In 1985 a small group of Cape residents formed the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust (CELT; pronouced “selt”) to help preserve natural areas of scenic beauty for future residents and visitors to explore and appreciate.
For past generations, the character of Cape Elizabeth was defined by a rich agricultural heritage and a spectacular rocky coastline with close ties to the ocean. Modern day Cape Elizabeth has evolved into a more suburban community, yet still retains a rural character that is increasingly rare in Southern Maine. Only minutes away from the City of Portland, Cape Elizabeth offers miles of unspoiled trails through woodlands, fields and coastline.
Since its inception, the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust has permanently protected over 650 acres of land for public benefit. As a community-based organization, CELT strives to maintain neighborhood trail access to protected lands and to provide new, and lasting protection of valued lands in Cape Elizabeth. Governed by an all-volunteer board of directors, CELT is recognized as a 501(c)3 tax-deductible, charitable organization. Currently the organization is staffed by a full-time Executive Director, a full-time Membership and Development Manager, and a part-time Education Coordinator.
We invite you to join our organization in support of our efforts…..
What We Do
Preserving land through conservation agreements and occasionally through outright purchase enables CELT to ensure that lands of special significance are protected and remain available for public use and enjoyment. Support for our land acquisition projects comes from local donations and private, state and federal grant programs.
As a local landowner, CELT is responsible for the care and maintenance of 29 properties totaling more than 680 acres of land. Our stewardship program welcomes the assistance of local volunteers to assist our trail maintenance, trail building and regular property monitoring activities.
CELT is committed to providing high quality outdoor learning experiences. We offer community programs on subjects as varied as local owls or mushrooming at our office, on our properties, and at a local assisted living facility. We also provide the schools with a number of in-class and outdoor activities, and field trips. Volunteer naturalist- and staff-led programs foster a greater appreciation of the natural environment surrounding our homes. In addition, CELT is committed to providing assistance and training for local teachers to create new classroom lesson plans through our small grants program.
Working closely with the Town of Cape Elizabeth, CELT is proud to support the creation of a town-wide trail network linking neighborhoods to a central trail connecting Fort Williams to Crescent Beach. Land Trust and Town maintained trails provide excellent opportunities for hiking, biking, birding or simply a quiet retreat. Visitors to our properties are welcome to enjoy the non-motorized use of our marked trails.
In addition to raising fresh produce, our local farms provide local employment, a connection to our past and a diversity of land use. Farmlands can also serve as valuable habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, and farms contribute greatly to the scenic character of Cape Elizabeth whose proud agricultural history goes back to the town’s earliest days.
The Town of Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth has a long history of human habitation due to its rich agricultural grounds. This area was originally inhabited by Abenaki Native Americans. The Abenaki were primarily hunter-gatherers, but farmed the land for corn, bean and squash. European settlers arrived in the 1600s; Cape Elizabeth was named in 1604 by Capt. John Smith to honor King Charles I. Diseases decimated the Abenakis, and European settlers grew in number, taking up the farming mantle. As recently as the 1960’s, Cape Elizabeth was still home to some 50 family farms enjoying the longest growing season in all of Maine. Among the early farming families were the Hannaford Brothers, whose storefront on Commercial Street in Portland grew into a chain of present day supermarkets. Known for a time as the ‘Iceberg Capital of New England’, Cape farms were gradually replaced by residential development, but we are still fortunate to have a handful of farms and farm stands offering fresh local produce and seafood.
Cape Elizabeth has maintained much of its rural character to the present day. Shore Road, long the major thoroughfare, still contains remnants of what was once known as the King’s Highway. Originally a part of Portland, Cape citizens petitioned for and obtained their own government in 1765. In 1895 the southern end of town became the present town of Cape Elizabeth, and the northern end became South Portland.
Home to some 9,000 residents distributed over its 15 square miles of forest, fields and oceanfront property, Cape Elizabeth prides itself on a highly competitive school system, its many active community volunteers, and the preservation of a rural character that has become increasingly scarce in the Casco Bay region.