BRIDGTON, ME– Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) announced that two new land conservation projects are underway to conserve land for future generations.
The Peabody-Fitch Woods project, in partnership with the Bridgton Historical Society (BHS), will protect the historic Peabody-Fitch Farm (also known as Narramissic) in South Bridgton through the acquisition of 252 acres of land surrounding the farm. The second project is the Edwards Forest in Harrison which expands by 38 acres Loon Echo’s Crooked River Intervale Preserve. With a deadline for acquisition of December 31st, 2018, LELT is seeking to raise funds from private individuals, public resources, and other foundations to acquire both the Peabody-Fitch Woods and the Edwards Forest.
A grant of $50,000 will match any gift made towards the Peabody-Fitch Woods project. Gifts of any amount to the project will be matched dollar-for-dollar from now until December 31st, 2018. To date, LELT has received approximately 60% of the funds for the Peabody-Fitch Woods project and needs another $138,000 to complete the purchase.
The “Narramissic” farmhouse was donated to the Historical Society in 1986 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The property to be acquired by Loon Echo surrounds and preserves the original farmhouse. Within the 252 acres is an 18th Century quarry where the granite used in the farm’s building foundations was sourced. The historical society has developed a guided historic hike to the quarry and has plans for new, innovative educational programs at the preserve. According to Ned Allen, Executive Director of BHS, “residential development of this land would clearly undermine such activities and threaten the important and special nature of Narramissic.”
The acquisition of this parcel will protect the historic farmstead by keeping the original property and its character intact and the land open to the public. It will allow the public to forever enjoy the traditional recreational opportunities that the land provides, including hunting, walking, and nature observation.
In addition to protecting the historic farmstead, the acquisition of Peabody-Fitch Woods is part of a greater Loon Echo Forest Connectivity initiative. Forest connectivity is a concept that recognizes that habitats and species function best as part of a large, interconnected network. The 252 acres of the proposed Peabody-Fitch Woods are contiguous with the Perley Mills Community Forest to the west, and is in close proximity to five other conserved lands that protect habitat and water quality.
The 38-acre Edwards Forest, located in Harrison, adds to the forest connectivity of the region as well. The property abuts Loon Echo’s Intervale Preserve, creating a contiguous 337 acres of conserved land along the Crooked River. This additional acreage protects important forestland and animal habitat, adds significant protections to valuable water resources, provides climate resilience and enhances recreational opportunities. Loon Echo has received approximately 34% of the necessary funds for the Edwards Forest Project and needs another $44,000 to complete the purchase.
With the forest acting as a natural filter for water, permanently protecting forested areas around the river is vital to maintaining the high water quality of the Crooked River and Sebago Lake. Protecting forestland along the Crooked River has been an important collaborative goal between Portland Water District, Loon Echo Land Trust, and the newly formed Sebago Clean Waters initiative. The Crooked River has been identified as a priority for conservation as it is the largest tributary to Sebago Lake (with 38% of the inflow to the lake), a drinking water source for 1 in 6 Mainers.
“It is critical that we all help Loon Echo conserve the land that surrounds [the Crooked River and Sebago Lake],” says Portland Water District Environmental Manager Paul Hunt. “[LELT] will work hard to conserve the land and this will, in turn, protect our fisheries, natural waters, and drinking water for future generations.”
Besides sustaining regional water quality, the Edwards Forest will have valuable benefits for local residents. The Crooked River is home to one of Maine’s few indigenous landlocked salmon populations and the public will be allowed to hike, hunt, fish, snowmobile, walk, mountain bike, and horseback ride on the preserve. Preventing future development along the Crooked River will help maintain the unique wilderness-type experience it currently offers.
Donations for either project can be sent to Loon Echo Land Trust, 8 Depot Street Suite #4, Bridgton, ME 04009 or made online at www.lelt.org.
Loon Echo currently protects nearly 6,700 acres of land and manages 31 miles of multi-use trails in the northern Sebago Lake region. Its mission is to work with the local residents to conserve the region’s natural resources and character for current and future generations. Loon Echo serves seven towns including Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Harrison, Naples, Raymond and Sebago with an area of 320 square miles located directly north of Sebago Lake. Loon Echo works within its service area to safeguard water quality, preserve scenic locations such as Bald Pate Mountain, Hacker’s Hill and Pleasant Mountain, and provide outreach and fun educational programs to the public. Loon Echo assists landowners to take steps to ensure future generations will benefit from the preservation of their lands. Member support is what enables Loon Echo to carry out their mission and provides funding for their land conservation and stewardship endeavors.
For more information about upcoming events or ways you can support Loon Echo Land Trust, visit their website www.lelt.org, call 207-647-4352 or visit their office, 8 Depot Street, Suite 4, Bridgton, ME Monday – Thursday, 8:30 – 4:00.