FREEPORT — A local couple has donated 19 acres of forest and marsh land near Wolfe’s Neck Farm to the Freeport Conservation Trust.
Joe and Genie Fields, who recently downsized and moved to a different part of town, had owned 44 acres of land on Wolfe’s Neck Road since 1986. Three weeks ago they decided to donate a large portion of it, now called the Field Estuary, to the land trust.
“We donated this ecologically and historically important land to Freeport Conservation Trust in order to preserve it for our children and all the people of Freeport forever,” the Fields said in a press release from FCT.
The Fields sold their home and a barn on one piece of land, sold one parcel of the land to an abutter, and have put another parcel, a field facing Wolfe’s Neck Road, up for sale. They said they decided not to sell the remaining 19 acres because they wanted to protect the salt marsh and salt meadow on the land.
“We’ve always wanted to keep the back acreage,” Joe Field said Monday. “We always wanted to put that into public use.”
FCT President Victoria Stefanakos said the acquisition will be a great asset for the community.
“We are grateful to the Fields for sharing with us and the community their valued property so that anyone will be able to walk through the majestic hemlocks, past rock outcrops, and down to the expansive and ever-changing salt marsh,” she said. “We are honored to care for this land into the future.”
The Fields said they are glad the property will be protected because they didn’t like the idea of selling the land and having a developer clear it to build houses.
“The choice was selling the whole piece and making a ton of money, but then someone else would own it and we didn’t like that idea,” Genie Field said. “Now people will be able to walk there because the Freeport Conservation Trust will never let it go.”
FCT Executive Director Katrina Van Dusen said even if the land wasn’t bought by a developer, a new owner probably wouldn’t have allowed the public to access the property.
“Not only is it protected, it’s accessible,” she said. “There never would have been access if they hadn’t donated it.”
Van Dusen and the Fields said they weren’t sure what the land is valued at, especially now that it’s been divided into different parcels. The Fields said they didn’t have the property assessed before donating it because they didn’t want to know the value.
“The real value for us was not monetary,” Joe Field said. “It was making it publicly accessible.”
FCT’s plan is to develop a trail system and make the marsh accessible from Wolfe’s Neck Road. Over the next few months the trust will work on clearing and marking trails, as well as putting in boards and planks for access where necessary. Van Dusen said consultants may be hired to guide the process.
FCT also may build a small parking lot at the entrance on Wolfe’s Neck Road, as well as a kiosk or signage to give people information about the estuary. Van Dusen said the proposed work shouldn’t cost a lot.
“I don’t imagine it to be a big investment to make it accessible,” Van Dusen said.
In addition to being walkable, kayakers can also use the land, as the marsh is accessible from various parts of town, such as the town dock. The Harraseeket River runs along a portion of the property.
The Fields said they hope the donation will help people understand the history of salt water farming in Freeport.
“In a town where we have a lot of land dedicated to the public, we don’t have a lot of marsh land,” Joe Field said.
The property is expected to be open to the public by spring.
Freeport residents Genie and Joe Field have donated 19 acres of land, including expansive salt marshes, off of Wolfe’s Neck Road to the Freeport Conservation Trust.