These two stretches of Hog Bay in Franklin will be opened to low-impact trails sometime after the Frenchman Bay Conservancy closes on its $94,500 purchase of 17 acres of this shoreline. Credit: Courtesy of Frenchman Bay Conservancy

A $94,500 grant will allow a nonprofit conservancy to buy shoreline in Hancock County along some of the most pristine areas of Taunton Bay, officials from the conservancy said Monday.

Deemed an area of statewide ecological significance, the 17-acre stretch along Hog Bay off Franklin that Frenchman Bay Conservancy plans to purchase has mudflats that are a vital habitat for waterfowl, particularly terns and upland sandpipers, said Kat Deely, the conservancy’s land protection manager.

The purchase will preserve the shoreline from commercial development — the land was slated for four house lots — while creating what Deely called “an anchor point for public access on Hog Bay,” a part of larger Taunton Bay, which is connected to Frenchman Bay by the tidal Taunton River.

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“We have a number of landowners who are supportive of the idea of having public access to the shoreline, being able to walk along the shoreline for a bit,” Deely said. “It might be different spots that have trails, or it might have connectivity between all of the trails.”

Kristen Puryear, an ecologist with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, described the Hog Bay area as among “some of the most biologically productive in Maine.”

The conservation group’s purchase includes 12 acres of saltmarsh that contribute to a larger 60-acre tidal marsh, the only one in Hog Bay, Puryear said.

“Fish, shellfish and marine worms are all dependent upon the tidal rivers, creeks and mudflats for migration, nutrients, spawning and nursery areas,” Puryear said. “Waterfowl and the rare saltmarsh bird, Nelson’s Sparrow, depend on the saltmarsh in Hog Bay for nesting and foraging.”

The Frenchman Bay Conservancy expects to close on the 17-acre purchase by March 1.

The property will include a small parking lot off Route 200 and a walking trail. Hiking, fishing, hunting and birdwatching will be allowed on the parcel, which includes approximately a third of a mile of waterfront, said Austin Schuver, community engagement coordinator with Frenchman Bay Conservancy.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy was founded in 1987 and preserves distinctive ecosystems, lands and waters from the Union River watershed east to the Hancock County line, including more than 8,000 acres of land and 28 miles of public hiking trails.