Family members celebrate the  establishment of the Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area. Credit: Courtesy of George Smith

When I came up with the idea for the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, I had no idea it would be such a success. At the time, I worked for the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, and we recruited Maine Audubon to partner with us on the project.

We collected enough signatures to place our proposal on the ballot, but the legislature liked the idea and enacted it in 1996 so it never went on the ballot. I was pleased and proud to serve on the MOHF Board for its first 10 years.

MOHF gets its money from an instant lottery game, and so far has awarded more than $20 million to important conservation and wildlife projects.

I was particularly pleased when the MOHF board recently provided a grant to the Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area in Mount Vernon, up the road from my house. Linda and I donated the woodlot to the Kennebec Land Trust which has done a great job of managing the woodlot and making it available to the public with great trails – including a boardwalk through the bog – and, with the help of Mount Vernon’s library, a story walk for kids.

The recent MOHF project report includes the Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area. Here’s what it says:

Ezra Smith Conservation Area Interpretive Trail

On August 12, 2020, the Kennebec Land Trust stewardship team completed the 450-foot bog boardwalk across the wetland at the Ezra Smith Wildlife Conservation Area. After receiving a Tier 1 Permit from Maine Department of Environmental Protection in February of 2020 KLT stewardship staff Jean-Luc Theriault (Stewardship Director) and Tyler Keniston (Stewardship Manager) worked with four interns to build out the second parking lot and the bog boardwalk on the northern end of the property.  

KLT’s Membership and Programming Director coordinated with Town of Mount Vernon’s Library (Dr. Shaw Memorial Library) to host a public snowshoe walk the winter of 2019 and a children’s book storywalk in the summer of 2020. 

This was preceded by work in the summer of 2018 to create a 0.8 mile wildlife interpretive trail, three interpretive signs that feature the property’s wildlife habitats, a parking area on Route 41, a booklet of outdoor and hunting stories and photographs authored by George Smith which highlight the property’s wildlife habitat, wetlands and forested resources, and a property brochure and professionally designed map. 

Future plans for the property include a 0.5-mile trail connecting from the eastern edge of the wetland to Hopkins Stream. This project will require the acquisition of another parcel for access to Hopkins Stream.

Links to KLT public communications

Facebook video profiling the boardwalk

Link to Walk my Woodlot guide

George Smith has spent his life advocating for hunters, anglers, wildlife and conservation. He has been awarded many lifetime achievement awards including from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife...