Cumberland eyes 50-acre addition to Rines Forest

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council is due Monday, March 12, to discuss the acquisition of just over 50 acres of undeveloped property for conservation and public access purposes.

The parcel would serve as an expansion of the town’s 227-acre Rines Forest property, most of which was purchased from Dale Rines in 2003 for $1.2 million. The town would buy this piece from Rines as well.

With that initial purchase, “we received a right of first refusal for the remaining 51.5 acres,” Town Manager Bill Shane said in an interview March 2, noting that the council next Monday will consider exercising that right and, if so, have an appraisal done of the property to assess its value.

The Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust, which has worked with the town on preserving parcels such as Knight’s Pond, has approached the town about partnering on this project as well, and helping with fundraising toward the purchase. The town’s money for the project would come from reserve funds, and not added to the budget, Shane said.

“Over the last decade or so, we’ve been putting money aside each year for property acquisition,” he explained. “… That money is already available.”

Rines has agreed to have the town pay for the purchase over the course of three or four years, Shane said.

The extra acreage “provides a critical connection to the most significant vernal pool in town, right next to Idlewood (Drive),” the manager noted, adding that the land trust hosts the April migrations of salamanders, frogs and newts as they cross the road, enter the forest, and lay their legs in the pond.

The piece also contains a network of trails which have been used as logging roads, and about 10 parking spaces could be created off Range Road to safely access the expanded section.

For those who might argue that Cumberland already owns enough land, Shane said the council at times “has been pressured to stop buying public land, and stop taking land off the tax rolls,” but noted that only about 6 percent of the town’s approximately 14,000 acres is set aside for open space.

“I think it’s a responsible number,” he added. “It’s protecting things for the future. The parcels we have purchased over the years have had connectivity, have had value, and were in an original open space plan back in the 1990s.”

A conservation easement already on Rines Forest would also encompass the expansion, Shane said.

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

The Cumberland Town Council on Monday, March 12, will discuss the purchase and conservation of a 51.5-acre expansion of its already-owned Rines Forest property.

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.