A nonprofit organization has until Monday to finish raising $800,000 to purchase a waterfront property in Southport that abuts a public beach.
The group, Land for Southport’s Future, is hoping it can meet its fundraising goal in order to preserve the 3-acre property for public use. The property, which features a watershed, woodlands and an 1820s home, was owned by the late Ruth Gardner and was purchased by the town for $1.25 million in 2013.
The town bought the property solely to preserve public access to Hendrick’s Head Beach. Without a purpose for the home or the land that is not part of the beach, Southport Board of Selectmen Chairman Gerry Gamage said the town has been trying to sell the remainder of the property to help pay off the loan the town used to purchase it.
Nancy Prisk, president and co-founder of Land for Southport’s Future, fears that if the group does not meet its goal on Monday, the uniqueness of the property could be lost to future development.
“If you have a natural space, it should be preserved if it’s meaningful to the community and to the environment rather than looking at the development [opportunities],” Prisk said. “Our goal is to be able to move forward with the purchase and put this property in the hands of the people who will benefit the most from it.”
The organization entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement with the town in December 2017. Prisk said more than 190 donors, largely from Southport, have contributed to the fundraising effort.
She declined to say how much of the $800,000 has been raised, but said they have not yet met the goal.
The property has been on the market for about five years, and Gamage said in that time, town officials have only had one other interested buyer come forward. Aside from Land for Southport’s Future, Gamage said his is not aware of another buyer currently interested in the property.
If Land for Southport’s Future is successful in purchasing the property, Prisk said the land will be owned “in the name of the people of Southport.”
With the Gardner property nestled next to Hendrick’s Head Beach and the Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Hendrick’s Head Trail, buying it for public access would open a number of nature- and education-related opportunities.
Prisk envisions the property as a type of common area for the people of Southport, with the home serving as a place where organizations could hold meetings or offer classes.
“The fragility of this space is just really important. Both socially as well as physically,” Prisk said.
If Land for Southport’s Future is successful in raising the funds by Monday, Prisk said a closing will be scheduled for mid-February.