The Royal River Conservation Trust grew out of the Friends of the Royal River, and four local land trusts in Yarmouth, Pownal, North Yarmouth, and New Gloucester. The Friends of the Royal River followed decades of earlier advocacy and scientific work of watershed organizations focused on the river.
This page describes the history of the organization.
Since 1988, RRCT has conserved more than 4000 acres of land in nine communities, and built momentum and strategic plans for more successes.
1988: North Yarmouth Land Trust founded. 1988 conservation easements include two on Pratt’s Brook in North Yarmouth, and one on the Royal River in North Yarmouth (Dion).
1988: New Gloucester Preservation Trust founded. The Trust took no deeds until three in 1991: a conservation easement on Collyer Brook in Gray related to the McKin site, a donation of the original parcel creating today’s Intervale Preserve, and a trail easement on an isolated piece of the old Interurban line.
1989: Pownal Land Trust founded, leading to five expansions of Bradbury Mountain State Park beginning in 1990. Scroll below for more Pownal Land Trust history.
1990: Yarmouth Land Trust founded. The first conservation deed — a conservation easement on a portion of what is now the Littlejohn Island Preserve — was accepted in 1990.
1992: Friends of the Royal River founded.
2002: Royal River Conservation Trust was created by the Friends of the Royal River; RRCT hired the various organizations’ first staff person — Executive Director Henry Nichols — who served for nearly ten years through remarkable growth and success.
2006 (Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, New Gloucester) & 2009 (Pownal): Mergers and renaming of all land trust organizations and the Friends of the Royal River into the Royal River Conservation Trust
In 2007, RRCT received a National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for our work — with others — on the protection of the vast forests and orchards surrounding the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, alongside companion protection of the village itself.
All RRCT conserved properties and conserved farms come in the context of the rich history of the parcels, before and after conservation. We maintain a strong working relationship with local historical societies. The Yarmouth Historical Society, especially, maintains archives and exhibits which help document the history of key preserves such as Spear Farm Estuary Preserve, and the rich history of the Royal River and what is now Royal River Park.
Our land conservation successes are made possible by working relationships with nearby local and regional land trusts, and by teamwork with state-wide and national land trusts, especially the Trust for Public Land, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the New England Forestry Foundation, Maine Woodland Owners, and the Maine Farmland Trust. We have joint projects and close coordination with the Freeport Conservation Trust, the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, the Androscoggin Land Trust, Maine Rivers, The Nature Conservancy in Maine, and the Maine Island Trail Association. We have acquired land to expand Bradbury Mountain State Park and the Pineland Public Reserved Land Unit, and to create and expand wildlife management areas of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. Our relationships with our local municipalities are rich and aligned; we have helped create or buffer a dozen local parks or preserves.
The history of the Pownal Land Trust, Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pineland Public Reserved Land, and conservation land in Pownal is richly detailed in the book, “On Pownal Time, One Hundred Years in a Rural Maine Town, 1908-2008,” as well as State management planning documents and records. The book and management plans describe the successful work of the Pownal Land Trust/RRCT to help expand Bradbury Mountain State Park through five separate transactions, to create abutting Public Lands “Corridor” parcels including Tryon Mountain, and to buffer the park with several RRCT conservation easements. In total, with help from RRCT and the then-new Land for Maine’s Future program, the State Parks & Lands ownership creating the Bradbury-Pineland matrix transitioned from 300 acres in the 1980s to 2,085 acres by 2010, including 300 acres of RRCT conservation easement buffers. More specifics on the Bradbury-Pineland matrix are here.
More history on land acquisitions is included on specific preserve webpages here at RRCT.org, or on RRCT’s Stewardship and Ownership page.