As the first snow of 2019 descends upon us, it's a great time to stop and recognize all that the Arundel Conservation Trust "ACT" has accomplished since our incorporation in early 2018. And in that vein, it's also an opportunity to share with our community the story of how the ACT came to be!
In 2016, the “town fathers” of Arundel were once again thinking about the need for a new Town Hall building. The current facility on Limerick Road next to the fire station was badly overcrowded, technology-deprived and flirting with non-compliance in several Federal & State laws concerning ADA access. This was at a time just after two heated votes on Arundel’s remaining in RSU #21 had rattled the fault-lines that divided our little town and once again highlighted a need to find new ways to build greater community and understanding in Arundel. The “Future” would come to Arundel and impact the lives of our descendants; the question for many of us was what could we do now to try to favorably impact & preserve the small Maine town culture and rural character of our community?
This question came into focus when the selectmen had narrowed the site search for a new Town Hall to two alternatives. One was large enough for a town hall but located in an industrial zone, away from our population centers and although already Town-owned, would need expensive site preparation work. The other site option was for the Town to purchase 47 acres on Limerick Road – far in excess of the 8-10 acres needed - but closer to where people lived. It also offered possible access to the Eastern Trail and had far lower site development costs.
A small group of people – six of us who shared a common vision of the kind of town we wanted to live in – saw the new Town Hall situation as a great opportunity to do something more than just building a “black box” to house local government; we also saw it as a way to preserve the unique rural character of Arundel and to give residents a way to come together in building something for our future. The more we talked about our vision, it became clearer that we saw the new Town Hall as a chance to also build places where people young and old could enjoy the outdoors around them, learn about trail-building, experience nature “up close & personal” and be part of creating something bigger than themselves. With this “long-view” in mind, we met with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust (“KCT”) to see if they could take us under their wing and teach us how to do build a conservation trust. KCT talked it over and then offered to help and support us!
Thus in late 2017, we set up the Arundel Conservation Trust (“ACT”) as a fully independent & self-financing subsidiary chapter of KCT. Shortly thereafter KCT transferred stewardship to us of two properties in Arundel that had been bequeathed to them and also offered to loan us money so that we could acquire Arundel land in the future. The six founding members of ACT chipped in and made an initial deposit in the ACT bank account of $16.49 – the exact amount that KCT had when they started over 40 years ago!
We then worked out & signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Town of Arundel with the understanding that if & when they purchased the 47 acre Limerick Road property, immediately thereafter ACT would purchase the 37 acres behind the 10 acre new Town Hall site from the Town for $175,000, funding it with a loan from KCT. This happened In December 2017.
In early 2018, ACT was legally incorporated in the State of Maine. We had stewardship of three properties in Arundel totaling nearly 100 acres, a $175,000 loan balance - but had only six members. We had lots of work ahead of us, so things shifted into high gear and we got busy.
More to come from the ACT!