The Cathance River can be seen from a 29-acre parcel of land in Topsham that was recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to be conserved. The trust plans to build trails on the land in the future.
Courtesy of Angela Twitchell
The Cathance River can be seen from a 29-acre parcel of land in Topsham that was recently acquired by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to be conserved. The trust plans to build trails on the land in the future.

TOPSHAM, Maine — The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust recently acquired 29 acres that will expand its conservation-recreation corridor along the Cathance River, a project the trust has been working on for more than 10 years.

“Outdoor recreation-wise, it’s really unique,” said Angela Twitchell, executive director of the trust. “The surrounding land is well developed, but when you’re out on the river or hiking along it, there’s very little development to be seen. It feels remote.”

The trust worked with landowners Ann Flannery and Patty Olds to conserve the property, which is located on the western shore of the Cathance River’s tidal section and is valued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing tidal waterfowl and wading bird habitat.

The important natural area is the seventh parcel the land trust has conserved along the river.

“The Cathance River is one of the highest conservation priorities for the land trust for many reasons,” Twitchell said.

The Cathance flows into the Kennebec Estuary, one of Maine’s most significant natural areas and the second largest estuary on the east coast. The Kennebec Estuary contains 20 percent of the state’s tidal marshes and provides critical habitat for a variety of fish, waterfowl and other species.

“We’ve been piecing together a number of properties along the river,” Twitchell said. “Some of them are small — 4-acre parcels that connect larger properties — and some are as big as 230 acres.”

Acquisition of the new 29-acre parcel — which the trust currently refers to as the Flannery property — was funded by the Merrymeeting Bay Trust and the North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program, with support from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Many times, the landowner wants the property named after them,” Twitchell said. “But in this particular instance, the landowner wasn’t interested. So we’re working with the local historic preservation group to do some research into the history to come up with a name.”

“Our management vision for this property is to protect its important wetland and riparian habitat, allow for natural processes to take place, and to develop a trail system for passive recreation so the public can enjoy this lovely outdoor area,” the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust stated in a recent press release.

The land trust already has completed 7 miles of trails along the Cathance River on previously conserved property.

The timeline for trail construction on the Flannery property has yet to be determined, Twitchell said. The property, accessed off Cathance Road, contains hemlocks, oaks, northern hardwoods, 900 feet of shore frontage and a small but rare hardwood seep. And while it is undeveloped today, there is evidence of past human use, including multiple quarries and a large mining seam 25 feet deep and 200 feet long.

“Quartz and feldspar was a big industry historically on the Cathance River,” Twitchell said. “There was a feldspar mill farther up the Cathance, and many quarries in Topsham contributed to the feldspar trade.”

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust was founded in 1985 to conserve the diversity of the natural heritage of Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoin. Through land acquisitions and easements, the trust has conserved approximately 1,900 acres to date.

For information about the trust, visit www.btlt.org or call 729-7694.

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