SANFORD — Three Rivers Land Trust is pleased to announce the successful acquisition of its latest preserve: the Sanford Community Forest. The public fundraising campaign was announced in early 2021, and through successful grants and extraordinary generosity from local donors, Three Rivers was able to purchase the near 550-acre property in late September. To celebrate this momentous win for the future of the community, Three Rivers will host a walk at the property on Sunday, Oct. 24 beginning at 1:30 p.m. See details at the end of this article.
The Sanford Community Forest is a large undeveloped landscape of forests and open wetland located just three miles from downtown Sanford. The well-known Sanford Rail Trail forms part of the property’s northern boundary, and the Mousam Way Land Trust owns the McKeon Environmental Reserve just to the north, which is already open to the public. Mousam Way Land Trust partnered with Three Rivers to help raise awareness of the project during the fundraising phase, and the two land trusts will continue collaborating as the Community Forest is brought under Three Rivers’ management.
Once a public parking area is established, the preserve will be officially open to the public in early 2022 for hiking, dog walking, mountain biking, nature observation, and hunting. The rough 3.6-mile path from previous forestry operations will start to be improved next year to serve as a recreation trail. Educators and community groups are encouraged to contact the land trust about using the preserve with their students or members. Some hardy adventurers already access the property by parking at the McKeon Environmental Reserve on Blanchard Road, and others use the limited rough parking available along Oak Street. One can also bike or walk in along the Sanford Rail Trail to access the property. Note that no ATVs are permitted on the Community Forest property, though they can be used on the Rail Trail. Visitors should be aware that trail markings are limited at this time, and blaze orange colors are strongly recommended during hunting season. Those wishing to hunt at the preserve should reach out to the land trust to understand current guidelines. Contact email@example.com or 207-358-9695.
By conserving the Sanford Community Forest, the land trust has protected one of the largest remaining natural areas within city limits from development. Land conservation like this safeguards ecological health, and ensures the availability of land for public recreation and traditional uses long into the future. The Community Forest also provides vital water quality protection in the Salmon Falls River watershed and carbon storage in its extensive forests to slow down climate change.
It took a massive fundraising effort – over $780,000 – to secure the property. This was a tall order for a small non-profit with just two part-time employees. However, the community responded to the call with great generosity, and several large grants were received that made this project possible. Please visit our website for more information about our wonderful donors!
Three Rivers Land Trust has been inviting ideas and comment from the public about the future uses of the Community Forest. Fundraising will continue for improvements to the trails and the creation of a suitable parking area off of Oak Street. Volunteers will be needed to help mark the trails, build re-routes, and maintain and monitor the trail. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-358-9695 to get on the list for volunteer updates.
Three Rivers will also work to better understand and explore the natural features of the landscape. It seeks knowledgeable volunteers and students to help map wetlands and other sensitive features of the landscape and to develop a list of the plant and animal species present on the land. A primary part of the land trust mission is to conserve wild and working landscapes for the future of our communities, and knowing what the land contains is an important first step. The Mousam Way Land Trust, in their ongoing partnership with Three Rivers, is also helping to document the features of this impressive landscape.
Finally, the land trust will also begin to explore the potential for sustainable forest harvesting on the east side of the property. This part of the land was acquired with the intention of demonstrating healthy, climate-friendly forest management methods. While the forest is still recovering from past harvests, the land trust intends to create a detailed forest management plan to showcase best practices for healthy Maine forests. Local forest professionals interested in working with the land trust on this effort should contact Lee Burnett at email@example.com.
To celebrate the protection of the Sanford Community Forest and to discuss its promising future, Three Rivers will hold a public walk at the property on Sunday. Those wishing a shorter walk can plan on spending no more than an hour on the first leg of the trail. Those eager for a longer excursion can join a group attempting the whole 3.6-mile loop trail, which could take 2.5 to 3 hours depending on conditions. The event may be cancelled if inclement weather occurs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-370-4191 for details, to sign up, or for the status of the walk.
Three Rivers Land Trust coordinated this ambitious conservation project as part of its mission to build stronger, healthier communities through the conservation of wild and working landscapes. Find more information about Three Rivers’ properties on their website: www.3rlt.org. Keep up with land trust news through the Three Rivers Facebook page, or by signing up for the land trust’s e-newsletter.
Three Rivers Land Trust is a membership-supported organization dedicated to building stronger, healthier communities through the protection of wild and working landscapes in Acton, Alfred, Lebanon, Shapleigh and Sanford/Springvale. Named for the Little Ossipee, Salmon Falls, and Upper Mousam Rivers, Three Rivers Land Trust holds conservation easements to protect farms, forests, and wetlands, and maintains preserves, which provide public access to recreation and hunting.