Agreement Would Protect Last Shaker Village (ME)
New Gloucester, Maine, 11/2/05 – At the headwaters of the Royal River in New Gloucester, the nation’s last active Shaker community lives as a testament to a religious and farming community that once numbered approximately 400 members in Maine and 5,000 in the United States. Today, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village, forest and farm, comprised of 1700 acres and 19 historic structures, is the last place where Shakers farm, work and worship. And thanks to over 200 years of stewardship, the land encompasses diverse wildlife habitat, walking and cross-country skiing trails, fertile agricultural soils, and productive woodlands.
Yet the future of one of New England’s most important historic landscapes is at risk. Faced with rising costs and reduced farm revenues, coupled with the pressure of suburban sprawl, the Shakers are concerned about the future of their land. Now, they have joined with a partnership of non-profit groups and public agencies to craft a conservation strategy to preserve the Shaker landscape in perpetuity. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit organization with an office in Portland, Maine, and the lead project partners – Maine Preservation, the Friends of the Royal River, New England Forestry Foundation, the State of Maine and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – are working with the Shakers to protect the historic village and land from ever being developed.
Governor John Baldacci, U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, and U.S. Representative Tom Allen are honorary chairs of the project’s fundraising campaign.
Sam Hodder, TPL’s Maine State Director, said, “This is the last working Shaker community in the United States and it is a real part of the Maine landscape. TPL is happy to work to preserve the shores of the lake, the forest, and the fields just the way they have existed for generations.”
Brother Arnold Hadd, one of the members at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, said, “Stewardship is a primary concern for the Shakers: be it our faith or our land. This project will help us to ensure the preservation of the Village for future generations not only for Believers, but for all people. We will be able to retain the land entrusted to us by our founders over two hundred years ago, maintaining our farm and forestland as we give our hands to work and our hearts to God.”
“The State of Maine, through our Land for Maine’s Future Program, is proud to be a partner in this preservation effort” said Governor John Baldacci. “The Sabbathday Shaker farm, forest, cultural heritage, and wildlife habitat areas are a very important legacy. With real estate prices increasing at double-digit rates throughout southern Maine, these very special places are vanishing. I commend the Shaker Community for their vision and commitment to Maine’s future.”
“I am very pleased to join as a co-chair of the Shaker Village protection effort and will work to ensure that this nationally significant historic site endures for generations to come,” said U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe. “The ways of the Shakers are important to American culture, and their fields, farms and forests are critical to the rural legacy of southern Maine. I commend the Shakers and their many supporters for bringing this exciting project to fruition, and look forward to working with them on its completion.”
“At Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, a unique, special chapter in Maine and America’s heritage and culture remains suspended in time,” U.S. Representative Tom Allen said. “I am honored to serve as a co-chair of the effort to protect not only the land and the physical infrastructure but also the community and way of life that are Sabbathday Lake. I will also continue to work in Congress to identify appropriate federal financial assistance to preserve this living embodiment of the indomitable Shaker spirit in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations.”
The chief tools of this opportunity would be conservation and preservation agreements, or “easements.” The Shakers would sell their rights to develop the property, and permanent easements would be placed on the property to ensure that it is protected. The sale of the easements would provide funds to help the Shakers make needed upgrades and repairs on the property and buildings. The easements would allow for sustainable farming, forestry and low impact recreation, while prohibiting development and inappropriate uses. If the Shakers ever chose to sell the land or buildings, the easements would remain in force and these important resources would be protected regardless of ownership.
Through this plan, the Shakers would continue to own and manage their property as they have for over two hundred years. They would continue to farm their land, pasture their animals and lease orchards and fields to neighboring farmers and apple growers. The protection of historic buildings and culturally important landscape features – stone walls and archeological sites – would be guaranteed.
Roxanne Eflin, of Maine Preservation, an organization which promotes protection of Maine historic places, is one of the partners in the preservation effort. According to Eflin, “This is the last viable, working Shaker community in the United States and as a National Historic Landmark its significance lies in its aggregate of buildings and their setting as well as in the extensive and varied rural landscape which forms the scope of a hard won and exemplary life. The preservation easement is a key element in planning for the future integrity of the village and in ensuring its availability to all.” Maine Preservation would steward the historic preservation easement with Shaker community.
Acquisition of the conservation and preservation agreements, and an endowment for the buildings and the easements, along with project expenses, will cost $3.695 million. The Land for Maine’s Future program and the NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program have contributed $1.1 million toward this goal. The partnership is working to raise the remainder from individuals, foundations and corporations by?Fall 2006. About half of the total goal has been raised, and the groups are actively seeking donations to successfully complete the effort.
Whitney Beals, Director of Land Protection for the New England Forestry Foundation, stated, “We are very pleased to be part of the conservation partnership, working with the Shaker community to ensure permanent protection of its 1,700 acres of working forest and agricultural lands. Too often, preservation efforts focus on small sites or individual buildings and are unable to preserve the larger whole, the context in which the buildings exist. The farm and forestlands are integral to the Shaker village, to its history, and to its economic life, so protecting the land is critical.”
The Friends of Royal River (FORR) is the local land trust covering the project area. The Shaker’s land lies at the headwaters of the Royal River, making it a cornerstone in the effort to protect the health of the river and its wildlife corridor. Henry Nichols, FORR’s President, said, “While the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Forest and Farm project is significant for Maine and appealing nationally, it is at its core an important local project. Maintaining farming, forestry, traditional recreation and the property’s rich living history provides a unique anchor to our vision of a region of communities woven together by greenways and preserves – places that nourish the soul and shelter a broad diversity of wildlife. We are thrilled to be part of this partnership.”
The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. In Maine, TPL has protected over 87,000 acres with projects ranging from city parks and pathways to coastal habitat and working farms and forests. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.
The Land for Maine’s Future Program was created in 1987 in response to concerns over the loss of critical natural area, wildlife habitat and farmland along with traditional access to undeveloped lands for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. To date, the Land for Maine’s Future Program has protected over 215,000 acres of Maine’s best recreational and natural areas. The program also seeks to protect farmlands through the purchase of development rights and public access to water for fishing, boating, and commercial marine activities. To learn more visit http://www.state.me.us/spo/lmf
Friends of the Royal River (FORR) is a regional land trust serving the 12 communities of the Royal River. Since 2002 FORR has helped conserve over 250 acres of land in the Royal River estuary and along stream corridors by partnering with landowners, municipalities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
Founded in 1971, Maine Preservation is the statewide private nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation, protection and vitality of Maine’s historic places and encouraging quality design that contributes to the livability of our communities. The membership-based organization accomplishes its mission through advocacy, easements, education, and outreach.
Founded in 1944, the New England Forestry Foundation is a regional conservation organization promoting sustainable forest management throughout New England, pursuing its mission through five main activities: forestland protection, forest management demonstration, conservation education, policy development, and forming forest conservation partnerships with other private non-profits, landowners, and public agencies.