Board of Directors

President Ellen Trout Bennett

Ellen brings experience as a former middle school earth and environmental science teacher. She also directed regional professional development programs for science teachers and facilitated post-secondary study for first-generation college students. Committed to both understanding and protecting our environment, as well as community engagement, Ellen volunteers to teach science enrichment activities alongside a group of retired scientists in local schools, and has served on numerous community boards.

Vice President John Shattuck

John Shattuck has been the Economic & Community Development Director for the Town of Topsham since 2008.  In this role, he works to retain and recruit high quality businesses and jobs to Topsham, as well as supporting the enhancement of community cultural and recreational amenities, including the preservation of natural areas and rural open space.  John also serves on the board and executive committee of the Midcoast Economic Development District (MCEDD) an organization he led for many years as president, advocating for regional cooperation to increase efficiency and impact of municipal planning and economic development. John is a lifelong hiker and a former Registered Maine Guide who values the restorative power of our natural environment.

Treasurer Robert Perry

A resident of Highland Green since 2017, Bob has volunteered many hours maintaining Preserve trails and the Ecology Center.  He has a BA in Political Science from Boston College and a Master of Public Administration from Northeastern University.  Before retiring. he served as Executive Director of several mid-sized Boston law firms, managing all aspects of firm business including financial matters.  For more than 25 years, he was a board member of several non-profits including the East End House in Cambridge MA, one of the oldest settlement houses in the United States, and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers which works to increase access and remove barriers for Brazilian, Cape Verdean, and Portuguese immigrant populations in Eastern Massachusetts.  He served as Treasurer for both organizations for many years.  Over the past 10 years, Bob has stayed active by participating in triathlons, strongman competitions, Spartan races and more than 90 road races.

Secretary Ann Gardner

Ann’s BS in environmental biology from Nasson College led her to a lifelong commitment to the environment.  She recently retired from the Environmental Protection Agency where she served 30 years as a paralegal.  A lifelong outdoor enthusiast, she has worked at environmental education centers, summer camps and currently is most content when on woodland trails or in her kayak with her camera and her ID guides.   She views living next to the Cathance River Preserve as a gift.   Since moving to Maine a few years ago, she has been involved behind the scenes at CREA using her technical know-how and strong research skills, and now is on the Board as secretary.


Tyler DeAngelis

Tyler teaches biology, physics, and earth science (through mapping software) as Baxter Academy for Technology and Science and has a passion for teaching place-based courses. While at Bowdoin College, Tyler took many courses in environmental science and completed a summer fellowship for the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust that had him working at the Cathance River Nature Preserve on a daily basis. In addition to his studies, Tyler was on the Bowdoin College Nordic Ski Team and spent many hours training in and appreciating the natural world of Mid-Coast Maine.

Rick Dedek

Rick is the principal at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham. He promotes the value of science education with an emphasis on local, outdoor opportunities for students.  He believes helping all children engage in a hands-on, lifelong relationship with the environment is part of our community’s responsibility for public education. He is active in helping to strengthen partnerships between CREA and public educators for student learning and environmental appreciation. Rick attended Wheaton College in Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Southern Maine where he received his bachelor’s degree in English, and Masters of Science in Special Education.  Rick and his wife Sara live in Topsham with their three children, Piper, Finn, and Imogen who hike the CREA trails regularly are enthusiastic CREA campers, and can often be found pond skimming and checking under rocks and logs. Rick and family enjoy sports, fishing, boating, reading, and travel.

Alex Gates

A Bowdoin College student (’22) majoring in Earth and Oceanographic Science and Environmental Studies. A native of Bath, Alex worked at Maine summer camp Bishopswood for 4 years and has a passion for connecting youth with nature. He has worked with the Office of Sustainability at Bowdoin, educating peers on how to lead more sustainable lives. He served as CREA’s intern for the 2020 summer and helped in so many ways: putting together the CREA Nature Investigators series to engage children at home over the summer; designing a member survey and analyzing results; creating a new QR code trail at the Preserve; blazing trails; and much more. Alex brings the invaluable skills and perspective of his generation to our Board, along with a great work ethic and enthusiasm for the mission.

David Keffer

Dave and his wife, Jan, moved into The Highlands Retirement Community from Cape Cod, MA during July, 2016, and reside in its Town Hall Village.  They have two children and five grandchildren split between Portland, ME and Chicago.  His educational background is Amherst College, BA, Economics 1960, and Univ. of PA Wharton School, MBA, Accounting 1962.  His career included time as a CPA with Price Waterhouse (now PWC) in New York City, healthcare CFO with CIGNA Healthcare, and Director of a mutual fund administrative services start-up enterprise on Wall Street, expanding to Portland, ME.  He has always enjoyed sports, skiing, hiking, and the outdoor life, having spent a brief period in the Forest Service west of Missoula, MT.  “Hiking in new environments always gives us a better appreciation of the natural local geology and vegetation,” he claims.  They are enthusiastic supporters of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust and CREA. 

Tim Paul 

As the marketing manager at The Nature Conservancy in Maine, Tim works every day to connect people and nature so they may thrive together. Tim came to TNC after more than 20 years as a marketer for L.L.Bean, where he played an integral role in the company’s successful retail store growth from a single location in Freeport to twenty stores in nine states. Tim has been an Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker, rock climber, mountaineer, fly fisherman, and canoe and kayak paddler. Today he and his wife Kathy live in Topsham and keep very busy raising their twin boys who have enjoyed many sessions of CREA Summer Day Camp over the past several years.

Susan Moyes Rae-Reeves

Susan has a background in fundraising for community-based and mental health organizations in NYC, and social work in NYC and Maine. After years of experiencing the wealth of diverse communities in the city, she returned home to Maine, choosing Topsham for its amazing rivers, trails, and proximity to everything important. In retirement, Susan devotes herself to service on town committees and not for profit boards, including CREA. A love of the outdoors, and the potential for bringing together people of all ages, is her motivation.

Matt Nixon

Matt worked for the State of Maine for over a decade as the Deputy Director of the Maine Coastal Zone Management Program, primarily in the fields of environmental coastal policy, planning, and data collection, public access, and working waterfront/coastal conservation and protection.  In July of 2019, Matt resigned from his job with the State to focus on his PhD, his business, and his family.  He founded Muddy River Farm Aquaponics, a freshwater produce and saltwater recirculation research and development facility where his work focuses on raising Rainbow Trout, lettuce, ginseng, cucumbers, and Crassostrea Virginica (the Eastern Oyster).  Matt is currently working with the Maine Technology Institute, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and the US Department of Energy to develop a 3D-printed, composite nanofiber-reinforced, terrestrial oyster growth system that does not require a lease in the ocean.  Mr. Nixon also serves on Topsham’s Board of Selectmen, the Sagadahoc County Budget Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Network Oversight Committee (ISMN) for the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS).  Matt’s front yard is the Muddy River, one of the Cathance’s eternal companions, where he lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs, a cat, and four chickens.

Sue Reed

Sue recently retired from a 40+ year career in early childhood education.  She was a teacher, child care director, and spent many years in higher education running a lab school and training teachers who work with young children. For 12 years she worked at The Muskie School of Public Service at USM overseeing early childhood policy.  Most recently she was the Early Childhood Specialist at the Maine Department of Education where she was responsible for development and oversight of public preschools in the state.  She is passionate about ensuring that all children have access to high quality early childhood education regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.  She believes all children need to spend lots of time outdoors and that young children are naturally curious and excited about the world around them.  She also feels strongly that parents and teachers can benefit from training to support children in their environments and that early childhood experiences can impact a person’s interests and attitudes for the rest of their lives. Sue lives steps away from the entrance to the Cathance River Preserve in Highland Green with her husband, Bob and Goldendoodle, Rosie.

Janvier Smith

Jan earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Duke University, and an M.A. from the Naval Postgraduate School. A former summer field ecology researcher and seasonal National Park Service ranger-naturalist, he served 22 years in the naval aviation, then owned an insurance and financial services agency for 13 years, and helped launch CREA’s long-standing relationship with the State Farm Companies Foundation. He also serves as a volunteer financial counselor for military retirees and other veterans. He has served as CREA’s treasurer, finance committee member, member of the development and programs committees, and is a past president of CREA.

Andrea Stevens

Andrea worked for many years with land trusts and other conservation-based nonprofits after earning advanced degrees in environmental management and plant ecology. She has been most involved with land stewardship and connecting landowners and communities with nature. Some of her favorite projects over the years have included monitoring rare plants in the Highlands of New Jersey, guiding municipal staff in managing the natural features and visitor use of local parks, coordinating the training of Master Naturalists, working with volunteers to manage invasive plants, designing and building trails, and coordinating new community programs at the Cathance River Preserve. Andrea was a staff member at CREA from 2016 until 2018, first assisting with development and then branching out to help with administrative and programming needs. She lives in North Yarmouth with her family, enjoys morning bike rides on the back roads, and plays the flute in a regional wind symphony.

Ron Strand

Ron has been very active volunteer for CREA taking substantial responsibility for the Ecology Center maintenance and local trails on on the Preserve. Since joining the CREA Board in 2017 he has continued his stewardship of the Ecology Center and trails and plays a major role in encouraging and supervising other volunteers. Ron holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Ron has previously served on town conservation committees, and on various water and environmental commissions. His employment has been as an engineer for planning, design and construction of environmental and water pollution controls. Ron’s engineering expertise and enthusiastic participation in CREA has been essential to the management of our physical assets.


Executive Director

Caroline Eliot

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Caroline Eliot came to CREA after seven years as Associate Director at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust where she coordinated the land trust’s successful bid to become accredited under national standards, directed stewardship of 2,500 acres of conservation land (including Cathance River Nature Preserve), managed many miles of trails, and was deeply involved in managing and administering the trust’s programs. Prior to that, she spent time raising a family and worked in Maine in natural resource planning and policy at both the state (Maine Department of Conservation) and regional level (Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission). She has a BA in English from Princeton and a Masters of Environmental Studies from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Caroline feels a deep connection to and interest in the natural world and loves being part of a community organization that connects people to nature. She also believes in the power of education. She served on the school board of SAD 75 for six years and spent many delightful years volunteering in her children’s school, helping with everything from reading to nature-based science activities. She lives on 50 acres in Bowdoin with her husband, Ben, where they enjoy living as sustainably as possible. Having launched her two sons into the world, Caroline now spends her spare time replacing lawn with native plants, enjoying her chickens and bees, biking, running, and doing pretty much anything outdoors. Caroline is delighted to be working with CREA which works so hard to help all generations appreciate and understand science and nature, especially the youngest generation. She hopes the youth we work with will carry their passion and knowledge into adulthood, where they can apply it to crafting innovative solutions to the environmental challenges of our time.


John Rensenbrink

Professor Emeritus of Government, Bowdoin College. Resident of Topsham since 1965. Helped organize Topsham’s Future in 1999 and took a lead in the negotiations with John Wasileski that resulted in the establishment of the Cathance River Preserve and the subsequent formation of the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). He initiated the Environmental Education Project for Bowdoin students in Brunswick/Topsham Area Schools. He is co-founder of the U.S. Green Party and the Maine Green Party; former President (2005-2007) of the Society for Universal Dialogue; and author of three books, including Against All Odds: the Green Transformation of American Politics (1999).

John Wasileski

CREA and Highland Green were locally founded by Maine resident John Wasileski. A respected Maine businessperson who studied in environmental science at McGill University, John has a reputation as a visionary who has exhibited an extraordinary commitment to preserve and protect the environment. His commitment to residents, his employees and to local cultural and charitable organizations helped him earn the Maine Governor’s Award for Business Excellence.

Advisory Council

Dana Cary, Retired (Topsham)

Louisa Edgerton, Business Manager (Bath)

Jim Howard, CEO, Priority Real Estate Group (Topsham)

Barry Mills, President Emeritus, Bowdoin College, Former Chancellor, UMass Boston (Harpswell)

John Rensenbrink, Professor Emeritus of Government, Bowdoin College (Topsham)

Jan Smith, Retired Naval Officer and financial services business owner (Topsham)

Barbara Snapp, Retired Educator (Brunswick)

John Wasileski, Owner, Highland Green in Topsham, Oceanview in Falmouth (Lyman)