CALAIS – The proposed nature park may be in a foreign country, but it has economic ramifications for this border community as planners look to the north and south to make the park a reality.
Members of the St. Croix Estuary Project have kicked off a drive to raise $350,000 to purchase Todds Point from the estate of R. Whidden Ganong.
Ganong, who died last year, agreed to sell the 330-acre parcel for a fraction of its value if it would be used as a nature park.
Todds Point separates the St. Croix estuary from Oak Bay and is five miles downriver from Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick. It is one of about 20 significant estuaries in the Gulf of Maine.
The St. Croix Estuary Project, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the prudent management of the St. Croix estuary and its resources. The group is comprised of members from both sides of the border.
Although Todds Point is on the New Brunswick side of the St. Croix River, its preservation has become a priority for some Americans across the border because it is in the heart of the St. Croix estuary.
William F. Todd bought the parcel in 1891. The businessman, who earned his fortune in Canada through lumbering, shipping and shipbuilding, loved horses and used the land to house and train his racehorses.
Ganong, a member of the well-known candy-making family, acquired the property in 1951. Ganong candy still is made on Candy Lane in nearby St. Stephen. He had a small summer cottage at Todds Point, as well as some other buildings that over the years have supported gardening and farming.
In 1996, he entered into discussions with the St. Croix Estuary Project about how the property could be preserved. The project contacted the Nature Trust of New Brunswick and found that it was interested in owning and managing the property. The two agencies hope to secure the area as a special coastal property that would be open to the public for education and recreation.
Estuary project officials said developers had offered Ganong $1 million for the land, but the selling price to the Nature Trust was $350,000. An additional $350,000 will be needed for an endowment to fund the management of the land.
The parcel has 180 acres of intertidal land with pebble beaches, rockweed-covered boulders and rocky tidal pools, 40 acres of field and 11/2 miles of river shoreline. The rest of the land is wooded.
Nature lovers who regularly visit Devil’s Head, south of Calais and just across the river from Todds Point, are trying to raise $350,000 to help preserve the 330-acre parcel.
Thursday night, members of the estuary committee met with the Calais City Council to ask for their help. Julian Walker explained that although the land is in Canada, it is an important element in the city’s efforts to develop St. Croix Island as a tourist destination point. St. Croix Island can be seen from Todds Point.
In 1604, Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain landed on St. Croix Island and established the earliest European settlement in North America north of Florida. Calais and St. Stephen are planning a 400th anniversary celebration in 2004.
Walker explained Todds Point’s importance to the area, and he asked the councilors to write a letter indicating their support for the project. To date, the estuary project has raised about half of the money needed. Walker said they were asking surrounding communities to contribute $6,500 in U.S. funds.
“We believe that all the area has a strong stake in Todds Point. It’s a natural heritage that we shouldn’t lose to condominium development, which is quite likely going to happen if we cannot raise the money that is required,” Walker said.
The Estuary Project must have the necessary money in hand by 2002.
The councilors immediately directed the city manager to write a letter of support, and said they would review the money request when they prepare the 2001-02 city budget.