Sherman Marsh WMA expanded through partnerships

Sherman Marsh WMA expanded through partnerships

Two additional purchases of land protect access and prevent future development

Thanks to the combined efforts of Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), the Sherman Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Newcastle has gained 48 acres as well as more permanent protection.

Located on a spectacular peninsula jutting into Sherman Marsh, the WMA was once the site of a farm. A foot trail through the woods provides access to the now collapsed farmstead, where an old piano still peeks up through the rubble. Perennial flowers continue to grow vigorously along the old foundation. The spine of the peninsula is a rocky ridge, now topped by mature forest and junipers, its height adding to its prominence.

Sherman Marsh in rich midsummer green

The area comprises the better part of the attractive view from the rest area on Route 1 in Newcastle. Some will recall that for almost 75 years, Sherman Marsh was known as Sherman Lake, formed when a dam was constructed under Route 1 in 1934. The artificial lake existed until 2008, when the dam washed out during a heavy storm and the area slowly reverted back to a now thriving salt marsh.

Great Blue Heron on a rock in shallow waterBald eagles, hawks, herons, cormorants, kingfishers, and even the occasional seal are testament to the abundance of fish. River otter tracks and slides are evident along the shore in wintertime. A neighbor reports having seen a moose cross the marsh last fall.

Completing the “pie”

The original 95-acre management area was established in 1996 through a partnership involving MDIFW and Damariscotta River Association, one of the predecessors to Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust. However, it was missing two important parts.

map of Sherman Marsh showing newly added properties

Outlined in red, the two recently added parcels prevent future development and protect access to Sherman Marsh. Click to see a larger image.

It excluded a three-acre parcel of land, like a small slice of pizza cut out of an otherwise intact pie. Significantly, this parcel carried with it a developable right of way running through the middle of the WMA. This meant any building on those three acres would have had an outsized influence on the rest of the property.

Also missing was a 45-acre parcel connecting the conserved land to the small parking area on Dodge Road in Edgecomb – for most visitors, the only means of accessing the trail.

The 2020 acquisitions complete the “pie.” They also create better public access opportunities and link the wildlife habitat to other forested lands to the south, such as the River~Link corridor mentioned below, so that animals can move more freely to find food and mates.

A story of strategic partnerships

members of the lands committee at Sherman Marsh

Pete McKinley, Jim Hatch, and Joel Russ, members of Coastal Rivers’ Lands Committee, at Sherman Marsh.

Coastal Rivers worked with the conservation-minded family that owned the land to purchase the two properties. The purchase was made possible by a grant, as well as a loan, from MCHT. Coastal Rivers purchased and held the property, and in turn sold it about a year later at a greatly reduced price to MDIFW.

MDIFW applied for and received federal grant funds to complete their purchase, thus allowing Coastal Rivers to repay the loan to MCHT. The MCHT grant, along with Coastal Rivers’ in-kind and direct support, remained in the project as a contribution to the people and wildlife of the State of Maine.

“We couldn’t be happier with the partnerships or the outcome,” said Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel, “with special thanks to Bethany Atkins at MDIFW and Steve Walker at MCHT. This is a win for water quality and wildlife.”

Part of a larger whole

map showing Sherman Marsh in regional context

Sherman Marsh rounds out the River~Link wildlife corridor and recreation area to the northwest. Coastal Rivers is working to extend the River~Link North area all the way into the twin villages. Click on the image for a larger view.

The Sherman Marsh Wildlife Management Area expansion is but one small piece of the groundbreaking River~Link initiative. Coastal Rivers, MCHT, and MDIFW are all a part of this partnership. Other partners include the towns of Newcastle, Edgecomb, and Boothbay, Edgecomb Schmid Preserve, Boothbay Region Land Trust, Midcoast Conservancy, MDOT, Land for Maine’s Future, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, TNC and the many governmental partners involved in MNRCP, and numerous generous landowners and additional funding partners over almost 20 years.

The goal of River~Link is to create an extensive connected trail and wildlife corridor running along the Boothbay Peninsula. This corridor crosses from Dodge Point to the east over to the Sherman Marsh WMA to the west. It also runs south to north, starting from Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Zak Preserve extending north to Dodge Point, making it possible to walk over six miles with only one road crossing. Eventually, with the recent launch of Coastal Rivers’ River~Link North initiative, it will reach the Twin Villages of Newcastle and Damariscotta.

To learn more

Sherman Marsh in fall
Great Blue Heron image by Dori (