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CUMBERLAND — Thanks to a bridge loan from two local land trusts, the purchase and preservation of Knight’s Pond/Blueberry Hill by Cumberland and North Yarmouth is expected to be consummated next month.
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 215-acre undeveloped parcel. It is owned by Rebecca Leland Swigget, who inherited the property from parents Richard and Helen Knight.
The purchase funds come from several sources.
The Cumberland Town 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 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 has been in jeopardy.
Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to withhold voter-approved bonds earmarked for LMF conservation projects has meant that the Knight’s Pond project, and others, would not get funds for completion.
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, according to Gregg Caporossi, project manager with TPL.
Amid the political jousting in Augusta, the closing deadline had already been extended once, and Swigget “graciously agreed” a second time to push the exercise of the option to Nov. 30, with closing within 30 days after that, Caporossi said earlier this month.
Both towns also extended their purchase and sale agreements.
With the LMF dollars still in doubt, the two land trusts voted to advance the necessary funding so that the property could finally be purchased, according to a press release Monday from TPL.
“The boards take this action with the full expectation that the state will honor its LMF commitment and ultimately reimburse the funds to the land trusts,” the release said. “The partners are ensuring that this last chance to protect the largest and most significant recreation and natural resource parcel left in these fast growing towns is accomplished.”
Immediately after closing with Swigget – possibly on or around Oct. 16 – TPL will transfer ownership to the two towns, Caporossi said.
“The protection of Knight’s Pond prevailed because of a broad and deep base of community support, land trust leadership, and a shared unwavering commitment to making sure future generations would have access to the beauty, history, and experience of Knight’s Pond,” TPL Director Wolfe Tone said in the press release. “It is a magnificent accomplishment.”
The Maine Trust for Public Land plans to close next month on the acquisition of Knight’s Pond/Blueberry Hill. Cumberland and North Yarmouth will then acquire their portions of the property from TPL, and convey easements to their respective land trusts.