2014-10-31 / Letters

Criticism of trust is unwarranted

To the editor:

I am writing to you to counter the criticism of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust that has been received from abutters and neighbors regarding the trust’s proposal now before the Kennebunkport Planning Board to construct an educational, scientific and nature interpretation facility on the site of the former Grist Mill in Kennebunkport.

I am not addressing the pros or cons of this project because how the ordinances and the law are to be applied will be determined by the Kennebunkport Planning Board.

But during the process, the integrity of the executive director has been called into question on several public occasions and in letters and emails. In addition, there have been public and private statements made that the trust “has lost its way.” The criticism is sounding more and more like a current political dirty ad campaign.

Tom Bradbury, executive director, is one of the most honest and plain-spoken persons that I have known. He has always had the interest of the citizens of Kennebunkport foremost in the trust’s actions. His actions over the past 40 years have proven that out. Criticism of him personally is totally unwarranted.

The trust’s mission is simple and is as follows: “The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust is dedicated to preserving land for use by current and future generations and to manage properties that reflects the natural and cultural heritage of Kennebunkport.”

So, this brings me to the second criticism of the trust that “we have lost our way.”

“We have lost our way?

– The trust has over 2,200 acres of land in perpetual conservation with over 20 miles of beautifully maintained trails available for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and for just enjoying nature — used by thousands of people each year.

– The trust owns almost all of the islands in Cape Porpoise and has those available for camping, boating, hiking and other activities. The islands are maintained by a volunteer cadre of island stewards that make sure the islands are safe, clean and properly used — enjoyed by thousands of people each year.

– One of the original visions of the trust back in the 1970s was that people would be able to walk from the ocean in Kennebunkport to the Biddeford town line by using trails on preserved land. That vision is very near to being a reality.

– The trust was one of the principal participants in the effort to preserve Timber Point from development – another project coordinated by many organizations that was successful.

– Educational programs established with local schools and state educators have resulted in over 1,000 students participating in educational programs that include field trips, nature speakers and hands-on study of nature, preservation and the environment.

– Every year the trust provides two weeks of Discovery Days for children ages 5 and up who are provided with a myriad of interesting programs in which to participate. The instructors are volunteers with incredibly diverse backgrounds that want to teach what they know about nature, archaeology, physics, the environment and hands on experimentation, or simply to make crafts.

– The trust provides many programs for adults from geology to birding to the study of flora and fauna and many other topics.

– The trust’s headquarters on the Emmons Preserve provides outstanding meeting and function space to nonprofit organizations at no cost.

– The trust’s purchase of the Village Green ensured that space would be available in town for public meetings, and it is also available for the use by nonprofits at no cost. It is also the home of Ganny’s Garden – a tribute to Barbara Bush – that was paid for and is maintained by donations made by Barbara Bush’s friends and family.

– The trust accepted the gift of the Goat Island Light Station in the late ‘90s. From 2006 through 2011 the trust volunteers obtained numerous permits that were necessary in order to properly restore the light station to its 1950s state, and this beautiful part of Kennebunkport’s heritage was completely restored by 2012. This will remain a safety beacon for our fishermen and a must-visit destination for locals and tourists.

– The trust completely restored the Clem Clark building on its property on Mill Lane, an important part of our boatbuilding heritage, and it continues to be preserved.

– The trust’s acquisition of the Mill Lane property resulted in the creation of one of only two areas in the town for the public to access to the water.

– A volunteer spent two years restoring the Steve Emmons house that is a great example of early 1800 building techniques and materials.

– The trust received an early bequest of the Chuck and Susan Lahey property on Route 9. The house and the property leading to the Batson River will be preserved in perpetuity. An anonymous benefactor has provided funds for perpetual maintenance of the property.

– The trust operates with only three paid employees but with many volunteers. In addition to the executive director there is a paid person responsible for administration and a paid person directing the educational programs.

Board members and trustees, volunteers – including UNE and Kennebunk High School students, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, numerous corporate group volunteers and many other groups and individuals – give their time freely.

– The trust has no debt and the maintenance and operations of all properties are supported by endowments established through member donations and the investment income from those donations that are managed by a local volunteer group of retired finance and investment experts.

Some people may say that we have lost our way but, if so, why does it feel so darn good to be lost?

Mike Weston, board member
and volunteer
Kennebunkport Conservation Trust

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