1.1 STUDY BACKGROUND
1.2 STUDY GOALS
1.3 GENERAL FINDINGS
1.4 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
1.4.1 Policies for Managing the Bay
1.4.2 Recommended State High Priority Conservation Areas, Acquisition, and Easement
1.4.3 A Merrymeeting Bay Nature.Center
Merrymeeting Bay is the largest
freshwater tidal bay on the eastern seaboard north of Chesapeake Bay.
Formed by the confluence of six rivers, including two of Maine's
largest, it is also the United States' northernmost major stopover on
the Atlantic Flyway and thus hosts thousands of ducks, geese, and
other migrating birds each spring and fall. Statewide it is
acknowledged as a duck hunters' and bird watchers' paradise alike.
The Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, Black Duck, Northern Bald Eagle,
Goldeneye, Yellowlegs, Wood Duck and Teal are all familiar sights to
residents and visitors of the Bay.
As an important fishery habitat, the Bay also hosts large numbers of winter smelt which are sought by ice fishermen along the Eastern, Abagadasset, and Cathance Rivers. Once supporting substantial runs of anadromous fish, including the Atlantic Salmon, Atlantic and Shortnosed Sturgeon (Maine's only rare and endangered species, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior), Striped Bass, Alewives, and Shad; the Bay now sees only remnant runs of these due to the obstruction of tributary rivers and streams by numerous dams and pollution. Yet the Bay remains of great interest to fishery management specialists who look to the day when the Bay and its tributaries can be restored and once again support significant anadromous fish runs.
Surrounding the Bay is a landscape characteristic of old New England: small town centers separated by large open spaces. A rich cultural heritage is evidenced in the historic churches and stately mansions that remain as reminders of more prosperous times when the shipbuilding and the ice industries flourished. Old ways and traditions persist-fourth of July parades and barbecues; old time fairs; town meetings; a farmer plowing his field with oxen.
For a century, the towns surrounding the Bay have been witness to little economic activity, and populations have grown slowly, if at all. Yet times are changing. Population trends statewide indicate that a new surge of in-migration is occurring. Maine as a whole gained in population by 5.5 percent between 1970 and 1974, as compared to the 2.5 percent increase for the preceding decade. In Sagadahoc County there was a 9.4 percent increase between 1970 and 1974. The communities around the Bay have seen this reflected in a rising rate of new home construction. Some fear that they will become bedroom communities to Bath, Brunswick, or Augusta; while others acknowledge that they already are.
Another force which threatens to change the area is the construction of Interstate 95 to the west of the Bay. At its completion, projected for 1976, this new highway will link the western Bay area to the major state highway corridor, making it regionally accessible and adding impetus to growth and development. In the past, the Bay hasbeen a "backwater," out of the mainstream of activity that is served by the Maine Turnpike and Route 1. The impact of this new highway, combined with recent population trends, could be considerable. If left unguided, the new growth could destroy many of the values that now distinguish the Bay as a unique cultural and natural resource.
An awareness of the need to take positive steps to plan for and guide future development around the Bay, to protect its natural assets from abuse or destruction, has emerged from both local and state interests, and now culminates in this report.
The State Departments of Marine Resources and Inland Fisheries and
Game have long noted the significance of the Bay to the state hunters
and fishermen. In 1973 an independent study on the conservation
priorities of the coast of Maine was issued by the Smithsonian
Institution's Center for Natural Areas, conducted by the planning
firm of Reed & D'Andrea in South Gardiner, Maine. The report,
entitled Conservation Priorities Plan of the Coast of Maine,
identified 32 areas of priority for conservation. Merrymeeting Bay
was included, and later chosen as the number one priority for the
coast of Maine by state and federal officials due to its unique
natural features and the imminent construction of Interstate 95.
A preliminary study of the Bay was then undertaken as part of the Conservation Priorities Plan and a citizens' group organized called Friends of Merrymeeting Bay. Ford Foundation monies were obtained for the conservation commissions of the surrounding tows to be utilized in conservation planning.
In 1974, the State Department of Conservation initiated a thorough study of Merrymeeting Bay under contract to Reed & D'Andrea as a follow up to the preliminary study conducted under the auspices of the Smithsonian. This report represents the results of that study.
Simultaneous to the start of this study was a renewed interest by Bay area residents in joining together to actively participate in efforts to plan for the Bay. A primary concern of this study then became the fostering of such a group. In March of 1975 the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay became an established non-profit scientific, literary, and educational corporation with an elected steering committee composed of 17 members representing as many of the various interests associated with the Bay as possible (fish and game clubs, shoreland property owners, conservation organizations, farmers, foresters, businessmen, fishermen, snowmobile clubs, etc). This group has been actively involved in the conduct and review of the study as have numerous state agencies, town officials, and regional planning agencies. Most, or all of their suggestions have been incorporated throughout the evolution of this text. The full findings of the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay have been included as Appendix D.
The overall goal of this study is to propose means to ensure that
sound conservation and development policies are enacted for the
Merrymeeting Bay area. Within this broad goal, other more specific
goals are inherent:
1.To develop and apply an ecological planning method to the Bay which will reveal a comprehensible system of opportunities and constraints for future development.
2.To further define socioeconomic factors which will enlighten the Bay residents and state agencies on the prospects for future growth and the need for policies to cope with this anticipated growth.
3.To develop broad policy recommendations that will result in consistent land use management by state and local governments.
4.To recommend specific land use actions to state and local governments based on the policies and constraints developed above.
5.To suggest legal and planning tools necessary to put the land use recommendations into effect.
6.To suggest institutional changes or innovations needed or desirable to further the recommendations of the study.
7.To ensure adequate citizens' input and direction through the establishment of an active citizens' group and to encourage a long term citizens' involvement in the future of the Bay.
1.The Merrymeeting Bay area is a unique natural and historic area
of state level significance.
2.Growth pressures are increasing in the surrounding towns as a reflection of new population trends in the state as well as the region.
3.Rapid growth in the Bay area is imminent as I-95 nears completion.
4. Uncontrolled growth is inevitably destructive of natural and social values.
5. Observance of ecological principles en avert the destruction of natural values.
6. Undeveloped land is abundant in the towns surrounding Merrymeeting Bay and much of it is lacking in natural resource development constraints.
7. Even guided by ecological principles, growth can result in a costly sprawl pattern.
8. Residents of the Bay towns appreciate and wish to keep the rural/small town atmosphere that characterizes them today.
9. The area can absorb the prospective new growth without detrimental effects if towns adopt sound controls protecting both natural and social values.
10. Planned growth is less costly than unplanned growth.
11. Protection of the Bay's cherished values can be accomplished through a combination of state, local, and private efforts.
12. Ultimately the initiative for conserving the character of the Bay rests with the citizens who live around the area and with those who use the Bay.
1. This study shall be employed as the basis for a coordinated
series of actions by state and local agencies, public and private, to
protect and enhance the quality of life around Merrymeeting Bay.
2. Future plans for the Bay should be based on sound planning principles and reflect the desires of the residents. To this end state agencies should make every effort to inform organized citizens' groups and town officials of any proposed activities that will affect the Bay area and solicit their opinions (groups such as friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Inc., and Merrymeeting Audubon Society as well as town official including selectmen, planning board members, and conservation commissioners).
3. Although the primary recreational needs for the Merrymeeting Bay region include swimming, boating, camping, hiking, picnicking, and nature trails; the immediate Bay area is not suitable for many of these. Such pursuits as picnicking, scenic driving, hiking, riding trails, and nature observation are suitable, but only in limited amounts, while recreational camping and swimming are not. Therefore, the state should develop, with substantial public input, facilities geared to the local residents rather than to tourists. Hiking and camping needs will best be met in the Cathance River area.
4. Merrymeeting Bay is a prime waterfowl habitat by State Inland Fisheries and Game standards. To insure that the Bay remains suitable for hosting large concentrations of migrating birds, the state should take steps to avoid incompatible uses in the Bay itself and also along its shoreland, This implies that the Bay should be a top priority for state and local land management program and used as a testing grounds for new innovative programs designed to conserve wildlife resources while allowing for and capitalizing on new growth. The possibilities range from instituting educational and service programs for landowners on wildlife management techniques, to control of motorboating through access controls and the prohibition of lead gunshot. (It should be noted that the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay do not concur with the recommendation regarding lead gunshot. See Appendix D). State land management programs should provide incentives for local involvement and follow the priorities detailed in this report to be geared to compliment town level controls.
5. The protection of freshwater non-tidal wetlands which drain into the Bay is key to the improvement and maintenance of water quality in the Bay as well as to the maintenance of wildlife values, regulation of storm water runoff (flooding) and maintenance of groundwater supplies. Like coastal wetlands, these ought to be protected by state law. The first step in understanding the need for such protection would be a greater understanding of the role of freshwater wetlands to the natural and dependent human cycle. The University system should be encouraged to undertake research which could supply the rationale for proper land management of this vital resource.
6. The Site Location Law should be used to prevent erosion and sedimentation of the Bay through strong restrictions and guidelines on construction activities.
7. Sand and gravel operations should be subject to the Mining Reclamation Act as well as the Site Location Law (currently only the latter applies), given their potential adverse aesthetic and environmental effects. Furthermore, state operations should no longer be exempt from regulation and strict standards for their reclamation ought to be adopted.
Agricultural activities in the Bay area are an integral part of its distinctive character. Furthermore, relatively large acreages of prime agricultural soils are found in the Bay surrounds, some of which are under-utilized. The state in conjunction with local governments should devise methods of land management which conserve the rich soils of the Bay area. This could be accomplished through the purchase of development rights to these lands so that they are not irreversible committed to development as growth pressures continue to increase in the area.
9, The state should encourage towns to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency through' the maintenance of a balanced community--one including places of work and recreation as well as residence--as this promotes a more efficient and equitable use of resources. I-95 presents an opportunity to achieve this and the state should assist the towns in attracting and developing light industry or business through additional programs similar to those available through the Maine Guarantee Authority.
10. Energy conservation should be encouraged by state level programs to educate builders and homeowners on how best to utilize favorable climatic conditions such as those found in Merrymeeting Bay in the siting and designing of homes.
Furthermore, the state should adopt policies which would protect the Bay from a proliferation of power plants and transmission lines which would destroy the quality of the Bay, cause an unnecessary visual intrusion, and unnecessarily consume valuable land resources.
11. Towns should utilize their zoning and subdivision powers to the utmost to guide future growth away from ecologically intolerant areas (floodplains, soils unsuited to septic systems, aquifer recharge areas, steep slopes, wetlands, etc.).
12. Towns should attempt to guide growth further in order to avoid costly sprawl which could destroy cherished historic and cultural values through subdivision, building code and zoning powers.
13. Towns should realize the limits of zoning and subdivision regulation and consider other techniques for guiding growth such as placement of sewers and utilities in areas where development is to be encouraged and acquisition of fragile areas or areas of high development potential (to be transferred later to developers). Use of monies raised at annual barbecues and holiday festivals towards acquiring these lands is one way to accomplish this. Bowdoinham presents an example by dedicating money raised at the Fourth of July festival to acquiring recreational lands.
14. Finally, towns should seek to coordinate planning efforts towards the achievement of regional goals (i.e., the protection of the Bay from pollution and sedimentation through uniform subdivision review and consistent shoreland zoning; establishment of area-wide solid waste disposal systems; the designation of scenic roads and implementation of sign and building controls along these; etc.). Regional goals could be established through public hearings conducted by the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and with technical assistance from the Mid Coast Regional Planning Commission.
The following briefly describes the parcels recommended as high
priority conservation areas by this study. They are aimed at
conserving recreational opportunities for the region, protecting the
most ecologically vulnerable areas around the Bay, and promoting the
continued use of the Bay for farming and wildlife management, both of
which could be jeopardized by rapid development. New methods of
protection for these areas is not always readily evident.
Traditionally, acquisition has been the major land management tool
employed by the state to protect valuable resources; however, there
is not always the money available to protect these resources, and
other means of protection are necessary. This study is suggesting
areas that are important for the long term conservation of
Merrymeeting Bay, and although specific methods are suggested, we are
more concerned with the area being conserved, than with the method of
conservation. A map showing the approximate
size and location of the recommended areas accompanies the text.
The final chapter of this report details other recommended state and
town actions with more detailed maps.
1. The State Bureau of Parks and Recreation should consider the acquisition of large undeveloped acreages in the upper Cathance River area for camping and hiking, Approximately
1,6Q0 acres are contained in rather large parcels ranging from over 600 acres to 35 acres. Lands to the north of this area should be studied as alternatives before any action is taken on this recommendation, however, as this study was limited in scope to areas defined by Map No. 3.
2. An additional 700-800 acres in Topsham along the Middle Cathance River should be considered for acquisition by Parks and Recreation for canoeing, nature trails, hiking, and horseback riding.
3. Easements along the southern bank of the Cathance River from Cathance Road to Bowdoinham village should be sought by Parks and Recreation as a linear extension of the trails originating in the tract described above.
4. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Game should acquire lands between two presently state-owned properties bordering the Muddy River in Topsham to give a 500-acre tract for wildlife management and preservation of vital wetlands.
5. Parcels adjacent to the State Game Management Area in Bowdoinham should be acquired by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game to protect scenic and wildlife values. Parcels include approximately 200 additional acres some of which could be acquired at less than fee through easements (those smaller parcels [5-38 acres] east of Center Point Road).
6. Through easements or acquisition, the State Department of Transportation should acquire the land adjacent to the Cathance River mouth and east of Route 24 in Bowdoinham to develop as a scenic turnout and picnic area overlooking Center Point on the Bay. Two parcels are viewed as possibilities-- a 23-acre parcel or 16-acre parcel just to the south.
7. As an alternative a 16-acre parcel further south on Route 24 overlooking Pleasant point could be purchased by the department of Transportation or protected by local interests for a scenic turnout and picnic area.
8. Large forested acreages between Pork Point Road and the Abagadasset River in Bowdoinham should be protected by some form of land management or be acquired by the State Departments of Agriculture and Inland Fisheries and Game and leased back to farmers for production of goose feed and agricultural crops. This could involve up to 300 acres.
9. Two parcels on either side of Route 24 opposite the southern tip of Swan Island offer an opportunity for a combined scenic overlook/picnic area, trail system and access to the Abagadasset River. Conservation of this area should be considered for joint acquisition by the Department of Transportation and Bureau of Parks and Recreation , or through local initiative. A total of L24 acres are involved.
10. The area south of Richmond from the railroad to the Kennebec River adjacent to San Island should be considered for conservation through some form of Land management for goose management and farming as second priority to Abagadasset- Pork Point area.
11. The State Department of Agriculture should consider acquiring development rights in the Green Point area in Dresden if the town fails to zone this area "agricultural land."
12. Two parcels along Route 128 in Dresden offer the opportunity for needed access on the eastern side of the Bay; the northern parcel has shore frontage on Cork Cove and should be acquired by Parks and Recreation for development of boat access (designed for hunters, fishermen, and canoeists); the southern parcel should be considered for joint acquisition by the Department of Transportation and Bureau of Parks and Recreation for development of a scenic turnout/picnic area.
14. Lines Island, Ram Island, Crawford Island, and Woods Island should he considered for acquisition by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game for wildlife management or similar protection through easements or some other form of land management.
This study has concluded that while Merrymeeting Bay is not suited to intensive recreational use, it is ideally suited for an educational/scientific center. The development of a nature center which can at once, offer the regional population an observation point from which to view the migrating birds each spring and fall and also serve as a needed educational tool relating to the public the significance of the Bay and reinforcing state and local protective program and actions, is a primary recommendation of this study.