Eastport grants conservation easement on 4-acre parcel to trust

Posted Nov. 19, 2013, at 7:26 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — A proposed conservation easement on a 4-acre parcel owned by the city of Eastport generated both support and opposition among some residents, but it was handily approved by the City Council.

Councilors voted 3-0 last week to grant the easement to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Councilor Colleen Dana-Cummings, who had previously opposed the easement, abstained from voting. Councilor Michael Cummings, who also opposed it, was absent when the proposal came up for a vote on Nov. 13. Councilors Mary Repole, Gilbert Murphy, and Scott Emery voted in favor of granting the easement.

The parcel, undeveloped and with open and forested land, is located on Drummond Road. It has about 900 feet of shorefront on Carrying Place Cove of Cobscook Bay and about 650 feet of frontage on Drummond Road.

The trust, which seeks to conserve coastal lands and islands, requested that the City Council designate the parcel as a multiuse city park and convey a conservation easement to be held by the trust. The city will continue to own the parcel, but the easement permanently conserves the site for public use.

The conservation easement will conserve the attributes of the land while allowing continued public use and access to the water and shoreline, explained trust project manager Marty Anderson by phone on Tuesday.

It will be up to the city to develop any amenities, such as picnic tables, said Anderson.

The nearby 90-acre Shackford Head State Park in Eastport “does serve important uses,” noted Anderson, but “this parcel has served slightly different needs.” For example, it has provided a place where residents can exercise dogs and have access for clamming, he said.

Dana-Cummings abstained from the vote during the Nov. 13 regular City Council meeting because she is an abutting landowner, she said. The easement potentially could benefit the value of her property, she noted. She did not want to be accused of trying to “slip something through the back door,” explained Dana-Cummings in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“I’m torn about it, but I wanted people to know about it,” she said.

Dana-Cummings and Cummings, who are related by marriage, were opposed to the conservation easement because the city owns considerable land, and they favor selling city-owned property in order to put it back on the tax rolls. Dana-Cummings also had questioned the need for a city park because Eastport contains a state park.

Although there was little debate among councilors on Nov. 13, the proposal generated considerable comment from residents at the meeting — both for and against. A number of comments and questions related to the duration of the easement, about “locking the town into something forever,” said Dana-Cummings.

“You can’t change it once you do it,” she said.

Some residents had suggested the easement be limited to a certain period of time, such as 20 years.

“It’s just unfortunate that we commit ourselves forever,” said Dana-Cummings.

Before voting, the council heard from Anderson, who presented information about the request.

The park would provide a place for low-impact outdoor recreation and observing nature, supply access for clamming and worming, and conserve ecologically important habitat for some plants and animals, according to trust documents.

“The current growth indicators for the city and the port make it urgent that the last known piece of available property to support multiple uses be set aside for the long term use of Eastport citizens,” the trust said in its proposal. “As a memorial it will be a unique place dedicated to individual or group remembrance.”

Proposed daytime uses would be limited to picnicking, walking, hiking, access to beach and clam flats, dog exercising, nature observation, boat launching and other low-impact outdoor recreation and marine uses.

The city’s parks committee envisions such facilities as picnic tables and fire rings, a play area for children, dog run, rest rooms, a small group pavilion and parking. The facilities would be paid for by voluntary donations and labor.

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