Sunday, August 20, 2017

Governments buying Islands

USA: Maine Conservancy Pays $2.35M for Private Harbor Island

The deal has been sealed for a Maine conservation trust to buy a beautiful heart-shaped private island near Machiasport.

(Image Courtesy of Vladi Private Islands)

After several years offered for sale on the public market, 22-acre Harbor Island in Buck’s Harbor has been purchased by the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust (MCHT). At a cost of US $2.35 million, the island certainly didn’t come cheap, but the organization regards the acquisition as an “against all odds” coup for local conservation.

“We are thrilled to have secured a conservation outcome for this island in spite of the odds,” said Ciona Ulbrich, the regional senior project manager for the MCHT. “Harbor has been for sale with LandVest for a couple of years, which made its future a real unknown.”

A verdant, tree-covered isle with a striking heart shape, Harbor Island’s nature is relatively undisturbed, aside from a small cottage on its southern end. The island has a long history of private ownership – it was purchased by the previous owners, the Kurt family, almost 90 years ago. The family’s ancestors bought the island to save it from logging, and this love of the island has kept it in excellent condition throughout the generations.

Harbor Island has been top of mind for Maine conservationists for years, as its beauty and close proximity to the mainland would make it attractive for developers. Locals feared that development on the island would alter the natural and peaceful character of the area, which has plentiful forests and protected areas.

The MCHT managed to secure the necessary funding in an astonishingly short period of time – a matter of just weeks, according to news reports – and it was a groundswell of support by the local Buck’s Harbor community that made the purchase possible. “Thankfully, many who love the island stepped forward and contributed to the first phase of this conservation effort,” said Ms. Ulbrich.

(Image Courtesy of Vladi Private Islands)

Contributors to the conservation effort included many private donors – an astonishing $1.3 million was quickly raised from over 30 individuals like members of the Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club, which has a view of the island. The rest of the purchase price came from grants offered by three foundations, among them the Pew Charitable Trusts, and a bank loan for $850,000.

Now that the island has been secured, the MCHT has the task of developing a comprehensive conservation plan, which it hopes to have completed by the summer. Adding to the complications is that the plan needs to take into account funds to pay off the island’s hefty mortgage, which is no easy feat for a not-for-profit organization.

Having the full support of Buck Harbor’s community behind the project will make all the difference, however, and the MCHT is optimistic about the island’s future. “Either way the island is going to be conserved,” said Ms. Ulbrich.

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