Our ride ended at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells Beach, which is located on a preserved 2,200-acre site stitched together from five old coastal farms. Farmers began cultivating this land in the 1670s and kept working it for 300 years. When the last private owner died, local residents formed the Laudholm Trust to buy and manage the properties. The 1910 owners gave the name to the main home and barn complex by combining “laud,” to give praise, with “holm,” a meadow on the shore. The Farm Trust was established in 1982, and the Reserve was dedicated in 1986. The Trust now has about 2,500 members.
Wells is one of 27 National Estuarine Research Reserve sites scattered around the country. State and local sources are the base of support for these sites, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration matches their support with a federal grant 2.3 times the original amount. Wells is the only site that relies on a private not-for-profit organization as the local source (all the others have state funds). The Reserve monitors the health of Maine’s estuaries, which are under increasing pressure from housing development. “We’re trying to show how commercial fishing and community clam beds depend on clean water. People need to understand that degrading those estuaries has an economic impact on the state, “ says Jeremy Miller, a researcher at the lab.
We spoke with Laudholm Trust President Diana Joyner in the Trust’s offices inside the renovated farmhouse. “The reserve is a mixture of things,” she said. “It’s a precious piece of open space for people in Maine. There aren’t many places on the coast where you can hike on seven miles of trails. It’s also a community space where people get married, have parties, and gather in all kinds of ways. And it’s also a research facility. The Trust’s job is to keep the community engaged at a high enough level to make sure the research continues to get the funding it needs.”