PORTLAND – The Nature Conservancy announced Tuesday a gift from an anonymous donor of 1,910 acres in Phippsburg that includes more than 4 miles of coastal shoreline and has an estimated value of between $10 million and $14 million.
The newly named Basin Preserve surrounds The Basin, a saltwater inlet on the New Meadows River popular with boaters. The land’s diverse topography ranges from mudflats frequented by clammers to steep hemlock gorges and pitch pine ridges perched on rock outcrops.
In light of rising land values along the Maine coast, the parcel 40 miles from Portland is expected to be appraised as the most valuable land gift to the conservancy in Maine and one of the most valuable to the organization anywhere in the world through its 55-year history.
“This is an act of staggering generosity,” said Mike Tetreault, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Whether you look at the 4 miles of shorebird and waterfowl habitat or the hundreds of upland acres with intact forests, the wildlife and recreational values are outstanding.”
The property was listed on the Phippsburg tax rolls as belonging to Richard Hatch of Brunswick, who could not be reached for comment.
Bruce Kidman, a spokesman for The Nature Conservancy, said the property was donated with the understanding that it be treated as an anonymous gift.
“I think it is because the donor isn’t interested in any personal attention. He wants the focus to be on the gift and the protection of this parcel of land,” Kidman said.
At nearly four times the size of nearby Popham Beach State Park, the property is now the largest protected parcel in Maine’s Kennebec Estuary, the largest tidal estuary on the East Coast north of the Hudson River.
The Kennebec Estuary, made up of Merrymeeting Bay and the Lower Kennebec River system, is an important tidal ecosystem for fish and wildlife resources. It has been facing increasing development pressures as more homes are built along the coast.
The conservancy said it intends to raise a $750,000 stewardship endowment to manage the preserve’s natural resources and help maintain access for public recreational use, including hunting and fishing. A high priority is being placed on maintaining access for local clam diggers, the organization said.
Tetreault said he’s looking forward to a “long and mutually beneficial relationship” with people in the Phippsburg community.
“By accepting this preserve, The Nature Conservancy is accepting the substantial responsibility of managing it in a way that both conserves its wonderful natural resources and provides good public access,” he said.