Trust, town push to complete Yarmouth riverfront preserve

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YARMOUTH — The Royal River Conservation Trust and the town hope to purchase Yarmouth’s last remaining unfragmented habitat and shoreline along the Royal River.

The 24 acres, owned by residents Steve and Greg Dugas, are east of the Royal River, bounded by the 22-acre Hilda Barker Preserve and the 35-acre Sligo Road Reserve. By purchasing the land and connecting the two town-owned properties, the trust hopes to create a corridor for trails and protect a half mile of Royal River shoreline by the end of the year.

Alan Stearns, trust executive director, said buying the Dugas property would provide safe, legal access to the town-owned preserves. Together, the 101 acres of land will be named the Riverfront Woods Preserve.

The trust also owns the Littlejohn Island Preserve and has twice expanded Bradbury State Park in Pownal.

According to the trust web page, the Royal River shoreline from East Elm Street upriver to North Yarmouth still remains mostly undeveloped and naturally supports beavers, otters, deer, and a variety of bird species and flora.

The Dugases agreed to sell the riverfront property for $250,000, or $135,000 less than its appraised value. An additional $60,000 will be needed for trails, signs, land management, a conservation easement, and due diligence, making the final cost of the sale around $310,000.

In May, the Town Council unanimously voted to acquire the land and commit $110,000 from an existing land acquisition reserve fund.

The trust and the town are now embarking on a campaign to raise the final $200,000 needed for the purchase by Dec. 31.

Campaign co-Chairwoman Beth Sturtevant said the balance between economic development and growth and maintaining open spaces requires communities to act before it is too late. The new Riverfront Woods Preserve would create a lush sanctuary that is accessible from growing neighborhoods.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” Sturtevant said.

“Now, we encourage Yarmouth citizens to step up and … open their wallets to get this campaign over the finish line and to meet our goal,” she added. “No giving is too small.”

The trust is a nonprofit organization and all donations made to the Riverfront Woods campaign are tax deductible.

“This provides an opportunity for the (community) to become part of a larger project,” Sturtevant said.

According to Stearns, the trust has done enough preliminary work to feel confident about reaching the Dec. 31 goal. It is also reaching out to local businesses and organizations for contributions.

In collaboration with the town, the town applied for a Land for Maine’s Future Program grant for an additional $110,000. The program is the state’s primary funding vehicle for conserving land for its natural and recreational value. Stearns said they hope to get an indication, if not a decision, from Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on Nov. 9.

If they receive the grant, the campaign will have $90,000 left to raise.

Stearns said the trust has already talked to key donors and has received several donations from individuals.

“We’re making progress, but we aren’t there yet,” Stearns said. “We’re reaching out to local businesses … (and) foundations … and that’s how we’re going to get across the finish line.

“It takes a conscious effort to hang on to some of the places that … make Maine what Maine is,” he said. “We’re working double-time to make sure from day one, this is a cherished part … of Yarmouth.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Yarmouth and the Royal River Conservation Trust hope to raise $200,000 by Dec. 31 to purchase 24 acres of riverfront property abutting the Hilda Barker Preserve and the Sligo Road Preserve. Together, the 101 acres of land will be named the Riverfront Woods Preserve.

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