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Scarborough citizens group sues Maine, feds, to protect Eastern Trail

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Scarborough citizens group sues Maine, feds, to protect Eastern Trail

SCARBOROUGH — A group of concerned citizens filed a federal lawsuit July 29 to stop government agencies from making a portion of the Eastern Trail available for private development.

The complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland lists the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Gov. John Baldacci as the defendants.

"Easements have been given and they've not been given correctly," said Susan DeWitt Wilder, a plaintiff in the case. "Our complaints were ignored and they went into back rooms to make these deals."

The land, which was purchased by the Maine IF&W in 1961, is part of the East Coast Greenway, a system of trails that runs from Florida to Maine. The land was purchased with funds from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, which requires land purchased with funds generated from a tax on hunting equipment sales to be protected wildlife areas.

The group, called Scarborough Citizens Protecting Resources, has been fighting easements on this land for several years, although the group says the most recent easement, granted to KDA Development in 2005 for the Eastern Village development, would turn approximately 3,000 feet of the popular biking and walking trail into a town road.

Four years later, in 2009, a town purchase of 46 acres on the Manson Libby Road from the Gervais family was used to offset the easement granted to KDA.

"IF&W did a paper transaction," said attorney Steve Hinchman, who is representing Scarborough CPR. "The Gervais acquisition was added to the marsh in 2009. They want to go back and credit the purchase of the Gervais land against these easements."

Because federal law prohibits sale of land purchased with funds from Pittman-Robertson, a land swap would effectively cancel out the issuance of the Eastern Village easements. However, the Gervais land was purchased with funds from Scarborough's voter-approved Parks and Recreation bond money, which, by ordinance, must only be used to purchase land for public recreational use.

"It's just outrageous for IF&W to fix its lawbreaking by dragging Scarborough into this," Hinchman said. "It would violate the town's own ordinance and state law."

However, he said, it's not too late, because the trail has not yet been turned into a road.

"We would like to see the trail preserved. We don't want to see this turned into a road," DeWitt Wilder said. "We've been talking to IF&W for two years now. This is our last resort."

A Maine IF&W representative said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net