SCARBOROUGH — The town has donated nearly 30 acres of land to the Scarborough Land Trust, and approved a conservation easement on an additional 13 acres, to expand Jennie and Isaac E. Willey Recreation Area on Tenney Lane.
Since its first acquisition in 1986, the SLT has accrued more than 1,300 acres for conservation.
The Willey acreage transaction, finalized in late December, abuts Benjamin Farm on Pleasant Hill Road – a 135-acre parcel that was purchased by the trust in December for $2.5 million; $2 million was subsidized by the Town Land Bond Fund, and the remaining $500,000 was funded by a community-driven Capital Campaign effort.
The SLT’s purchase also saved the town more than $200,000 in wetland-mitigation fees by more than offsetting wetland impacts from the Wentworth School building project, Town Manager Tom Hall said Wednesday.
While portions of both acquisitions will be conserved for open space and wildlife habitat, both will provide new walkable offerings for the public.
In addition to existing baseball fields, footpaths and explorable meadows at Willey, the trust plans to add more walking trails, SLT President Paul Austin said.
The Trust, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will also oversee the protection of the endangered New England cottontail rabbit habitat in portions of Willey acres with particularly grassy wetlands that are “remarkably free of invasive species and plants,” Austin said Tuesday.
To make the habitat more hospitable, about 100 native plants and bushes have been planted in the rabbit habitat area.
Similar efforts have been made at the nearby Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve, Austin said.
“One of the things that’s really good about this whole configuration is the Willey property will help complete a corridor down the Libby River watershed,” Austin said.
All of this acreage, Austin said, will require additional maintenance and attention.
“We have a lot on our plate now with the Benjamin property and the Warren Woods property that we acquired two years ago; we’re in the process of interviewing for a part-time stewardship person to help work on those properties,” Austin said.
“While we’re always looking at our next acquisition,” he said, “right now we know that we have a lot of stewardship to do.”
A “pie-in-the-sky vision” is one day linking trails across the Benjamin Farm and Willey parcels, Austin said, giving the public nearly 200 acres of preserved land access.