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Portland Trails acquires 'surprising getaway' in Falmouth

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Portland Trails acquires 'surprising getaway' in Falmouth

FALMOUTH — For a relatively small sum, two parcels of land along the Presumpscot Estuary will now be protected forever.

Formerly known as Mile Pond, the property next to Interstate 295 and across from Brickyard Point now belongs to Portland Trails.

Executive Director Kara Wooldrik said the land is a "surprising getaway" that offers a completely different perspective of Portland.

"You get the incredible view of Portland and the Portland skyline that you can't get from anywhere else," she said. "It looks like you're in this away place even though you're right next to traffic."

Wooldrik said Portland Trails had been eyeing the Falmouth land for about a decade. She said the asking price was beyond the organization's means, so they waited, hoping the land wouldn't be developed.

She said last winter the owners of the island contacted Portland Trails offering to sell the property for $10,000, which was considerably less than the asking price a decade ago.

Wooldrik said the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership contributed a grant of $7,500 and the rest of the funding came from a private donor. Portland Trails will pay for the property's maintenance. 

She said the owners realized the land would be challenging to develop, so they chose to liquidate their assets.

"From a conservation perspective, anytime you can protect land right on the waterfront, especially in an estuary where you're getting fresh water and salt water mixing, is great because that's an area where there can be a lot of runoff, and so the land in its natural state can absorb pollutants and activity," Wooldrik said.

The property will be named Berle Mile Pond, after Roger Berle of Falmouth, a conservationist and an advisory trustee of Portland Trails.

Wooldrik said that in addition to Berle Mile Pond, there are two other conserved properties in the area, Brickyard Point, which Portland Trails acquired in 2006, and Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm.

"So we have three points in a small geographic area that are protected forever," she said. "Which is great for the estuary and certainly a help for Casco Bay. And that's was very appealing for the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, that for a pretty small amount of money they could protect some important land."

The Berle Mile Pond property is spread over 20 acres. It holds a freshwater pond and other man-made ponds. Wooldrik said the land is only accessible by water at high tide, and is a significant habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, and upland bird species.

"So we have created a trail loop that's open to the public now that wouldn't take a long time to do, so that if somebody came by boat they would have time to do the loop and get back out before tide went out," Wooldrik said.

She said she approached CBEP with the idea of buying the land, and they jumped at the idea. She said she also reached out to the Falmouth Land Trust and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. 

"We try to always partner on projects, but we also know this is in Falmouth," Wooldrik said. "People think of us as much more Portland oriented, we don't want to be encroaching on anybody else's area. ... But everyone was like 'No, no, that's great, go for it.'"

Wooldrik said intends to secure a conservation easement for the property, which will only allow activities that help it ecologically or for natural conservation purposes, and means it can't be sold or developed.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.