Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) has received a $50,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to construct a new trail and parking area at Peabody-Fitch Woods, their newest preserve. The trust purchased and protected the 252 acres of forestland surrounding Bridgton Historical Society (BHS)’s Narramissic Farm in South Bridgton in August of 2019.
The grant will be used to build a new universal access trail that will take visitors on a walk through time. When completed, the trail will provide glimpses into the farm’s agricultural past and vistas of westerly mountains. Informational signs along the universal access trail will provide insight into the Peabody and Fitch families’ pioneering efforts.
The Recreational Trails Program is an assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. RTP provides funding to Maine and other states to “develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses.” LELT has received RTP funding for several other projects in the past, including projects at Pleasant Mountain Preserve and Raymond Community Forest.
LELT has received additional funding for the trail project from individual donors as well as the Maine Land Trust Network’s L.L. Bean grant program. In total, the trust has raised $70,000 to break ground on the new trail in 2020.
“We received incredible support from the community for this conservation project,” says Matt Markot, LELT’s Executive Director. “The support we are seeing now for trail development speaks to the preserve’s potential to benefit our community in many ways.”
The forest (now called Peabody-Fitch Woods) was originally part of the historic Peabody-Fitch Farm (now called Narramissic), which was established in 1797, just three years after Bridgton was incorporated. Under LELT’s ownership and management, Peabody-Fitch Woods will never be developed, but the property will remain on the municipal tax roll. LELT’s acquisition of this land secured public access for recreational opportunities including hunting, walking, and nature observation.
Peabody-Fitch Woods will also support a variety of cultural, educational and recreational activity. BHS has used the woods for programs and tours for many years, and now LELT and BHS are planning new collaborative events that will take advantage of access to the farm and the woods.
Peabody-Fitch Woods was conserved and protected by LELT on August 2nd, 2019. Thank you to the many individual donors, including the Normann Family, that made this land protection project possible. Additional thanks to the Portland Water District, Sebago Clean Waters, Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, an anonymous family foundation, Kendal C. and Anna Ham Foundation and Fields Pond Foundation.