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The Clark Island Project

The effort to forever protect and open this beloved island to the public is underway.

Many in the Midcoast know Clark Island in St. George. Like Mackworth Island in Falmouth or Sears Island in Searsport, Clark is one of those rare islands connected by a causeway. You don’t need a boat to experience this marvelous Maine island—and that’s only part of what makes it so special.

A beloved island

For decades Clark Island’s owners graciously allowed visitors to enjoy the sandy beaches, tide pools, and trails, and many have done so without realizing access is not guaranteed, that the property could be sold, developed, and cut off to the public.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Ensuring public access

In the fall of 2017, Maine Coast Heritage Trust entered into an option agreement with the landowners to purchase and conserve the majority of Clark Island and open it to the public as a preserve.

Now, the effort to raise $4.8 million by March of 2020 is underway. If successful, this effort will result in 85% of the 175-acre island being permanently protected, with 120 acres secured for public access.

A haven for wildlife

Beyond ensuring people will always have access to this special place, conservation of Clark Island would be a boon for the incredible diversity of wildlife currently seeking refuge here.

Many of the natural community types, including intertidal salt marshes, mudflats, and beaches, are designated as Significant Wildlife Habitat by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

 

At its peak in the early 20th century, about 300 stonecutters were employed in Clark Island’s quarry operation.

A rich history

While the island is now mostly undeveloped, original settlements date back to the 1780s. Today, the landscape holds clues about the life and times of the scores of stonecutters, quarrymen, and sculptors and their families who called Clark Island home in the late nineteenth century.

Locals show support

MCHT is far from alone in recognizing this as an extraordinary conservation opportunity. “This area would be a wonderful recreational asset for the townspeople,” said Richard Bates, St. George Head Selectman.

“While we are still new to the area, we were quick to notice the value that Clark Island brings to the Craignair and to the local community,” say Greg and Lauren Soutiea, owners of the nearby Craignair Inn and Restaurant. “Having a space like Clark Island permanently protected and open to the public would allow guests of the area and the local community to enjoy a quiet and beautiful place in nature. Clark Island is also an important resource for local artists and photographers who take in the beauty and serenity that the island has to offer on a regular basis.”

Clark Island receives federal grant

Numerous individual donors have generously given to conserve Clark Island, and in the spring of 2019, the project was awarded $1 million through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Grant Program.

“I’m excited to see that the Department of the Interior understands just how special Clark Island is—and how important it is to protect it,” says Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “Clark Island is a wonderful treasure on Maine’s coast and is readily accessible to the general public.” 

MCHT is working to conserve 85 percent of the island, with 120 acres secured for public access.

Every dollar counts

Despite the chorus of support for conservation of Clark Island, MCHT is facing an uphill battle.

We have until the spring of 2020 to raise the remaining $750,000 (of the $4.8 million total) needed to conserve the island and turn it into a public preserve. Many have already stepped up and made generous gifts toward the project. 

Would you like to support the effort to conserve Clark Island?

For more information, please contact:

David Warren
Development Department
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
207-729-7366

1 Bowdoin Mill Island #201
Topsham, ME 04086

Town/County: St. George, Knox County
Project size: 120 acres
Project cost: $4.8 million