2012-11-30 / Community

Land trust celebrates a job well done

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH - The 63.6 acre property along Shore Road known as Robinson Woods II has been at the top of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust’s priority list for nearly five years.

Now, the trust can finally check this goal off its list. Earlier this month, the land trust finalized a $1.2 million purchase of Robinson Woods II that will preserve the land for public use for years to come.

“We get one chance to do these deals,” said Chris Franklin, executive director of the land trust at a reception to celebrate the purchase on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

“More than any other project we really had to rely on our community and get local donations. We didn’t get a ton of state money and outside money.”

The town of Cape Elizabeth appropriated $350,000 for the purchase of the land, with the condition that the land trust include a public easement. The remaining $850,000 came from private donations the land trust raised in 18 months.

Town Council Chairman Sara Lennon said the donations show Cape residents prioritize public land acquisition. She said it was one of the most “uncontroversial” issues she had come across in her time as a councilor.

“It’s what sets Cape apart from most of our neighboring towns, and it preserves our property values, so it’s a win all around,” Lennon said.

Robinson Woods II includes 12 acres of fields and five acres of ponds in what Franklin called a “Classic New England property.”

Ted Darling, former president of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, now co-chairman of its stewardship committee, called the land “A largely undisturbed natural habitat with rustic hiking trails.

“It’s beautiful,” Darling said.

The parcel of land is directly adjacent to Robinson Woods I, a 79-acre piece of land the land trust bought from owner John Robinson in 2001. The addition of the second parcel means just a small portion of the trail that leads from Fort Williams Park to Kettle Cove remains privately owned, which was an important factor for the land trust when it set the acquisition of Robinson Woods II as its top priority years ago.

Franklin did not say what the land trust’s next big project would be now that the Robinson Woods II purchase is final, but he did say the land trust would continue to pursue public easements and land conservation.

“We have the political will, we have the community support, we have the financial support. All the elements are here now, and we have the land. All the ingredients are here and it’s rare that they all align,” Franklin said.

The most recent piece of Robinson Woods came from John Robinson’s four nephews. The brothers still have connections to Cape Elizabeth, but now are spread out in New York, Hong Kong and other cities all over the world. Franklin said the family had many options when considering who to sell their land to, but decided they wanted to keep public access.

Darling said it didn’t hurt that the land trust had successfully made the deal years earlier with the Robinsons’ uncle, and the two sides had built up a sense of trust before going into the deal. The Robinson family has owned property in Cape Elizabeth for more than 200 years.

The land trust had a deadline of November 2012 to raise necessary funds to complete the deal, and was able to do so thanks to the help of hundreds of donors. Many of those donors attended the reception at Ram Island Farm Tuesday to enjoy refreshments and snacks, and to celebrate the land trust’s purchase.

Linda Burke, who lives right next to a section of Robinson Woods II on Old Colony Road, was one of those donors. She’s next door, but she said the property is really “everyone’s backyard” because it’s open to anyone who wants to visit.

She said the property has special significance to her family. Her son, Skyler, 8, made a donation separately from the rest of the family to remember his brother, Hunter, who died in 2008 from a rare disease called Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Linda Burke said the Robinson Woods property was a place her family could relax and be “peaceful,” and Skyler singled out a waterfall in the woods he especially enjoys. She said the conservation project is great for residents like her who can enjoy the property now, but she is particularly happy for her son’s generation, who will be able to visit it for years to come.

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