A sign warns visitors to keep off the marsh grass at Stover’s Point Preserve. (PHOTO COURTESY TIM MCCREIGHT)
BY TIM MCCREIGHT, VICE PRESIDENT, HARPSWELL HERITAGE LAND TRUST
It’s interesting to think about the changes that have taken place since Capt. John Stover built his house near the point that would eventually bear his name. At that time, the slopes were covered in tall trees that yielded valuable wood for masts, lumber and firewood. Once the land was cleared and the stumps pulled out by oxen, the land could be used for farming for personal use and selling to Brunswick and other nearby markets.
Through all the changes from those days until now, the hard-packed gravel of Stover’s Point has remained largely unchanged. The people of Harpswell can be grateful to the generous private citizens who donated the 4.2 acres of Stover’s Point to The Nature Conservancy in 1969. Two years later, that organization passed it along to the Harpswell Garden Club, which cared for the beloved property for 29 years before passing along care and stewardship to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust in 2000.
The stated mission of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust is to “preserve and protect Harpswell’s natural resources, cultural heritage, and access to the outdoors.” Some may argue that the best way to protect Harpswell’s natural resources is to leave land and shore untouched except by the plants and animals that live there. However, access to the outdoors for humans is also a core part of the mission and equitable access comes with accessible information and passable roads. These two objectives can be at odds with each other and a middle ground must be found. In a way, that is the very definition of the work of land trusts.
This is a difficult needle to thread, as seen at the national parks, including Maine’s own treasure, Acadia, where crowds of people converge to get away from, well, crowds of people. For the last several years, HHLT has pursued a gentle approach at Stover’s Point through signage, sheriff’s visits to enforce the dusk-to-dawn ban on vehicles, and a beach monitor to educate users and encourage them to follow parking, pet and other commonsense rules. For a variety of reasons, HHLT is now reexamining this light-touch approach.
After careful consideration and discussions with neighbors of the preserve, HHLT has decided to create a pedestrian-only section at the tip of the slim peninsula. This area is the most fragile and the first to suffer from damage to seagrass and marine life.
Other related steps include new signs to remind visitors of the preserve guidelines, updated brochures and web content and a new guideline requesting that visitors do not walk on the marsh grass. In addition, the staff monitor’s hours have been increased, providing a friendly and knowledgeable person to explain the glories (and courtesies) of Stover’s Point Preserve.
For more information about Stover’s Point Preserve and the changes taking place there, go to hhltmaine.org or contact Executive Director Reed Coles at 207-721-1121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.