Land for Maine’s Future (and Your Present)
Linda and I were exploring the south end of Lubec, as far Down East as you can go in this country, on the sunny morning of August 10, one of those rare gems when the fog has taken a day off, and we stumbled onto something amazing behind the town’s water treatment plant: a boardwalk and beach trail provided by the Land for Maine’s Future program.
I’ve been a very active supporter of LMF but didn’t know this particular trail was available. It took us out onto an immense sand bar and all through an adjacent wetland. The trail ended at a school.
We’d set out that morning from our rental cabin at Island Chalet on Campobello Island, a bit of Canadian paradise, to explore another birding trail suggested in Bob Duchesne’s Maine Birding Trail guide book: Boot Head Preserve. We were delayed in getting to Boot Head by all the birds behind the water treatment plant.
Conservation lands are abundant in Washington County, something my Nana Searles could never have imagined when she was packing sardines in downtown Lubec. There are no sardine-packing plants left there but the town has a new flavor to it, depressed for sure, but on the way up thanks to birdwatchers, music lovers, and other visitors who flock here in the summer.
If you are not a birdwatcher, it’s worth the trip to sample the incredibly tasty candy at Monica’s Chocolates. And the town library is a gem too. But I digress.
Duchesne, Maine’s preeminent birding guide and a Maine legislator, guided our family the previous Friday morning to a number of good birding spots in Campobello and Lubec. But it was on the sandbar in South Lubec, splashing along in our LL Bean wellies within sight of the place my Mom grew up and only a short ways from West Quoddy Head Light where my grandfather Ephraim Johnson kept the light for three decades, that Linda and I reached Birders’ Nirvana.
Bob claimed the sandbar was the best place in Maine to see migrating shorebirds and he did not exaggerate. The bar was purchased by The Nature Conservancy and is now in the ownership of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. We own it.
But the birds rent space there, by the thousands, from early August to mid-September, on their way south. We spotted, with Bob’s help, an amazing array of shorebirds, including several species we’d never seen before. There were sandpipers (semi-palmated, white-rumped, and least), plovers (semi-palmated and black-bellied), whimbrel’s with fanstastic beaks, greater and lesser yellowlegs, shortbilled dowitchers, tons of gulls (herring, black-backed, and boneparte), a bald eagle and lots more. Back in the adjacent wetland, we saw our very first Savanah and Nelson’s sparrows.
I wish so much my Mom was alive so I could ask her: did you know what an amazing place this is when you were growing up there? Did you notice all these birds?
I’m thankful to Maine’s conservation community for protecting this very special place.
We finally made it to Boot Head, another conservation gem purchased and protected by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. It’s a 690-acre preserve encompassing spruce/fir forest, peat bog, rocky coast, and a gorgeous pebble beach. From the cliffs of Boot Head, well, let me just say it’s jaw-dropping beautiful. And of course, full of birds.
Boot Head is just past Hamilton Cove, another conservation trail, and only a few miles from the Bold Coast public lands that are what Acadia National Park must have been like before it got discovered.
And these are just a few of the amazing conservation lands in Lubec – not to mention the huge amount of conservation land owned by state, federal, and nonprofit entities in Washington County, not to mention the international park on Campobello Island, where Linda and I can spend entire afternoons enjoying gorgeous beaches without seeing a dozen people. Sometimes we can sit for hours on a mile-long beach and see no one.
The conservation of Maine’s best places has brought Maine people together like no other cause. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, for which I work, and the Maine Audubon Society, have been very active allies in campaigns to secure funding for the Land for Maine’s Future Program. The two groups have been featured, together, in TV ads in the last two LMF bond issue campaigns.
But it is the nonprofit community, led by The Nature Conservancy and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, that have provided most of the money and leadership to protect our best places. The Nature Conservancy owns a huge chunk of the North Woods and MCHT is the leading conservation owner of coastal property. There are numerous guides and websites that offer information about these conservation lands, but often, you just stumble onto them, like Linda and I did behind Lubec’s water treatment plant.
That trail is just down the street from Monica’s Chocolates: now there’s a combination that anybody could appreciate and enjoy!