BRIDGTON - On June 21st, the first full day of summer, the Raymond Community Forest in the Town of Raymond, became the newest community forest in the State of Maine. The nonprofit Loon Echo Land Trust purchased the land from Hancock Land Company for the Town of Raymond. The Raymond Community Forest encompasses a 356 acre parcel of land to the east of Crescent Lake bisected by Conesca Road. This new community forest offers long-term multiple benefits for the town, including protection of the quality of Raymond’s waterways and wildlife, as well as exceptional views to and from Pismire Mountain.
The Raymond Conservation Commission had their eyes on the property since developing its Open Space Plan in 2009. The land conservation project was first proposed by the Raymond Conservation Commission and Loon Echo Land Trust in 2012.
According to Chairman John Rand, “This property has many valuable assets that we mapped during our planning process including water quality and habitat protection, trail and recreation opportunities, a forest resource that can help support our economy, and a fabulous view from the top of Pismire Mountain. In sum, this is one of Raymond’s special places that our plan sought to protect.”
Hancock approached Loon Echo to initiate a partnership between the company, Loon Echo Land Trust and the Town of Raymond. In May of 2013, a detailed proposal was presented to the Raymond Board of Selectmen. The board provided a vote of support for Loon Echo to enter into the agreement with Hancock to essentially buy time and the option to purchase the land. They were grateful to Hancock for agreeing to such generous terms and to Loon Echo for its efforts. The Board viewed the project as an opportunity too important for the town to pass up.
"The property has been owned by Hancock Land Company dating back to 1943. With the help of Kevin Hancock's support of this project by donating a portion of the cost, this acquisition preempted development and will retain the rural characteristic that is so important to the residents of Raymond," John Rand continued.
Through the hard work and dedication by the Raymond Conservation Commission and the citizen based Steering Committee, Loon Echo Land Trust, the Town of Raymond, the Open Space Institute, Portland Water District, Lands For Maine's Future, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, David Conservation Foundation, William P. Wharton Trust, The Anonymous Foundation, Camp Agawam and over 200 individuals and families the property will be conserved permanently.
“We commend Raymond’s citizens for coming together to protect this important forestland – a place that will long provide so many economic and environmental benefits to their community. The Open Space Institute is gratified to support such a deserving project through our Community Forest Fund,” said Jennifer Melville, OSI VP for Conservation Grants and Loans.
Recreational plans are being developed with the assistance of community members. Plans include establishing a parking area on Conesca Road and developing hiking trails leading to the cliffs of Pismire Mountain. Plans for the lower elevation forest include low-impact multi-use trails such as walking, hiking, cross country skiing/snowshoeing and mountain biking. Traditional uses such as hunting will continue. The property has had a long tradition of sustainable forest management. With a history of forestry, the property will continue to provide necessary income through timber management to support the land and trails into the future.
Loon Echo's Raymond Community Forest Project campaign had raised over 90 percent of the funds needed to purchase the property by this past November, just 10 percent short of the $680,000 needed for the purchase. With a 6 month extension to the purchase agreement from Hancock Land Company the final push to raise funds was achieved with The Open Space Institute awarding $30,000 towards the project and Raymond's residents voted overwhelmingly to contribute an additional $6,800 for the project. With this generous last minute support Loon Echo was able to close on the property on the summer solstice. A modest reserve has been established to be used for stewardship and trail work. Fundraising will continue to support these efforts as plans are on track to open a portion of the trails for the 2016 fall season.
Loon Echo Land Trust protects over 6,556 acres of land and manages 28 miles of multi-use trails in the northern Sebago Lake region.
For more information about upcoming events or ways you can support the trail construction for the Raymond Community Forest, go to Loon Echo Land Trust website at www.lelt.org or call 207-647-4352.