July 2, 2021

Windham partners with Presumpsot Regional Land Trust for Lowell Preserve

The Windham Town Council has
voted to partner with the
Presumpscot Regional Land
Trust for long term management
and the preservation of
protected lands at Lowell
Preserve in Windham for
future generations.
By Ed Pierce

Town councilors in Windham have unanimously granting a conservation easement and a trail, access and parking easement to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust for the Lowell Preserve property.

Meeting via Zoom on June 15, members of the Windham Town Council voted 7-0 to approve the conservation easement proposal which sought to preserve in perpetuity the unique and undeveloped character of the Lowell Preserve property and to protect the high-quality habitat of the forest and associated ecosystems, while also providing a variety of opportunities for well-managed multi-use outdoor recreation, trail access and scenic enjoyment for the general public for generations to come.

Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts told councilors that the easement idea came about following discussions between Windham Planning Director Amanada Lessard, Windham Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks and Presumpscot Regional Land Trust Executive Director Rachelle Curran Apse.

“We wanted the land trust to help review existing trails and to design some new trails there,” Tibbetts said.      

He said the easement ensures that the Lowell Preserve Protected Property shall be managed effectively for conservation purposes and uses.

“It makes Presumpscot Regional Land Trust a partner on the parcel to be preserved for the community,” Tibbetts said. “This is a good win for the community.”

The Lowell Preserve Protected Property consists of about 307 acres of wooded, undeveloped land located southeast of Little Duck Pond in Windham. It contains nearly 66 acres of forested wetlands and around 3,952 feet of shorefront along McIntosh Brook, the primary tributary of Highland Lake.

The protected property has been identified by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as a wild brook trout habitat.

Situated within the Highland Lake and Mill Brook watershed, long range protection of this watershed is of vital importance to the overall health of the Presumpscot River ecosystem, including the recently restored migratory fish runs from the sea upstream through Mill Brook and into Highland Lake.

Windham’s Open Space Plan adopted in February specifically identified as a priority the permanent protection of current areas used as open space and parks, expressly including the Lowell Preserve, the establishment of management plans for town-owned properties and developing partnerships on open space protection.

The Lowell Preserve Protected Property actually abuts properties which together provide a block of nearly 750 acres of contiguously conserved land in the towns of Windham and Falmouth and provides an unfragmented forest habitat corridor of exceptional size.

Now that the town council has approved the conservation easement, the land trust will conduct a comprehensive survey of existing trails and uses and interview all neighbors to the Lowell parcel. Consideration will determine respective necessary design specifications and permits for passive and active recreation bridges over McIntosh Brook and a designed layout of the Lowell Preserve trail network will be compiled to increase ease of navigation, sustainability of maintenance, and quality of wildlife habitat, while maintaining trails for all current user groups.

The council also approved Tibbetts to release funding of about $22,000 for trail redesign, planning and repairs at the Lowell Preserve to the land trust. 

As part of this process, the land trust will designate specific types of trails for different user groups such as family-friendly trails, mountain bike trails, horse trails, snowmobile trails, or ATV trails and create a new trail map showing approved layout and clearly marking with allowed user groups on each trail.

Going forward, a management plan will be finalized that will spell out management objectives, ongoing management activities, a timeline for each activity and who is the primary responsible party for each activity.

Trail improvements are expected to begin in August with a grand reopening to be held early in October. <

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