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Canco Woods purchase finalized in Portland

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Canco Woods purchase finalized in Portland

PORTLAND — Canco Woods, the nearly 13-acre urban woodland near Canco Road and Read Street, has been purchased by the city and will be preserved as open space.

A neighborhood group, Friends of Canco Woods, had been working since the spring with The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation group based in Portland, to orchestrate a deal that would protect the woods.

Although owned for 20 years by an affiliate of Central Maine Power Co., Canco Woods has long been a popular oasis for hikers, bikers and nature-lovers. The Friends group formed after neighbors heard of plans to sell the property.

The trust bought the land for $300,000 and immediately sold it to the city, which had contributed $75,000 to the deal through its Land Bank, the trust announced in a press release Friday.

Another $270,000 came from private donors, including more than 200 neighborhood residents who contributed in a door-to-door fundraising drive.

"Generations of kids grew up playing in these woods and many of them have contributed money to our effort so that now their children will have the same chance," said Wolfe Tone, the trust's state director.

Despite that support, the deal almost never happened.

In June, the trust had obtained an option to purchase the land for $350,000. In addition, $50,000 was being sought to maintain the woods. But as the deadline for purchasing the land approached earlier this month, the fundraising campaign was still short of the necessary funds.

That's when the parent company of CMP, Iberdrola USA, reduced the price.

"We are pleased to continue Iberdrola's long legacy of protecting and preserving the environment by supporting this successful campaign to preserve the Canco Woods," said Bob Kump, Iberdrola chief executive officer. "The woods and trails will be an asset for the neighborhood and a good addition to the city's larger system of parks and walking trails."

Now a conservation easment held by the Portland Trails land trust will forbid the property from being developed. The group also will be responsible for upgrading and maintaining the area's paths.

About $10,000 is still needed to fund stewardship of the woods, according to Tone. Still, the coalition of neighbors is optimistic.

"Our neighborhood has been incredibly lucky to unofficially enjoy Canco Wood's beauty and nature for generations," said Tobin Scipione, one of the Friends' core members and fundraisers.

"We are thrilled to work with so many partners and donors to realize our dream of preserving this beautiful space forever and opening up Canco Woods for the entire city to enjoy."

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.