Otter Brook Trails to open June 2 in Harpswell

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HARPSWELL — With summer just around the corner, residents and visitors will soon be able to enjoy a new trail system.

Otter Brook Trails, on the 68-acre Otter Brook Preserve and approximately 1.5 miles long in the woods off Harpswell Neck Road, will open June 2.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust will host an opening event from 8:30 a.m.-noon, when visitors can walk the trail with a volunteer who helped build it, enjoy snacks and social time at the land trust office, listen to speakers discuss the preserve, and go on additional nature walks.

A full schedule for the event is available on the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust Facebook page.

Along with Harpswell Recreation, the trust will also be hosting its ninth annual Harpswell Hiking Challenge the same weekend, which challenges visitors to hike eight trails chosen by the two organizations for a total of approximately 10 miles.

A headquarters table will be staffed at the Harpswell Town Office from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, and 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 3. Water, snacks, restrooms and information will be available.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Reed Coles said building the Otter Brook Trail system, including acquiring the land, took roughly one year.

Coles said the land trust held a fundraising campaign, which began in 2016, to buy the two parcels of land involved, and acquired the second piece in January 2017.

Volunteers have been instrumental, he added.

“We had numerous work days, maybe seven or eight by now, with a number of people coming out (and) clearing trees out of the way, first flagging, (and) determining where we want the trail to go,” he said. “That’s a process (where) we sort of have to walk through and try to look at different things and decide what (we) want people to be able to see.”

Coles said volunteers cut down the trees and also “bushwhacked their way around” the area, which includes different terrain, such as wetlands, in addition to the open woods.

The trustee steward for the preserve also lives across the street from the entrance, Coles said, which has been hugely helpful in putting the trail together.

“He’s been out there on his own, he’s put in probably at least 100 hours out there by himself,” he said.

The trail contains a north and south loop, and hikers can enjoy views of Otter Brook while walking the trail.

Ultimately, Coles said conserving what the land trust calls “special places,” is part of what makes Harpswell a nice place to live. And, while the town has an expansive shorefront, preserving areas like Otter Brook adds a diversity to town lands.

“(Harpswell) doesn’t have much in the way of freshwater wetlands, it has a lot of mudflats and salt marsh, and so this is one of the largest freshwater systems in town,” he said. “That’s another reason we want to preserve it because it’s a variety of habitat that’s relatively rare in Harpswell.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

A view of Otter Brook in Harpswell. The opening of the Otter Brook trail system, at the 68-acre Otter Brook Preserve, will be June 2.

Andrea Stevens, stewardship coordinator for the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, walks the new Otter Brook Trails system May 15. The official opening of the trails will be June 2.