Cumberland council extends deadline to acquire Knight's Pond

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously extended to Dec. 31 the deadline for the purchase and preservation of Knight’s Pond/Blueberry Hill.

The council in February approved contributing $300,000 from its Open Space Acquisition reserves for the acquisition. North Yarmouth voters in April approved spending up to $100,000 from the town’s Future Lands fund for the $1.13 million acquisition and preservation of the mostly forested land.

The 215-acre undeveloped parcel, off Greely Road Extension, is primarily in Cumberland, with 50 acres in North Yarmouth.

Also in hand is more than $460,000 from foundations and private individuals. But an additional $225,000 Land for Maine’s Future grant needed for the purchase is in jeopardy.

Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to withhold voter-approved bonds earmarked for LMF conservation projects would mean the Knight’s Pond project, and others, would not get funds for completion.

The Trust for Public Land, the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, and the Royal River Conservation Trust have worked with the two towns to buy and preserve the parcel. It is owned by Rebecca Leland Swigget, who inherited the property from her parents, Richard and Helen Knight.

The Trust for Public Land initially had until the end of May to exercise its option on the property, and was then obligated to close by June 30. The two towns would have acquired their portions of the property from TPL, and conveyed easements to their respective land trusts, Gregg Caporossi, project manager with the Trust for Public Land, said earlier this year.

But the political jousting in Augusta altered things.

The closing deadline has already been extended once, and the landowner has “graciously agreed” a second time to push the exercise of the option to Nov. 30, with closing within 30 days after that, Caporossi said in an email last week.

While the Town Council had to vote to extend its agreement, North Yarmouth’s Board of Selectmen authorized Town Manager Rosemary Roy to enter into agreements regarding the parcel on the town’s behalf, and to complete any paperwork needed for the sale to occur, she said last week.

The towns’ extension to Dec. 31 is within “reasonable parameters” of that authorization, she said.

With the threat of the LMF funding falling through, “we are now forced to work on contingency plans so that we do not lose this incredible opportunity to protect a property that means so much to our communities and our region,” CCLT President Penny Asherman said in July.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Former professional hockey player Eric Weinrich, left, Ed Gervais of North Yarmouth, and Penny Asherman, president of the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, were among those who gathered at Knight’s Pond in Cumberland in April in support of its acquisition by Cumberland and North Yarmouth.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.