A Grand Toward Grand Acreage

Bridgton resident, Bob Casimiro, walks Pondicherry Park almost daily. He appreciates that the land has been set aside as a trail system that crosses paths with the old railroad tracks.

The first time he set foot on the trail system that could soon become the Perley Mills Community Forest, the Narrow Gauge trail was a particularly fascinating historical point for Casimiro.

So grand was the land, the history of the train, and the weather on the day he took that hike, he decided to donate a grand toward the purchase of the parcel.

“Part of the trail is where the old railroad had been. It was the history of it. It was a beautiful day when I took that walk. The pond, and the railroad — all of those things came together with what they are trying to do,” he said.

“It was more imperative after that experience,” he said, of his decision to donate $1,000 toward the campaign.

Casimiro was first smitten by the Perley Mills Community Forest campaign after a trek on the land with the Denmark Conservation Committee members and Jon Evans, Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) volunteer and stewardship coordinator.

LELT — along with the Towns of Denmark, Bridgton and Sebago — has embarked on a campaign to purchase 1,600 acres to set aside as a community forest. Loon Echo already maintains an easement; and Denmark would own the majority of the parcel — pending voter approval by that town’s citizens.

This campaign is approaching the last few months to meet an agreement of December 2013 to purchase the land from K&W Timberlands. The remaining sum to be raised is $200,000.

“Fortunately Bob’s gift will be instantly doubled, as an anonymous family foundation has offered a challenge grant to Loon Echo and will match every dollar donated to the project through 2013, the deadline of the purchase agreement with seller K& W Timberlands,” Evans said.

“The campaign is nearing 90% of its $1.4 million goal,” he said.

“The last 10% is always hard to fundraise,” he said.

Casimiro made his donation known in order to bring additional public awareness to the community forest project.

“Well, I am a city boy. I have lived in cities most of my life. I moved here five years ago. I compare Bridgton to the places where I have lived. It is really a special place here. It has more (amenities) than the surrounding towns,”

“It has the simpler life, less crowded. From where I live, I can walk down the hill and go to the bank, Renys, the post office, or the library,” he said.

“I like living here,” he said.

The Perley Mills Community Forest would be very accessible to people who live in Bridgton. It’s a way to preserve the natural woodlands, and a piece of railroad history.

“Jon Evans was my former landlord. His dedication to what he does is noteworthy,” Casimiro said.

“A couple years ago, there was a storm. I cannot remember if it was spring or summer; but, it knocked down a lot of trees. When I walked on Pondicherry Pond Trail, someone had already been there with a chain saw. Logs had been cut out of the trees that were blocking the trail; and you could walk there,” he said.

“A few days later, I saw Jon. I said someone was really on the job there. Come to find out, it was him,” he said.

“Whenever you donate money, you do due diligence. You want to make sure the money is well spent. I know Jon; I know Loon Echo will take care of the land. It will be well taken care of,” Casimiro said.

According to a LELT press release, “Once purchased, the land will be conserved as a working forest, returning income to support community programs. The forest will also be managed to retain and attract abundant wildlife, as well as be forever available to the public as a recreational and hunting area.”

To learn more about the project or to make a gift, please contact Loon Echo Land Trust at (207) 647-4352 or go online to www.loonecholandtrust.org