Accelerating the typical purchase process from months or years to that of weeks, Scarborough Land Trust permanently protects valuable Nonesuch River frontage and habitat via land auction
On December 17th, the Scarborough Land Trust (SLT) completed the purchase of 55 acres comprised of two parcels neighboring the 156-acre Elaine Stimson Warren Woods Preserve, expanding the preserve and permanently protecting a stretch of the Nonesuch River and valuable floodplain, forested wetlands, and mature forest. “Warren Woods is an area treasure,” said Rick Shinay, SLT’s board president. “It’s an ‘island’ of diverse habitat and wildlife surrounded by development. When an opportunity to grow the island presented itself, we knew it was a gift and that we had to act quickly.” The two parcels add to SLT’s efforts to create a connected wildlife corridor along the Nonesuch River. The protected land also adds to wildlife habitat already conserved within Warren Woods.
“It’s always a good day when we’re able to preserve ecologically-significant and fast-disappearing open land–especially when it’s close to other protected property,” said Andrew Mackie, Executive Director of SLT. “What was particularly gratifying about this acquisition was our ability to meet a remarkably tight timeline to get the job done. Generous community support allowed SLT to put down over half of the purchase price, and we borrowed the rest from our reserve funds–the primary funding source for our operations and stewardship of conserved lands. Our goal is to replenish the fund within the next 12 months to ensure the ongoing health of the properties we’ve protected. That’s going to require significant community support.”
“This is an unprecedented approach for SLT,” Mackie continues. “As we were assessing the properties for protection, both parcels went to auction. We knew that quick, decisive action had to be taken.” SLT enlisted the help of long-time supporter, Tom Ranello of RE/MAX Shoreline, to help navigate the complexities of auction sales. SLT also rushed to complete due diligence items in time for the auction.
With the support of key individual supporters, including four anonymous donors contributing $175,000, the Friends of Scarborough Marsh, and the Fields Pond Foundation, SLT was able to raise 60% of the total price in three weeks. The rest was borrowed from SLT’s reserve funds. “I hand it to the Board of Directors, they took a leap of faith that the community will continue to support land protection efforts and help us repay the $250,000 of borrowed funds,” notes Mackie.
SLT also plans to complete the purchase of a third parcel adjacent to Warren Woods later this month. The 16.5-acre parcel includes 2,800 feet of Nonesuch River shoreline. “We have completed the fundraising for this parcel, thanks to generous support from the current landowner, dozens of supporters in the community, the Town of Scarborough’s Land Bond, Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, and Bass Pro/Cabela’s,” notes Mackie.
The ability to act quickly often determines success in land protection. One of SLT’s near-term goals is to build a significant, dedicated acquisition fund for lands with high ecological, public access, or watershed significance. Without such a fund, SLT needs 12 to 24 months to raise the capital for projects. In addition to these parcels around Warren Woods, SLT is working on properties throughout Scarborough that would increase public access and outdoor recreational opportunities, connect existing conservation lands, secure wildlife habitat and corridors, conserve river frontage, and protect town waters and the Scarborough Marsh.