The York Land Trust has long been a wonderful conservation steward, preserving more than 2,100 acres in a beautiful town of ocean, rivers and mountain that has faced tremendous development pressure over the years. It is thanks to the land trust that the public can enjoy such wide ranging properties as the 151-acre Highland Farm Preserve on Cider Hill Road, the iconic “cow field” on the exit road from the Maine Turnpike to Route 1 – now forever preserved – and Sewall’s Dock at Sewall’s Bridge, a Land for Maine’s Future purchase. Now it embarks on yet another ambitious project – in collaboration with a family whose name in York has become synonymous with conservation and generosity of spirit.
At the heart of the collaboration is the late Marion Fuller Brown, who served as Republican state senator from York more than 40 years ago. While there, she was the primary sponsor of Maine’s Returnable Bottle law and Clean Air and Clean Water Act, and of legislation that forever bans billboards in the state. She was a founding member of the Land for Maine’s Future Board, and was tapped by President Richard Nixon to serve on the National Highway Beautification Commission.
This love of conservation and land preservation had its roots at her beloved Rams Head Farm in York, a sprawling 300-plus acre property that encompasses farmland, unparalleled view of the York River and a 220-acre forest that remains in active management today. Over the years under Brown’s careful stewardship, the farm became a model of conservation. A founding member of the land trust, Brown began by donating an easement to the YLT of land around the house and barn. That legacy continued in 2000, when her four children – including daughter Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth, a state senator herself — set aside an easement of 54 prime acres sloping down to the York River.
Now a third opportunity arises for the land trust and the Fuller family to join forces. Fuller Brown’s children want to see their mother’s wish fulfilled – ensuring that the forest, called Fuller Forest, be placed in conservation. Facing their own senior years, the four each have different financial needs and so can not give away the land as they have so generously done in the past. They have agreed to sell the 220-acre tract to the York Land Trust for its assessed value of $850,000 and are giving the YLT three years to purchase it. “It will be a reach, no matter what,” said Executive Director Doreen MacGillis. “With dwindling state and federal funds, it is a serious fundraising challenge. But we all see a vision for this project.” The land trust envisions an accessible parcel close to York Village with walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails and hunting. Moreover, the land provides a key 1,000-acre conservation corridor between York River and Kittery Land Trust property that ends at Brave Boat Harbor.
Voters will be asked to approve $300,000 in May, but the land trust has already embarked on a fundraising campaign. We give this project our wholehearted support. This is York Land Trust at its best – taking on projects that seem almost out reach and finding the funds anyway. Marion Fuller Brown would be proud of this organization she founded, and proud of her children for continuing the legacy she began all those years ago.