BRUNSWICK — Two land trusts hope to raise $3.5 million to purchase and preserve over 80 acres of land on Woodward Point in Brunswick.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust are purchasing the property from Andy Cook and Jaki Ellis, who have owned it since 1980.

The parcel has more than 10,000 feet of frontage on the New Meadows River and the trusts say it is one of the largest open pieces of land available for purchase in southern Maine.

“It may be the only chance we have any time in the near future,” said Keith Fletcher, southern Maine project manager for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

The trusts hope to keep the property in its current state, including keeping the fields, he said.

Brunswick Town Council approved giving the trusts a letter of support to be included in an application for a $1 million grant to help pay for the purchase. The land will cost $2.5 million, and the two trusts want to raise an additional $1 million to establish an endowment to preserve and manage it.

The owners sold the acreage at a significant discount, and gave the trusts until 2019 to raise the money to complete the purchase, Fletcher said.

The parcel, consisting of expansive fields and tidal mud flats, is a rarity along the Maine coast.

The 80-plus acres of waterfront property on Woodward Point would be turned into a public preserve. Photo by Ken Woisard

“Fields are declining in Maine, as few of them are maintained. Those fields are just alive with grassland birds that are looking for that habitat,” said Fletcher. “There’s more than I’ve seen anywhere, and I used to do grassland conservation in the Midwest.”

Keeping the property undeveloped will also reduce the risk of pollution reaching the adjacent mud flats, which are used by clammers.

“Even a little bit of pollution of the land could result in the loss of those beds. By protecting the water quality, we hope to keep those mud flats protected for harvesters there,” said Fletcher.

Ellis and Cook farmed the land for over a decade and have allowed a local farmer to hay the property, keeping the fields open. The trusts may try to continue that arrangement.

The pair purchased the land in 1980 from John and Earlyle Colburn.

“The land was not for sale, and we fell in love with it, and wrote them a letter. We said we would love to buy a couple of acres to build a house,” said Ellis. “And they said, ‘How would you like to run the farm?’ ”

Despite having never farmed before, Ellis and Cook took over the operation, eventually buying the entire property except for a house the Colburns kept for themselves.

Ellis and Cook used the fields as pasture for beef cattle, but eventually had to give up farming.

“We had full-time jobs, and running a farm is another full-time job,” said Ellis.

Still, having lived there for over 30 years, Ellis and Cook didn’t want to see it sold to a developer and turned into a cookie-cutter house lots.

“This is, for us, a way of passing it on to somebody else to keep it open and beautiful,” said Ellis.

While Cook and Ellis will be selling most of the land, they plan to keep a small parcel.

“We don’t want to totally give up our connection to the land,” said Ellis.

Plans call for the scenic parcel to be semi-open to the public. Ellis said she hopes the trusts can work out a way to allow some public access without overwhelming the area. The trusts are still working out how best to use the property.

“Conservation of Woodward Point has the potential to offer many benefits to the Brunswick community,” said Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Executive Director Angela Twitchell. “We look forward to the opportunity to work with the local community to identify the best uses for this spectacular place.”

Those interested in donating to the effort should contact Nicole Connelly at 729-7366 or Angela Twitchell at 729-7694.