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Twenty new conservation projects, costing over $5 million, are planned across Maine to preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views and mountain vistas.
The projects are being funded through the state's Land for Maine’s Future program, which Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature reinvigorated last year with $40 million in the biennial budget.
Five projects were also planned earlier this year, and additional projects focused on conserving working lands are expected to receive funding later in 2022.
“This round of funding provides vital protection for Maine’s open spaces from Kittery to Ellsworth,” said Pat Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources. “It also offers unique opportunity for recreation and education that can connect Mainers to our state’s remarkable natural resources.”
Of the 20 projects announced this week, six of the applications are for conserving recreational areas in municipalities: Fryeburg, North Berwick, Owls Head, Portland, Searsmont and Windham.
Four projects — in Ellsworth, Fryeburg, Machiasport and Oxford — are near public schools, allowing opportunities for nature-based learning and outdoor recreation.
“Maine people value the outdoors, and each of these projects represents an exceptional opportunity for us to get outdoors and to protect public access for the enjoyment of generations to come,” Mills said in a news release.
The 20 projects are budgeted at $5.06 million, which will be supplemented with federal and private matching funds.
• East Windham Conservation Project: The 661-acre parcel in Windham in Cumberland County is a fee acquisition by the town of Windham, supporting vital ecological functions, providing water access, and including scenic views of distant mountains in Maine’s most important densely populated region.
• Jockey Cap: The 15.6-acre parcel in Fryeburg in Oxford County is a fee acquisition by the town of Fryeburg supporting low-impact recreational opportunities in the heart of downtown with panoramic views from the top of the dome.
• North Deering Conservation & Recreation Land: The 16-acre parcel in Portland in Cumberland County is a fee acquisition by the city of Portland, featuring urban open space and an existing informal urban trail network.
• Talking Brook Public Lands: The 156-acre parcel in New Gloucester in Cumberland County is a fee acquisition by the Bureau of Parks and Lands featuring an existing trail system between Portland and Lewiston/Auburn and will be combined with a separate 37-acre property to form the new Talking Brook Public Land Unit.
• Plaisted Preserve Expansion: The 7.14-acre parcel in Owls Head in Knox County is a fee acquisition by the town of Owls Head to expand Plaisted Preserve and the existing trail system within a quarter-mile of the Owls Head village center.
• McLellan Property: The 63.9-acre parcel in Searsmont in Waldo County is a fee acquisition by the town of Searsmont, creating trails and water access in the Searsmont village adjacent to municipal buildings and includes approximately 1,200 feet of Georges River frontage.
• Staples Woodlands: The 83.5-acre parcel in Oxford in Oxford County is a fee acquisition by the Western Foothills Land Trust located near schools and downtown Oxford and includes approximately 1,140 feet of river frontage, an important snowmobile trail juncture, and trails for hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
• Whitney Forest: This 370-acre parcel in Ellsworth in Hancock County is a fee acquisition by Frenchman Bay Conservancy, featuring a trail network adjacent to Ellsworth High School and an existing bike trail.
• Bittner: This 165-acre in West Bath in Sagadahoc County is a fee acquisition by Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, featuring a network of multiuse trails and a large forest and wetland habitat block.
• Camp Gustin: This 95-acre parcel in Sabattus in Androscoggin County is a fee acquisition by Androscoggin Land Trust, featuring primitive camping and other low impact recreation opportunities as well as shoreline and wetland habitat abutting existing conservation land.
• Johnson Brook-Sisk: This 56-acre parcel in Kittery in York County is a fee acquisition by Kittery Land Trust that expands the Mt. Agamenticus To the Sea initiative and protects wetland and forested wildlife habitats.
• Thayer Brook Preserve: This 147-acre parcel in Gray in Cumberland County is a fee acquisition by Royal River Conservation Trust, includes important habitat for a species of special concern, extends trails, adds additional access to the existing Libby Hill Forest trail network, and protects a critical segment of the local snowmobile and ATV trail.
• Tondreau Project: This 57.2 parcel in Harpswell in Cumberland County is a fee acquisition by Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, protecting coastal water quality, a rare plant species and providing trail access in an area of the state receiving high development pressure.
• Bauneg Beg Mountain Recreation Area: This 61-acre project in North Berwick in York County is a fee acquisition by the Town of North Berwick in partnership with the Great Works Regional Land Trust and contains the highest summit of Bauneg Beg Mountain (866 ft.), completing conservation of the three Bauneg Beg Mountain summits and protecting a rare plant species.
• Kezar Corridor Lands-Patterson Hill: The 357-acre in Lovell in Oxford County is a fee acquisition by Greater Lovell Land Trust, featuring expansive mountain views from Patterson Hill, and includes part of the snowmobile and ATV recreational trail network, with plans to develop an alternative “pedestrian only” trail.
• Muddy River Forests: The 1,357-acre in Naples in Cumberland County includes easements held by Loon Echo Land Trust protecting large undeveloped habitat blocks in Cumberland County and the Portland Water District watershed.
• Porter Hills: The 596-acre parcel in Porter in Oxford County is a fee acquisition by Francis Small Heritage Trust featuring forest and wetland habitat, including rare plants and natural communities, and a network of trails accessing scenic mountain summits.
• Fort O’Brien Historic Site Addition: The 6-acre parcel in Machiasport in Washington County is a fee acquisition by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, expanding a state historic site that sees 6,000 to 7,000 visitors annually, adjacent to Machiasport Elementary School.
• Great Pond Mountain Wildlands Expansion: The 501-acre parcel in Orland and Bucksport in Hancock County is a fee acquisition by Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, expanding the existing 4,230-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands and including an undeveloped shoreline on the Dead River.
• Wallamatogus Mountain Community Forest: The 336-acre parcel in Penobscot in Hancock County is a fee acquisition by Blue Hill Heritage Trust, featuring the second-highest peak on the Blue Hill peninsula, great hiking combined with birding, blueberry picking, and hunting.
The Land for Maine's Future Program is the state of Maine's primary method of conserving land for its natural and recreational value. The program was established in 1987 when Maine citizens approved a bond to fund $35 million to purchase land and easements. The program’s priority is to conserve Maine landscape, recognizing that working lands and public access to these lands is critical to preserving Maine's quality of life.
Since then, LMF has conserved nearly 604,000 acres of land, more than half of which have been working lands, including 41 farms, 9,755 acres of farmlands, 26 commercial working waterfront properties and 158 miles of former railroad corridors.