FALMOUTH — The town’s conserved land will be enhanced this summer thanks to a grant to extend the trail network and develop new areas for more access.
The grant also comes as two planned town hikes are scheduled to coincide with National Trails Day on Saturday, June 1.
The $22,700 grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will allow the town to develop two different areas for trails: four miles of walking trails near the 140-acre Woods Road Community Forest, and a mile-long trail at the southern end of Suckfish Brook Conservation Area.
The grant will also help pay for signs and parking areas. Labor will be provided by the all-volunteer Falmouth Conservation Corps.
Robert Shafto, Falmouth’s open space ombudsman, said the grant will help continue the conservation effort, which is part of the open space plan developed in 2006.
“We said in 100 years, we want a community that looks like a ‘Maine community,'” he said. “We want a community that still has open space and one where we don’t have to drive to Millinocket to take a hike.”
To illustrate the convservation progress the town has made, Shafto said 10 years ago Falmouth only had 10 miles of trails. Today, it has more than 40 miles.
The new grant will help Falmouth make more trail connections, which collectively gives the town a larger network than Bradbury State Park, Shafto said.
The Woods Road forest trails will connect to other town and private property to the east, allowing access from six different subdivisions. The trails will provide better access to the forest, which has centuries-old trees and is the oldest forest stand in Maine, Shafto said.
The other trail will be built on the south end of a 124-acre property, known as the Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, which is mostly marshland.
The Conservation Corps will build a 60-foot-long raised bog walk, made from old docks, that will take walkers out to the floating peat bog that comprises most of the property.
Other planned trails will connect to the Westbrook portion of the area.
The June 1 hikes, co-sponsored by the Falmouth Land Trust and the Falmouth Parks and Community Programs department, will lead people on treks across town- and trust-owned land.
The first hike is a 3.2-mile loop through Blackstrap Hill Community Forest Preserve. It will begin at the Hurricane Road property entrance, west of the Maine Turnpike, and will tour along the west branch of the Piscataquis River. The hike is graded “moderate” difficulty.
The second hike is about a mile long and will be inside the Suckfish Brook area near Mast Road. The hike starts at the parking area at the end of Upland Way, and takes hikers through a woodland area, allowing them to see a beaver pond and wetlands.
Both hikes are free and open to the public; they will begin at 9:30 a.m. and should be done by noon. The sponsors will provide water and snacks, along with maps of all the publicly accessible trails in Falmouth.
In addition to the grant and hikes, GrowSmart Maine, the Maine Forest Service and Project Canopy of Maine, which helps develop long-term community forest programs, were expected to present an award to the town May 20, in recognition of Falmouth’s tree preservation.
Shafto, on behalf of the town, was expected to accept the award: a piece of the now-famous, formerly massive Yarmouth elm tree known as “Herbie.”