The island near Yarmouth harbor where L.L. Bean hunted for ducks in the 1930s, and where rare birds still nest each year, will be preserved in perpetuity for the public to enjoy, a statewide conservation group said Monday.
The family of Leon Gorman, grandson of Leon L. Bean, has donated the 28-acre Lanes Island to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, adding to the growing list of more than 300 islands preserved by the organization.
The trust’s president, Tim Glidden, called the island a “precious resource” in a statement announcing the gift.
“With more people realizing what a unique quality of life and place there is in this region, it is essential that we continue the important work of maintaining and expanding public access to the land,” Glidden said. “We are grateful to Leon and Lisa Gorman for their vision and generosity in making this gift.”
The Gorman family began purchasing portions of the island in 1968 before acquiring the final segment in 2010.
The trust will work in the coming months to form a management plan to balance the preservation of habitat with the new opportunities for public boating, hiking and camping. Clammers also harvest shellfish each year from the mudflats surrounding Lanes Island, but their activity will not be affected by the donation, said Nat Tupper, Yarmouth’s town manager. The island had generated about $8,800 in tax revenue per year for the town before preservation, Tupper said.
The island was named after James Lane of Malden, Mass., who acquired it and another parcel on the mainland during the period when Massachusetts Bay Colony residents were offered land grants in what is now Maine.
In 1658, Lane settled in what was called North Yarmouth – in present-day Yarmouth. He was killed by Native Americans and his family fled back to Massachusetts, according to a 1902 book of Lane family genealogy, which is preserved by the Yarmouth Historical Society.
According to the same historical account, the island was known as a headquarters for local Native American fishermen, and served as a meeting place and burial ground, said Michael Chaney, director of the Yarmouth Historical Society.
“Tradition marks the island as the place where the Indians planted corn, held councils, tortured their captives and buried their dead,” Chaney said, reading from the historical document.
Research by the society backs up the claim that the island was a burial ground, Chaney said. As early as 1833, settlers recorded that they had found bones buried in the sand.
The state has recognized the island as ecologically significant because of the waterfowl, shorebirds and bald eagles that nest there.
The Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working toward preserving two other islands. Across the bay in Harpswell, the trust is seeking to acquire the Goslings, two small islands with a history of public access under private ownership. If the effort is successful, the Goslings would complement the trust’s recent conservation of a part of neighboring Lower Goose Island.
A separate fundraising effort is underway to buy and preserve roughly half of Clapboard Island in Falmouth, which had been under private ownership since 1898 and remains closed to public use.
The Maine Coast Heritage Trust has placed the Clapboard Island land under contract for about $1.4 million, but needs to raise the money to complete the project. On Monday, a representative from the trust presented a funding pitch to Falmouth town councilors.
The purchase plan calls for the town to pitch in between $300,000 and $500,000, depending on the success of fundraising and how much is netted from the sale of a cottage that stands on Clapboard Island, said Keith Fletcher, a project manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Along with the town and private donors, the Pew Foundantion has pledged to match a portion of funds raised to purchase Clapboard.
Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303 or at: