Two acres of land at the Little Deer Isle end of the bridge to the mainland is now public property thanks to a vigorous campaign by local residents to buy it.

An estimated 100 people from near and far gathered at the site of the former Sisters Restaurant on September 9 to celebrate the purchase of “Bridge End” with cake, a ribbon cutting and socializing on the beach.

The hard work over the past eight months included winning the support of two out of three Deer Isle selectmen, a favorable town vote on the proposal, and raising $400,000 to pay for the property. Donations ranged from kids offering small change to a $50,000 check from a resident who asked to remain anonymous. More than 200 people contributed funds.

Ciona Ulbrich, interim co-director of land protection at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, has been aware of the land since the owners put it on the market several years ago, but was unable at first to find the means to acquire it. She joined forces with Jean Wheeler of Deer Isle, and the two of them kept working on the project. Eventually Jean Wheeler and Ann Hooke, two island residents, formed the Bridge End Citizens Initiative to advocate for the project and work to raise money. Late last year, Ulbrich approached the select board about the possibility of the project, who directed her to get an article on the warrant to bring to town vote at the March town meeting, in order to best get a read on townspeople’s support.

At the meeting, Ulbrich fielded many questions, and residents made poignant remarks, speaking in favor of more access to the water. Before Bridge End, the town of Deer Isle only owned one 16-foot-wide shorefront parcel of land on Ferry Landing Road, and one other parcel in Deer Isle village, more suitable for a picnic than launching a boat, Wheeler said.

When it came to a town-wide vote, the sentiment was clear—87 people favored the plan while 13 opposed it. After the vote, the select board appointed a five-member committee headed by Loring Kydd to recommend future uses of the property and work with Ulbrich and others on future plans.

Said Wheeler, “It was amazing. We hit an emotional chord. It (the Bridge End property) has a beautiful view of the Reach, of the schooners and other boat traffic. It’s neat to have that belong to the town.”

Ulbrich said her nonprofit organization holds a conservation easement on the property that assures public access. The town of Deer Isle is now owner of a deepwater parcel beside the graceful suspension bridge that in 1939 replaced ferries to Deer Isle and Stonington.

The land, carved from a larger property still for sale, includes 324 feet of beach frontage, level parking, a dock, floats, 11 moorings, a boat launching area and access for local fishermen. The dock will likely be torn down, and a town committee is studying a float system and what to do with the modest restaurant building, an add-on affair begun many years ago as Pinky’s Lobster Shack.

Among those serving cake at the celebration was Rebecca Emerson, who waited tables at Sisters Restaurant. “It was a good place to work,” she said.

The two acres were purchased from Robin and Carl Rosenquist, Vermont residents who maintain a home on Deer Isle. Robin is one of the sisters who ran the restaurant. Their original asking price was close to $600,000.

Twelve acres, including a house and motel, adjoin the two-acre parcel and remain for sale. That land could be purchased for an estimated $300,000. A house and small motel sit on that land. “That’s what a lot of us want to see happen,” Anita Haviland said.

Steve Cartwright is a freelance writer living in Waldoboro