May 25, 2014

Raymond Community Forest Project seeks to protect 350 acres

Loon Echo Land Trust is working with the Raymond Conservation Commission to conserve approximately 350 acres of land in Raymond, owned by Hancock Land Company. This project is not the same project that was thwarted two weeks ago on Vanessa Drive due to environmental concerns for wildlife. 

“Loon Echo is working with the Raymond Conservation Committee to preserve a large parcel of land off of Conesca Road currently owned by Hancock. The goal is to make this a community forest complete with hiking trails.  We have applied for grants and are awaiting approval. In the meantime, the town will be voting on whether or not to appropriate $50,000 (out of the Open Space Fund) to begin this project,” explained Carol Meader, public relations manager for Loon Echo Land Trust. “Once the $50,000 is appropriated and grants come through, we will then begin a fundraising campaign and education process.  

The project is located in North Raymond on Conesca Road, including much of Pismire Mountain and a large forest near Crescent Lake.  Currently the land is owned by Hancock Land Company. In 2007 the Raymond Open Space Plan identified this property as “a special place” that, if conserved for the benefit of the public, could offer water quality and wildlife habitat protection as well as guaranteed recreational and scenic viewing opportunities. An option agreement with Hancock is temporarily securing the land through 2014. 

According to a flyer released to Raymond residents some of the benefits of this community forest is long-term/permanent protection for the quality of Crescent Lake and waters downstream to Sebago Lake, construction of a public trail network offering easy to moderately difficult terrain, scenic viewing, protection of a large forest that can be used with future forest management. 

The partners have through the end of 2014 to raise funds toward the goal of $600,000 to then exercise the option agreement with Hancock. Grants have been submitted to the Land for Maine’s Future Program, US Forest Service, Hancock Charitable Trust and Portland Water District. State and federal grant makers require that local funds be given to “match” their funds. The Town of Raymond will be asked on Tuesday, June 3 at the 2014 town meeting to contribute $50,000 to support the project. If approved, the funds will largely come out of the existing Open Space Fund which was created 10 years ago for this very purpose and a contribution from Raymond is necessary for the project to succeed.  
In 2015, the Town will be asked to consider owning the land subject to a conservation easement with Loon Echo that will forever protect the natural resources, public access and working forest. Later, a forest and wildlife management plan will be developed with public input.
For now, they partners need to get voters to the June 3 Town Meeting to secure public support and essential funds. 

“Our main goal right now is to get enough voters to attend town meeting and approve the initial funding,” said Meader.

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