November 19, 2017  
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Maquoit Bay Conservation Land Outlook – 2 Ways In
Maquoit Bay Conservation Land Outlook – 2 Ways In

Two walks, one on land, the other on water, are aimed at celebrating the upcoming 10th anniversary of the creation of the 124-acre Maquoit Bay Conservation Land, a gift given daily to all of us who would walk to and see the sea.

In late October 2007, a varied group of co-laborers gathered to celebrate this signal achievement in land conservation. Maine’s congressional delegation was fully represented, as was the town of Brunswick; joining these government figures were representatives from the Trust for Public Land and the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. And, vitally, the land’s former owners were also there to celebrate and be congratulated.

As I step away from the parking area on Bunganuc Road, I have all of these land-savers in mind; I will carry them there throughout my walk.

Early in the walk, a narrow, sharp ravine appears on the right. We — the water and I — have the same idea: let’s go to the sea. Always, along this 3/4-mile walk that wash is nearby, and as I near the sea, I step over and see the place where the sea grass marks the head of the tide for its tiny creek.

Nearer the sea, a gully appears also on my left; now I am walking on a raised plateau. Then, the telltale empty air appears through the trees. It is like approaching the edge of a cliff or ridge in the mountains — fewer and fewer trees remain between me and the water. A wind tosses the few branches. Through the openings, I can see shiny mud and shivered water.

I arrive at a knuckled rock outcrop, with a tiara of trees on top. Along the muddy sweep of the bay near low tide, a few clammers in their airboats skim along, repositioning on the near-liquid mud. Acres of mud stretch out from the shore of this shallow bay. The mud glistens, warms in the sun; bird tracks print a calligraphy of the day’s search for food; here and there the turned mud of a clammer’s digging shows the same.

A few days later, I’ve launched my kayak from Wharton Point, a 15-minute paddle from where an inlet turns inland just south of the rock outcrop. The day is fall-cool and clear, the west wind light; on this visit it’s high tide and the gray-green water rises into the thick grass. The inlet I’ve pointed up is the same one I observed from above on my walk, and it narrows quickly. As I float deeper in, a stillness takes over. With the tall pines pressing up on either side and a vault of blue sky above, I will feel as if I’ve entered a Euro-cathedral.

There is a stillness in here, one underlined by the late summer insect hum. It is necessary counterpoint to the hurried, often fractious world I’ve left behind for these few hours. I have time to wait and look; here’s a little of what I see: 4 eagles, a half-dozen osprey, a kingfisher (voicing staccato annoyance at being disturbed), more than a dozen great blue herons, 4 white egrets, a hawk with cinnamon barring in its under-wings, a yellow-legged wading bird, an 8- inch pogie (claimed recently as heron-lunch) flapping its last in the thick sea grass.

The gift of this floating and these visions amid the insect-harmony makes me think back to to the rare partnership that made my day possible. We’re often told that such joining of citizens isn’t possible, doesn’t work that the American “genius” is of a solo cast. But this Maquoit land says differently. Generous private citizens, committed non-profits, local, state and federal government joined together to protect this land, to give me and you the daily possibility of a walk to (and on) the sea.

That’s the sort of collective genius that helps us go on.

Name note: A different version of this story might have turned on the name Maquoit, which, my research suggests, means bearplace, or bear-bay. Long silly for bears, even as I know they don’t live on this land now, I kept their wood-spirit in mind in the thick woods on my way to the water, feeling a little ursine myself.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident and chair of the Brunswick Conservation Commission. He writes for a variety of publications and has a book, "Critical Hours—Search and Rescue in the White Mountains," due out from University Press of New England in the spring of 2018. He may be reached at fsandystott@gmail.com

Posted on Friday, September 8, 2017 (Archive on Friday, September 29, 2017)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre
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