Perley Mills Project Progressing Rapidly

The Perley Mills Community Forest project has made remarkable progress since it was first introduced to our members in January. The project goal is ambitious – protect 1,600 acres of land spanning three towns, two counties and two major watersheds within fourteen months time.

Loon Echo Land Trust is up for the challenge due to the array of public benefits that the forest offers; local municipal officials backed the project from the onset; and an anonymous family foundation pledged to donate a major gift directed towards this effort. All of these factors created a strong base for a regionally significant, and urgent, land protection project.

The purchase agreement with K&W Timberlands expires on December 31, resulting in pressure to raise the funds this year.  As of June 1st over eighty percent of the total $1.4 million budget (includes the purchase price, transaction expenses, and an endowment) has been secured from foundations, local families, and state and municipal funds (see www.lelt.org for a current list of major contributors).

The host towns of Denmark, Bridgton and Sebago are all playing important roles. Denmark’s municipal leaders have a goal of owning the bulk of this forest on behalf of the public. Their eagerness to conserve a large working forest is transpiring into participation in fundraising and public education. Sebago will own the remaining 130 acres located on Swamp Road. On June 1st Denmark and Sebago held annual town meetings with warrant articles each requesting $25,000 to the project.

“I was extremely gratified to see the strong support for the Perley Mills Community Forest shown by Denmark residents at our Town Meeting. A few questions concerning long term economics were raised, which were enthusiastically answered by other members of the community, not necessarily members of the Conservation Commission. The vote was just short of unanimous to allow the Selectmen to release funding to the project,” stated Commission Chair, Terry Rhoads.

Loon Echo Director and Sebago resident, Jerry Holt, summarized their Town Meeting by saying, “The voters approved the purchase of the Sebago portion of the Perley Mills Project. A healthy discussion ensued prior to the vote and the tally was significantly in favor of it.”

When the project is completed, the two towns will own and manage the 1,600 acre regional property for public recreation, natural resource protection, and selective timber harvesting to offset any loss in property taxes. The land will be permanently protected by a conservation easement held by Loon Echo.

Bridgton is playing a support role to protect the Narrow Gauge Trail and Willett Brook aquifer, their public water supply. The Bridgton Town Meeting occurred on June 12 while this newsletter was being printed, and it is expected that they will gift $25,000 from their Moose Pond Trust Fund.

Contributions are encouraged in 2013 to help complete this project. Gifts of all amounts can be sent to Loon Echo Land Trust, 8 Depot Street, Suite 4, Bridgton, Maine 04009 and note the gift is intended for the “Perley Mills Community Forest.”