PORTLAND — Neighborhood residents and a prominent conservation organization have banded together to raise $280,000 to preserve an urban woodland along Canco Road.
But another $120,000 is needed soon to protect Canco Woods, as the 12.75-acre parcel of land near Read Street is known, and the city is considering contributing two-thirds of the additional money.
An informal neighborhood group, Friends of Canco Woods, is teaming with The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation group based in Portland, to acquire and protect the property.
It’s currently owned by an affiliate of Central Maine Power Co., which is based across the street and purchased the land 20 years ago for possible expansion.
Although private property, Canco Woods has long been a popular oasis for hikers, bikers and nature-lovers. Trails wander through the parcel, and a zoo-worth of wildlife fill the trees and brush.
With no expansion on the horizon, CMP had planned to sell the land to an undisclosed buyer earlier this year. A contract was signed in February, but fell through just weeks after residents voiced their opposition.
In June, The Trust for Public Land obtained an option to purchase the parcel for $350,000. While most of the necessary funds have been raised – including more than $100,000 in individual donations – the trust and the neighborhood group still must come up with $70,000 by mid-November, when the option expires. Another $50,000 is being sought to maintain the woods.
The city may soon join the effort.
On Nov. 5, the City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to contribute $75,000 toward acquiring and preserving the woods. If the contribution is approved and the purchase is successful, the city Land Bank would then take ownership of the property as public open space.
An easement held by nonprofit land trust Portland Trails would protect the woods from future development. The group also would be responsible for upgrading and maintaining the area’s paths.
“The Land Bank Commission has been interested in preserving Canco Woods for years, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with such an active group of neighbors, the Trust for Public Land, and Portland Trails to make this happen,” said Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who serves on the commission and represents District 4, which encompasses the woods.
“It’s the perfect example of how public and private entities can work together.”
A view of Canco Woods, looking east from Canco Road. A sign still advertises the pending sale of the property to an undisclosed buyer. The deal fell through, and now local groups are trying to acquire and preserve the land.