SACO — The Ecology School has closed on its purchase of River Bend Farm in Saco, and will begin the transition from its rental property at Ferry Beach to this new campus over the next several years. “We are pleased and excited to have completed the purchase of this outstanding property, which will be the perfect new home for The Ecology School,” says Executive Director Drew Dumsch.
Since first opening in 1998, The Ecology School has rented its property from the Ferry Beach Park Association and has conducted programming primarily in the spring and fall seasons. Annually over 12,000 program participants, including elementary and middle school students and teachers from throughout Maine and New England, are part of single-day and residential Ecology School programs. Students engage in immersive, hands-on environmental science and food system lessons taught within beach, dune, forest, salt marsh and garden ecosystems on and around campus.
The move to the 105-acre River Bend Farm on Simpson Road will significantly increase the School’s reach by making year-round programming possible, including onsite school vacation and summer program offerings for both children and adults along with increased community engagement with the School’s resources on conservation, agriculture, ecology and sustainability.
The long-term vision of the property includes a full-scale organic farm with crops and livestock that will adhere to a conservation easement now held by Maine Farmland Trust and recently transferred from Saco Valley Land Trust. The farm operation will be a key component of the new site and will deeply expand the School’s programming in agroecology, the study and practice of ecology through the lens of sustainable agriculture.
“We have long had aspirations to develop a full-scale organic farm for educational and research purposes,” says Dumsch. “One of the best ways to help students connect ecology and sustainable living to their own lives is through the study of food systems and the daily act of eating.”
The property was purchased from the family of the late Mary Merrill, who lived there from the 1950s until passing in 2005. Tom Merrill, Mary’s nephew, says that The Ecology School’s plan to conduct conservation education on the land falls exactly in line with what his aunt would have wanted. Her lifelong interests included youth, education and conservation, he says.
“All of those things combine perfectly with what The Ecology School will be doing here,” says Tom Merrill. “We are thrilled to have the School here and think that my aunt would be thrilled too.”
The School will break ground in the coming year to begin construction of state-of-the-art student lodging and a dining commons that adhere to the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous standard for green buildings. Going beyond LEED certification, these standards achieve net-positive water use and energy use by relying on solar power and through stringent and highly efficient construction practices that do not use any toxic chemicals.
These will notably be Maine’s greenest buildings to date and will make The Ecology School the most sustainable residential environmental learning center in the country.
For more information, contact Drew Dumsch.
Founded in 1998 in Saco, ME, The Ecology School has brought outdoor science, environmental and sustainability education to more than 170,000 students and teachers from throughout Maine and New England. Through hands-on, experiential programming, students learn to become stewards of their environment as they explore local forests, coastal ecosystems and food systems. We deliver our mission through single-day and residential programs for elementary and middle school students; workshops and presentations in schools; professional development for teachers; community engagement events; and distributing original field and curriculum guides.
For more information, contact:
Drew Dumsch, Executive Director
Office phone: 207.283.9951