Maine Coast Heritage Trust announced that it has purchased and conserved Ash Island in Owls Head with the help and enthusiastic support of the Owls Head and Muscle Ridge communities.

The island is a natural jewel of woods, fields and striking granite shores in the Muscle Ridge Channel, lying just 800 feet off the coast and visible from Spruce Head to Owls Head Light. It has long been a popular destination for picnickers and small boaters.

“It was a privilege to work with the Owls Head community to conserve Ash Island,” said Betsy Ham, MCHT’s land protection project manager for the Midcoast, in a news release. “The level of dedication and enthusiasm demonstrated through this community campaign to save the island is an inspiration.”

In 2009, Ash Island’s longtime owner, Shirley Frost, decided to sell the property. Because Frost wanted the island to remain natural, she contacted MCHT and agreed to a price below market value as long as the funds could be raised by the end of 2009. In September a committee of local community members, led by John Hufnagel of Owls Head, was formed to support the initiative. Noted Maine artist Eric Hopkins assisted by contributing the use of an image of one of his paintings of Ash Island for promotional materials.

Hufnagel said he was “overwhelmed by the passion people expressed for the island and by the community support the project generated.”

While Ash Island was once targeted for resort development, it has remained largely undeveloped for the past century, and people wanted to keep it that way. Among 800 individuals the committee contacted, nearly every person expressed approval, and more than 140 made donations — including elementary school children, fishermen and members of the Owls Head Garden Club.

The newly conserved island will be open to the public and accessible to small boaters from Birch Point State Park.

“Ash Island is a big part of the natural beauty that sustains us and keeps us here,” Hufnagel said. “We didn’t want to let that beauty slip through our fingers.”