The grant money will help the organization conduct outreach with City’s diverse communities 

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland Land Trust received a $12,500 grant from the Davis Conservation Foundation to support their outreach efforts with South Portland’s diverse communities in the City’s West End. The grant, “Digging In: Engaging Diverse Communities in Conservation,” enables SPLT to build capacity to create meaningful opportunities to connect with community members typically excluded from conservation work.

As Maine’s fourth largest and third most diverse city, South Portland has historically been committed to open space preservation. However, it is not immune to the same challenges of many coastal communities, including ongoing development pressure and an increasingly limited number of parcels of undisturbed field, forest, wetlands, and watershed within city limits, many located along sensitive and historically mismanaged watersheds, like Long Creek, Trout Brook and Barberry Creek.

For close to 35 years, SPLT has primarily worked “behind the scenes” to negotiate easements with the City, support and facilitate real estate transactions, and host clean-up events on their network of trails. However, a strategic planning process conducted in 2020 in collaboration with the National Park Service and Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, highlighted the importance of building new pathways for community members to engage with SPLT’s work and mission beyond the day-to-day usage of SPLT properties. One of the key commitments the SPLT Board has made is to focus their energies on community engagement, with a particular emphasis on reaching the City’s more diverse communities.

“We are thrilled that the Davis Conservation Fund sees the critical importance of this work,” noted Alex Redfield, SPLT board member and Fundraising Committee chairperson. “As a land trust, we are committed to ensuring that our trails and lands are accessible to all community members and this grant is a terrific first step in that direction.”

Specifically the grant allows SPLT to: create and host a series of workshops on working across culture and difference (open to all interested partners and land trusts); develop and host three community events on SPLT’s West End trails, all of which drain to the embattled Long Creek Watershed and are located less than a mile from South Portland’s largest and most diverse housing complexes at Redbank; support SPLT’s Program Coordinator in outreach efforts to these communities. Outreach materials, including maps, event flyers, etc., will be translated into French, Somali and Portuguese.

SPLT will announce workshop and community event details later this summer. For more information, please reach out to Michelle Smith, program coordinator at michelle@sopolandtrust.org.