Rachelle Curran Apse is a Gorham native who most recently managed a successful campaign to open the community-owned Portland Food Co-op
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (PRLT) announced today that it has hired Gorham native Rachelle Curran Apse to be its Executive Director. Apse has worked with a number of Maine environmental non-profit organizations and has a deep commitment to land conservation.
“We are lucky to have someone with Rachelle’s skills, experience, and passion to serve in this important position for our growing land trust,” said PRLT Board President Mike Parker. “She is uniquely equipped to provide leadership to the land trust while it pursues new opportunities to acquire lands along Westbrook’s Mill Brook, coordinate the 28-mile Sebago to the Sea Trail, and steward over a thousand acres already in conservation.”
Apse has worked with a number of Maine environmental non-profit organizations, including Maine Audubon and the Environmental Health Strategy Center. Most recently, she was project manager for the Portland Food Co-op, leading a successful campaign to open a community-owned marketplace that supports a healthier, more sustainable food system. She was instrumental in recruiting over 1,500 new member-owners and raising the $1.6 million in capital funding needed to open the co-op last fall.
“I am excited and honored to serve as the Executive Director of PRLT. Having grown up a nature enthusiast in the heart of the Presumpscot region, I feel a deep connection to the area,” said Apse. “I’ve also seen firsthand the disappearance of many of its open and accessible places, so I understand the urgency to conserve land in what’s become the fastest growing region of the state. I am impressed with what the land trust has already been able to conserve for wildlife, agriculture, and recreation, and excited about its new opportunities. I look forward to helping lead the land trust’s growth into the future.”
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s mission is to conserve and protect outstanding lands in Gorham, Gray, Sebago, Standish, Westbrook, and Windham to preserve the character of the Presumpscot River watershed for the benefit of people and wildlife. Learn more at www.prlt.org.
About fifty members and supporters of PRLT met along Randall Road in Standish under blue skies Saturday to place signs dedicating 482 acres of apple orchards and woodlands to agricultural use forever.
Robert “T-bone” Randall, heir apparent to the farm, represented his father at the event and welcomed those in attendance. Two signs were unveiled at the boundary of the conserved property. One acknowledged the Land for Maine’s Future Program (LMF) for its part in helping to preserve the land. The other, from PRLT, honors the owner and grantor of the conservation easement, Richard Randall, and thanks the many groups and individuals who aided in the transactions necessary to effect the conservation.
Participants then adjourned to the Sebago Room at the Standish Municipal Center for music by Cumberland Crossing band and refreshments from the Frog and Turtle Restaurant, generously underwritten by Norway Savings Bank.
Mike Parker, PRLT President, led a tribute to the many participants and supporters of the five year process. The principle recipient, Dick Randall, sadly, could not be present due to lung problems that restrict his mobility. However, he was frequently depicted, sitting atop his throne-like riding mower, and so remained in the thoughts of those present.
Stephanie Gilbert of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry represented the State of Maine, and its partner agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA,) a co-funder of the Randall Project. She reflected fondly on her first encounter with Dick in 2008 to discuss conserving his farm. Facing him on a vintage wooden glider on his lawn, she was repeatedly asked to “give me a good reason not to do this.” She apparently could not, because Dick recognized the merits and became tenaciously determined to see it through.
LMF Board member, Neil Piper of Gorham, recalled that the Randall Project faced in 2013 the same problem with the delayed release of publicly approved bonds that now confronts about thirty currently approved, but unfunded, LMF projects. He applauded the Randall Project as the largest privately owned agricultural conservation project this close to Portland.
Dick’s flying exploits helped to shape both his vision for his farm and his determination to see it through. While overflying southern Maine during many years of towing banners from his landing strip in Standish, he became aware of the steady conversion of woodlots and meadows to houses and parking lots. He vowed not to let his farm, purchased by his grandfather in 1906 and deeded to him by his father in 1980, succumb to the same development pressures. He says that his vision for what this means for the community matured as the project progressed. He now believes the importance of preserving a source of locally grown food to be as great as perpetuating open space and woodlots.
The airplane also helped define Dick’s remarkable determination. In February, 2011, two years into the project, Dick was severely injured when his Piper PA-12 crashed onto the frozen surface of Sebago Lake in a snow squall. His injuries may have slowed his gait for a time, but he never wavered in his commitment to keep his farm in agriculture.
Parker then paid tribute to Randall’s generosity. “Dick did not consider the proceeds from the conservation easement to be earned income,” he said. “Unlike profits from the sale of apples and other farm products, or compensation from towing banners and dusting crops, Dick did nothing to enhance the development value of land that was passed down to him, and so felt he did not deserve to benefit personally from the sale of its development rights.” Dick often said he “didn’t do this for the money. About half of it,” he noted wryly, “went back to the government in April. I want the rest to benefit others less fortunate, such as our wounded warriors.”
Parker closed by announcing that last December, Dick Randall demonstrated his generosity by donating $100,000 to the PRLT Opportunity Fund, PRLT’s first-ever endowment. “This gift is the result of a strong bond of mutual admiration that has developed between Dick and PRLT over the last half decade,” says Parker. “The proceeds of this fund, combined with Dick’s prior donation for stewardship, will strengthen PRLT substantially into the future and set an example for others.” The fund has been invested with the Maine Community Foundation, a strong supporter of PRLT over many years. “Our board is thrilled with this gift,” he said, “and we look forward to fulfilling our stewardship role at Randall Orchards and our other properties long after our present board members have been supplanted by others, equally committed. This is an exciting time for our growing land trust and we have Dick Randall to thank for much of the excitement.”
Just a quick note to say that the community discussion PRLT hosted with Portland Trails in Westbrook on April 9 was a great success. There was a fantastic turnout of nearly 40 people interested in the future of open spaces in Westbrook, and a great discussion about Portland Trails’ and PRLT’s conservation work in the area, as well as looking forward to the future.
With PRLT’s work on Mill Brook and the Sebago to Sea Trail, we hope to keep the conversation going–and it’s off to a great start! Thanks to everyone who attended.
Coming up is another great Westbrook event! And April 23 discussion in Westbrook about citizen scientist involvement in alewife migration on Mill Brook. Learn more here.
Five miles of trail from Westbrook to Windham on an inactive rail bed will be open to pedestrians once again this summer after being closed for the last couple of years. Get all the details in this article from the the April 2015 Gorham Times.
Looking for something different to do this Valentine’s Day? Here’s something to consider.
Heroes of Humanity is holding Love Quest in Portland from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, February 14. The event–or “mission” as it’s called–is a multimodal race around the city to gather clues that lead to a first-place treasure worth $350 and second-place worth $170. Combining a workout with problem solving, it promises to be a great time. You can compete as an individual or form a team to do different legs of the course.
Even better though is that your participation supports PRLT’s work for conserving land and creating recreation opportunities. In Heroes of Humanity’s events, participants compete for themselves as well as a nonprofit they choose–what they win at the end of the day goes to the organization in equal measure! Another bonus is that participants get a $10 discount off the ticket price and the organization gets a $10 share when you use their nonprofit code.
So, will you be a hero for PRLT? Just register for the event using the code PRLTHEROES to get your $10 discount, and go get that treasure!
PRLT has called the venerable McLellan House home since 1988 when the Town of Gorham offered it on a no-cost lease which allows the land trust to occupy a portion of the building and sub-let the rest, with all proceeds applied to upkeep and utilities. Last spring, in accordance with the lease, the land trust approached the Town citing an estimated $170,000 in necessary repairs that were beyond its financial reach. In response, the Town Council allocated $29,900 toward repairs.
Hoping to find a way to renovate, not simply repair the building, the land trust engaged Christopher Closs of Maine Preservation, an organization devoted to the restoration and renovation of historic buildings in Maine. According to Mr. Closs, when needed maintenance of historic buildings is deferred, there comes a point when the cost of renovation rises sharply and renovation becomes prohibitively expensive. McLellan House has not yet reached that point, he says, but necessary maintenance continues to be deferred.
McLellan House is a registered historic building in a designated historic district of Gorham. Mr. Closs advocates a plan under which such structures in Maine can be granted federal and state tax credits totaling up to 45% of the costs of renovation. Such tax credits are negotiable in financial markets. The terms of these programs require the owner of the building to be a for-profit entity. Neither the Town nor PRLT is eligible. At the December meeting of the Town Council, PRLT recommended the adoption of such a program, conveying Mclellan House to a for-profit entity to do the renovation. The proposal went to workshop where it was favorably received and it is on the Council agenda for February 3, 2015.
If the Council adopts the proposal, the Town will be seeking a commercial entity to acquire McLellan House, renovate it and return it to a remunerative use that would make McLellan House a taxable property for the first time in many years. PRLT has conferred with Gorham resident Sylvanus Doughty, Architect, who is certified in the restoration and renovation of historic buildings. He is prepared to assess what is needed to meet the outcome desired by the renovator, and ensure that the renovation conforms with federal standards under which the tax incentives apply.
This recommendation by the land trust, if adopted, will bring new life to McLellan House and enhance the Historic District of South Street. It will relieve the Town of a maintenance responsibility which is currently lagging. And it will bring the property onto the tax rolls. Only the land trust stands to lose if this plan is adopted. “At a time when PRLT is booming, this may cost us our home in the center of Gorham,” says Michael Parker, PRLT board president, “but the community benefits far outweigh our potential loss. We’ll find a new home if we need to.”
Parties interested in bringing new life to the venerable McLellan House using tax credits as an incentive may notify Gorham Town Manager, David Cole. Anyone knowing of affordable office space in the PRLT service area may write the venerable land trust at PO Box 33, Gorham, Maine, or at info@prlt, or may call the board president at 893-1627.
Sappi has recently finished building a riverside boat launch and parking lot on PRLT-owned Hawkes Property in Gorham–and the updates look fantastic! Read about the project in this story from the latest edition of the Gorham Times.
PRLT is now participating in Amazon Smile! As you do your online shopping, you can choose to have Amazon make a donation–.5% of the cost of eligible items–to the organization of your choice. To choose PRLT, click here. Happy shopping!
Thanks to our volunteers, members, donors, business and foundation partners, 2014 was a year of many victories for Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. You can read the highlights here but they includesuccessfully completing the Randall Orchard Conservation Project and acquiring 50 acres along Mill Brook in Westbrook (with more hopefully to come).
With your support, we look forward to another banner year in 2015. There are many conservation, stewardship and education prospects on tap—we have a lot to do! Here are some of our goals for 2015.
Conserve additional properties and create more recreational opportunities along Mill Brook, including the protection of land neighboring our recently acquired 50 acres, new recreational trails, and more.
Plan and carry out ways to involve our members and friends to celebrate our special places where we are opening new trails, creating recreational opportunities, such as a new boat launch and trail head parking on the Hawkes property.
Redefine our staffing need and a funding strategy to sustain it—paid staff allows us to obtain grants for important projects, coordinate activities along the Sebago to the Sea Trail, facilitate the work of volunteers and carry out our conservation goals for the coming year.
Provide essential stewardship of our growing acreage, establish essential partnerships with neighboring schools and neighbors for education and outreach, and further the conservation of important lands in the area for the environment, recreation, and future generations.
To reach these challenging goals we are seeking $50,000 through individual and business donations. To that goal, our Annual Fund Campaign is most crucial.
Would you consider making a gift of $50, $100, $250 or more to our Annual Fund Campaign? Your gift will not only help fund our operating costs, but will leverage grants and other sources of funding. In other words, your unrestricted investment in our prospects makes our conservation dreams reality.