Matching grant spurs fundraising

Island acquisition could complement waterfront park development

May 1 deadline
By Beth A. Birmingham | Feb 13, 2018
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Dick Carver of the Owls Head Harbor Committee, right, points out where the proposed Harbor Park will be developed. Also shown are Steve Walker, left, and David Warren of Maine Coast Heritage Trustm which is in the midst of a fundraiser to help acquire Monroe Island to add to the project's vision.

Owls Head — Two separate projects being negotiated in Owls Head could result in a recreational boon for the town's waterfront.

Thanks to the offer of a matching grant, Maine Coast Heritage Trust is one step closer to acquiring Monroe Island, located just across Muscle Ridge Channel in Owls Head.

The 225-acre island is one of the largest undeveloped islands in the Midcoast, according to MCHT, a group that has been working with the town on its Harbor Park project.

The owners of the island, Monroe Island Trust, approached MCHT to seek interest in purchasing and maintaining it.

A substantial portion of the $1,900,000 goal has already been met by a bequest from former Spruce Head resident and artist Marilyn Cameron Noel, who asked that her gift be used to purchase an entire island and have it left forever in its natural state.

"Thanks to a challenge grant from the Partridge Foundation, we [MCHT] are offering a dollar-for-dollar match on every dollar raised from the local community for Monroe Island -- up to $150,000 -- for a total contribution to the project of $300,000," David Warren of MCHT said in an informal presentation Feb. 9.

The vision goes hand in hand with the proposed Owls Head Harbor Park project, which is awaiting notification of a Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant to develop the park.

The Harbor Park, which will be developed on two town-owned parcels of land, will have a pier giving the general public access to all of Penobscot Bay. The launch will be for small hand-carried boats, and there will be a dock and float on Monroe Island.

MCHT owns an abutting property, and the town is working with the land trust to use that parcel to expand boat access.

"If the park is developed, the MCHT land will enlarge the park area," Dick Carver of the Harbor Committee said, "giving more open space, shore area access, and access to walking trails."

The island has numerous pocket beaches and rocky ledges, along with interior trails that wind through spruce forest and open meadows, and past several ponds, and the north end offers a picnic spot with views of Penobscot Bay, the Camden Hills, and Owls Head Lighthouse.

There are also two campsites on the island.

"I feel that if successful, these two properties will truly become a regional highlight for waterfront recreation," Steve Walker of MCHT said.

"It seems to be a very good project all around," Carver said. "It benefits everyone."

For more information or to make a donation or pledge to the island stewardship fundraiser, visit mcht.org.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Monroe Island as seen from the boat launch area in Owls Head. Maine Coast Heritage Trust is raising funds for a matching grant to acquire the island. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A sign marks the piece of property that abuts town-owned property in Owls Head that will be developed as a harbor park, with hand-carry boat access to the water. MCHT is in the process of raising money to acquire Monroe Island, seen in the distance. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
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