Falmouth Land Trust moves to protect 87 acres along Piscataqua River

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FALMOUTH — Thanks to an award of just under $250,000 from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, the Falmouth Land Trust is moving forward with a plan to protect 87 acres of lush forest along the Piscataqua River, adding to more than 100 acres already protected in the area.

The property is one of eight priority areas targeted in the town’s Open Space Plan, and the new acquisition will protect approximately a mile and a half of river-front property from future development.

“This has been a high priority for the Land Trust,” Falmouth Open Space Ombudsman Bob Shafto said. “It turns out to be a rather unique habitat, rich in bird and mammal life.”

The land was identified last summer by Maine Natural Areas Program Ecologist Kristen Puryear as a Hardwood River Terrace Forest, which is rare in Maine, according to the report.

“These flood-plain forests experience seasonal or annual flooding, have silty soils, a lush understory, and occur on higher elevation levees and floodplains, with shorter duration flooding events than in other floodplain types,” the report stated.

Puryear also found a number of invasive species in the region, which Shafto said the Land Trust would be working on this coming summer.

“Some areas of the property are heavily infested, others only lightly so, but all need to be controlled – a difficult, long-term challenge but one we recognize and hope to tackle,” he said.

Shafto said the section of river between Woodville and Field roads is perfect for short canoe and kayak trips, or boaters could travel all the way from Woodville Road to Mackworth Island on the safe, generally calm waters.

“We have this wonderful resource in town that practically no one knows exists,” Shafto said. “We’re working on opening this up for safe, fun trips.”

He said the Conservation Corps has been working on clearing some fallen trees so small boats can pass along the river.

“There is at least one beaver dam you have to climb over, though,” Shafto said.

While the funds from MNRCP cover the bulk of the acquisitions and easements, which are just verbal agreements with landowners at this point, Shafto said he hopes the Land Trust could find some additional grants to cover as much of the overall cost as possible. He said he did not think the project would cost the town more than $20,000.

“In the end, it’s going to be a bargain for the town,” he said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]

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A section of land along the Piscataqua River, photographed last summer, that the Falmouth Land Trust hopes to protect using funds recently allocated by the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program.