The National Park Service isn’t the only entity preserving land on Mount Desert Island for the enjoyment of the public.
Two organizations that also have a significant impact on land conservation here are the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Land and Garden Preserve of Mount Desert Island, Maine.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) manages more than 100 land preserves along the state’s coast. Headquartered in Topsham, the organization has an office in the village of Somesville on Mount Desert Island.
MCHT manages six properties on the island. The largest of these is the 523-acre Kittredge Brook Forest located in the Bar Harbor village of Town Hill. Mostly forest land, it is part of a 2,000-acre parcel that is one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts on Mount Desert Island outside of Acadia National Park. The preserve, named for the brook that runs through it, has two miles of hiking trails and provides ample opportunity to observe wildlife and a diversity of vegetation.
The smallest and newest property is the 10-acre Kelley Farm in Tremont. The saltwater farm borders Cousins Creek, a tidal estuary leading to Bass Harbor. MCHT bought the property from the Kelley family in 2014. Along with being a pleasant place to walk or picnic, the property is used for community gardens.
The Mitchell Marsh preserve, also in Tremont, consists of about 34-acres, 30 of which are wetlands, the remaining acreage wooded upland and cobble beach. The marshland is the ideal habitat for a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl and, as such, is popular with bird watchers.
MCHT’s Babson Creek preserve in Mount Desert includes the organization’s Somesville offices. The 36-acre property extends on both sides of Babson Creek, which flows into Somes Harbor and Somes Sound. The property was acquired in 2002, and seven years later, MCHT built their office and a barn on the property.
Blue Horizons might be the most imaginative name for a MCHT property and is a popular stop for dog owners. The 82-acre preserve on the Indian Point Road in the Bar Harbor village of Town Hill gives access to Clark Cove on the western side of the island.
The 26-acre Acadia Mountain preserve was the site of a proposed condominium development before MCHT and Friends of Acadia stepped in eight years ago. Plaguing the condo project were concerns about erosion on the steep site. Restoration efforts have been successful, and the preserve offers the visitor the reward of dramatic views of Somes Sound.
Land and Garden Preserve
The properties of the Land and Garden Preserve of Mount Desert Island, Maine include two historically important gardens and a scenic 1,000-acre tract that were in private ownership until last year. The three properties are in the town of Mount Desert.
The Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden in the village of Northeast Harbor are closely associated with Charles Savage, whose family owned the nearby Asticou Inn.
Savage designed and built the Asticou Azalea Garden in 1956, modeling it after Japanese stroll gardens where visitors follow a path to view artfully composed landscapes. Many of the plants in the garden came from the Bar Harbor estate of nationally renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.
Thuya Garden and Lodge were left in trust to Mount Desert residents by summer resident and landscape architect Henry Curtis of Boston. Curtis designed the scenic Terrace Trail that leads up a steep slope to the lodge, which today houses a library of books on plants.
When Curtis died in 1928, Charles Savage was named trustee. Savage continued the work of Curtis, designing Thuya Garden in the style of a semiformal English garden. Here, too, many of the plants came from Farrand’s Reef Point estate.
Longtime summer resident David Rockefeller donated the Little Long Pond property in the village of Seal Harbor in May 2015. The 1,000 acres is a mix of fields and woodlands. Carriage roads and hiking trails that connect to those in Acadia make this a popular spot with serious hikers as well as those who just want to stroll along Little Long Pond and take in the scenery.