HARPSWELL — A new hiking trail, opened in a ceremony last week, now offers the first legal public access to the town’s pristine Widgeon Cove.
The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust celebrated the opening on June 7 during the Harpswell Hiking Challenge, an annual event sponsored by the town’s Recreation Department.
As the new trail opens, the trust is moving forward with plans to develop even more trails and managed wilderness habitat on a preserve acquired in 2011.
From the trail head on Harpswell Neck Road, the trust’s newest trail meanders along a three-quarter-mile loop through mixed forest and wetland, offering direct views across Widgeon Cove.
“The public actually has no formal legal access to Widgeon Cove,” said Reed Coles, director of the trust. “This is the first time they’ve been able to see it.”
Trail construction started last October and has been “a labor of love” for the volunteers, who invested more than 300 hours in the project, said Julia McLeod, the trust’s outreach coordinator.
“It’s just a really gorgeous spot,” McLeod said. “You look out over these expansive mudflats, it’s just so pretty and peaceful in there. It makes a really great spot for a trail.”
To create the trail, volunteers cut through tangles of deadfall, shifted boulders out of the way, hauled gravel to support wet areas, and reclaimed fallen wood for rough-hewn benches placed at scenic viewpoints.
Widgeon Cove increases the wide availability of public walking trails in Harpswell. The trust already offers miles of trails in the more than 350 acres it owns and 11,000 acres it has under protective easements.
Soon, hikers will have additional options, as the trust begins developing a trail network in the Curtis Farm Preserve, a 72-acre parcel acquired in 2011. Coles said the trust hopes to make some headway on the network this summer, Coles said.
Located in South Harpswell, between Basin and Curtis coves, the preserve offers a diverse variety of habitats, from young hardwood groves to scrub spruce, grasslands, and almost 2,000 feet of shoreline.
A forest management plan is helping the trust maintain the parcel’s habitats through selective pruning and cutting, according to Coles.
The trust has also established a community group, the Friends of Curtis Farm, to gather public input on using the land, McLeod added.
“These are public properties, but if other people see it as a place they care about, they’re more likely to care for it,” she said.
A view across Widgeon Cove from one of the scenic lookout points abutting the new trail.
A sign points to the trail head for the Widgeon Cove loop, opened by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust last weekend.