Maine Coast Heritage Trust is asking for the public's help to ensure that Clark Island, a 175-acre island connected to mainland St. George by a causeway, will be forever open to the public.

The nonprofit organization is trying to raise $4.8 million by March 2020 to acquire 120 acres on the island.

"Many have already stepped up and made generous gifts toward the project. Thanks to a handful of lead donors and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust Board of Directors, there is a dollar-for-dollar match for every gift made for Clark Island up to $2 million," the organization stated.

A link to the donation form is at https://give.mcht.org/clark.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust signed an option to buy the property in March 2017.

Clark Island has been settled since the 1780s and was an active granite quarry. The Deer Isle Granite Corp. sold the property in 1957 to the family whose members still own the island today.

The island's ecological features include intertidal salt marshes, mudflats and beaches, many which are designated as significant wildlife habitats by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Greg Soutiea, who, along with his wife, Lauren, bought the Craignair Inn & Restaurant in December, said he witnesses daily the importance of Clark Island. The inn and restaurant are adjacent to the causeway that leads to the island.

"I see how special the place is to the local community," Soutiea said. He said every day, including in the winter, people walk out onto the island.

He and his wife go there regularly to walk their dogs around the quarries on the island.

The acquisition, Soutiea said, will allow people outside of the local area an opportunity to experience the wonders of Clark Island.

Amanda Devine, the steward for Maine Coast Heritage Trust's properties in the Midcoast, will serve as steward for Clark Island.

She said the first thing that is done when properties are acquired is to create a management plan that will guide what will be done on the island. The plan will take into account the interests of the municipality, the community, neighbors and sensitive natural resources.

"We don't want to turn it into Disneyland, but we want to lay out the welcome mat," Devine said.

There are already hiking trails on the island, but the trust may relocate some of them if they are close to the property of the family who will retain some land on the island. New trails may also be created.

The family that owns the island (consisting of siblings Victoria Tabor, Elizabeth Davis and Christine Morgen) will retain property on the southwest corner of the island where they have a home. In addition, the caretaker's home by the causeway will also remain with the family. Another section of the island already is covered by a conservation easement from U.S. Fish & Wildlife. That area is expected to be restricted to the public if the trust purchases the 120 acres it seeks.

The trust notes that for decades the family that owns Clark Island has allowed visitors to enjoy the sandy beaches, tide pools and trails, and many have done so without realizing access is not guaranteed, that the property could be sold, developed, and closed to the public.

There are two quarries on the island. The larger one, located on the north side of the island, is suited for swimming, particularly on hot August days, Devine said. The trust may install some basic safety measures there, such as making the trail guide visitors to the safest location to swim in the quarry. A rope ladder could also be installed there.

There will be a few signs, but only a few, so as not to create an eyesore, she said.

The trust points out that Clark Island is similar to Mackworth Island in Falmouth or Sears Island in Searsport, one of those rare islands connected by a causeway.​

"You don’t need a boat to experience this marvelous Maine island — and that’s only part of what makes it so special," the trust states on its web page.