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Hearing could help plan future of Harpswell public land

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Hearing could help plan future of Harpswell public land

HARPSWELL — In 2002, Harpswell assumed ownership of more than 77 acres of forest behind the municipal facility on Mountain Road.

The land was meant for some future use, but aside from a failed proposal to install wind turbines atop the Long Reach overlook – the highest point in town – and discussions about affordable housing, the property has been idle ever since.

Today, only the Cliff Trail exists, taking hikers along two adjoining town-owned parcels, a 117-acre property bought in 1978, and the 77-acre property. Hikers move through woods and along steep cliffs before reaching the stunning vista atop Long Reach.

On Thursday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., the Cliff Trail Conservation Area will be the subject of a public hearing that could help determine its future. The hearing will take place at Harpswell Islands School.

The discussion will be about whether the area should be surveyed. According to Mary Ann Nahf, chairwoman of the town Conservation Commission, the result of the study will show how much of the area could be developed and how much could be put into a conservation easement.

Nahf said there are no known proposals to develop the area. But, she said, the commission feels it is important to survey the area "before there's pressure." 

Cliff Trail is not a designated conservation area. The Cliff Trail was created by the town's Recreation Committee
shortly after the town purchased the land behind the meeting facility, and has become popular with some residents.

"When it was purchased it was meant for some future use," Nahf said. "A lot of the area is ecologically sensitive. There's a lot of cliffs and much of the area can't be developed. The idea is to see what part is ecologically sensitive and what can be developed."

In November, the Board of Selectmen set the Dec. 10 public hearing to address a warrant article for next year's Town Meeting. Nahf said the article will ask voters to allow the board to seek grants to pay for the survey.

The 2010 Town Meeting warrant will be finalized in January. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net