Freeport residents urged to be stewards of open space, trails

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FREEPORT — The Conservation Commission wants residents to know Quarry Woods, its sixth and most recent open-space acquisition, is ready for the public’s exploration.

The property covers 34 acres and offers walking trails, wildlife and historical significance. The trail head is off Lower Mast Landing Road and is mostly swamp and wetland. Along the trails are vernal pools with wood frog and salamander egg masses.

The trails that run through the land are maintained by the commission and are available for walking, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Teachers at Mast Landing School use the land as outdoor classrooms to teach students about the natural habitat.

Ethel Wilkerson, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, said Quarry Woods is part of the town’s 456 acres of open space. She said E.B. Mallett used the quarry to harvest granite during the late 1800s and the New England Telegraph Co. maintained a utility line across the land. 

The Maine Conservation Corps finished work on hemlock bog bridges throughout Quarry Woods last fall and now visitors can walk through the wetlands without disturbing the land.

Wilkerson also encouraged residents to be stewards of the land.

“We like people to frequently use the properties,” she said. “We also like to know  how the trails look, how the bridges are holding up and if any work needs to be completed.”

With input from those who use the properties, Wilkerson said she and the seven-member Conservation Commission can hold their meetings on-site and address trail issues. They meet the third Tuesday of each month.

“We’d love to get out here more often, but with nearly 500 acres of land and a small group of volunteers, it takes a lot to oversee the properties,” Wilkerson said. “It would be helpful for us to hear from the people who enjoy the land.”

Other open space and public properties in Freeport include Hedgehog Mountain, near the town landfill, with 196 acres of land for hiking, biking and other recreational uses. The Florida Lake property has 163 acres off Wardtown Road, the Hidden Pond property is near the Durham town line and has 50 acres of open space, Goreman Park has eight acres and Soule Park has four acres.

The budget for managing the 456 acres was $1,500 in 2011, and Wilkerson said it was increased to $1,675 for 2012.

Visit the town’s website for property maps and management plans.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Ethel Wilkerson, chairwoman of the Freeport Conservation Commission, holds an egg mass over a vernal pool at the Quarry Woods property off Lower Mast Landing Road. The trails have been completed with the help of the Maine Conservation Corps and are maintained by the Conservation Commission.

With improvements including hemlock bridges complete, the trails at Quarry Woods in Freeport are ready for visitors.

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