The Maine Coast Heritage Trust received a major boost this week in its $4.8 million fundraising campaign to preserve an island located just off the St. George peninsula.
The land trust, in partnership with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants Program.
The grant is specifically directed to go toward a conservation project the land trust launched last year in St. George to preserve privately owned, but publicly used, Clark Island. The 170-acre island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and features sandy beaches, a rocky coastline, thick spruce forests, a large quarry and miles of trails.
With the Clark Island fundraising campaign being one of the largest that the land trust has undertaken, Maine Coast Heritage Trust project manager Steve Walker said the federal grant is making folks feel optimistic that Clark Island will be preserved for future generations.
“It should inspire the rest of the campaign moving forward,” Walker said. ”It certainly boosted our confidence and we’re looking forward to a productive summer.”
For decades, the family that owns Clark Island has allowed for the public to wander onto the island to enjoy its beaches and trails.
As the current generation of landowners — three sisters who inherited the island from their father — looked toward the future of the island, they wanted to ensure generations of their family and the public would be able to keep enjoying Clark Island.
Three years ago, the family approached the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and asked if the organization would be interested in acquiring a portion of the island with the intention of preserving it for future use.
The land trust negotiated a purchase agreement with the current landowners and has until about the end of the year to raise the $4.8 million necessary to acquire the island and establish a fund for its conservation.
Including the $1 million federal grant, to date, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has raised more than $3.5 million.
Walker said the prominence and local awareness of Clark Island has propelled the fundraising campaign thus far.
In a news release announcing the grant funding, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, also touched on how well-known Clark Island is to people in the St. George area.
“Clark Island is a wonderful treasure on Maine’s coast and is readily accessible to the general public. This means that generations of Maine visitors have been able to appreciate and experience Clark Island,” Pingree said.
Walker said Maine Coast Heritage Trust will be holding an open house on the island in August.
“We have doors to knock on and work to do, but we’re pretty confident we make it to the end,” he said.