Mudflats bake in the sun during a changing tide in the Jordan River next to the former Bar Harbor Golf Course in Trenton in this undated photo. Credit: Photo courtesy of Frenchman Bay Conservancy

A Hancock County land conservation group is planning to buy a defunct oceanfront golf course in Trenton and to preserve it as wildlife habitat.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy will purchase the 178-acre Bar Harbor Golf Course property for $2.2 million, a group spokesperson said.

The former golf course, located on Route 204, fronts on a long tidal inlet called Jordan River that separates Lamoine and Trenton. It was  last open in 2018, according to the Ellsworth American newspaper, and in 2019 was listed for sale for nearly $2.5 million.

The restored property, to be called the Jordan River Preserve, will protect more than a mile of coastline from development, conserving habitat for threatened and at-risk species, the group said. It also will help protect the environment and boost resilience to climate change, as salt marshes are known to help absorb floods.

The project also will help protect the tidal Jordan River, which has been designated by the state as a seed mussel conservation area and has more than 1,200 acres of productive softshell clam and blue mussel beds.

“This is a unique project along the Maine coast and when completed, the preserve will be a resource not only for wildlife, but for the local community,” said Aaron Dority, the conservancy’s director. “We plan to build trails that highlight the property, while balancing conservation goals, and will ensure shoreline access for local harvesters.”

Clam diggers and others will be allowed to cross the property to get to the shore, Dority said.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy recently was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the agency’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, to go toward the purchase of the golf course. The conservancy will have to raise another $1 million in order to have the funds for the $2.2 million asking price, according to spokesperson Ellerie Ezekiel.

Beyond that, the conservancy expects it will have to raise around six figures more in funds for restoration work and stewardship after the sale is complete, Ezekiel said. The 216 acres that will be conserved by the group includes the entirety of the 178-acre golf course and additional acreage in the intertidal zone below the high tide line, she said.

The tidal Jordan River is visible behind a golfer as he watched his shot at Bar Harbor Golf Course in Trenton in this 2001 file photo. Credit: Caleb Raynor / BDN

“The physical changes will happen over the next several years,” Ezekiel said. “Some examples include restoring the tidal salt marsh habitat that was disrupted to accommodate the former golf course, restoring and managing native meadows, as well as installing trails on a portion of the property. We hope to take advantage of the property’s history as a golf course and use established pathways as an opportunity to create accessible trails.”

Part of the inlet was cut off from the Jordan River and became a pond that has served as a water hazard when the 18-hole golf course was developed in the 1960s. Restoration of the property will include removing berms that separate the pond from the tidal mudflat, enabling the pond to revert to salt marsh, Ezekiel said.

Additional financial partners in the project include The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Anahata Foundation, according to the conservancy.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....