Yarmouth trust hits funding goal for Royal River shoreline purchase

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YARMOUTH — Last year was big for the Royal River Conservation Trust.

Highlights included a 50-acre acquisition at Runaround Pond in Durham, a 427-acre easement on Waterhouse Farm in New Gloucester, and a 70-acre addition of non-contiguous land with 2 miles of shoreline at Intervale Preserve in New Gloucester.

But the trust’s most publicized feat, Executive Director Alan Stearns said, was meeting a year-end goal of raising $90,000 in private donations to purchase Yarmouth’s last remaining unfragmented habitat and shoreline along the Royal River.

“We feel great. It was a really strong showing of support from people in Yarmouth who care about preserving open space,” Stearns said Tuesday. He expects the sale to close this spring.

The 24 acres, owned by 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.

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.

Lat May the Town Council unanimously voted to acquire the land and commit $110,000 from an existing land acquisition reserve fund. Six months later, in November, the Riverfront Woods Preserve received an additional $110,000 in grant funding from the Land for Maine’s Future Board, the state’s primary funding vehicle for conserving land for natural and recreational value.

Stearns said private donations were coming in every day during the final weeks of 2017.

“We have been incredibly encouraged by the generosity by more than 150 families in Yarmouth that have contributed to our goal as well as several businesses,” Stearns said, noting charitable donations from Estabrook’s Garden Center, CCB Inc. construction services, and Kennebec Savings Bank.

He said he was especially “heartened” by a $1,000 contribution from Yarmouth’s Village Improvements Society.

“That just affirmed that we’re doing the right thing,” Stearns said. “This project is enhancing the livability of Yarmouth.”

After such a successful year, Stearns said the trust is looking towards the future and considering how they can grow their staff, which is just him and Director of Stewardship and Outreach Kyle Warren.

They’re now accepting applications for a new position of development director, who will be responsible for implementing the goals, strategies, and benchmarks of RRCT’s development and fundraising efforts, including securing individual, corporate and foundation support.

On Thursday, Stearns said the trust had received about 30 applications for the position and were in the process of conducting interviews to select a finalist. He said contract details, such as pay, had not yet been discussed.

“(This posting is) very much in response to the growth we saw organizationally in 2017 and even more opportunities we anticipate seeing in 2018,” Stearns said.

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

The Royal River Conservation Trust met its Dec. 31, 2017, goal of raising $90,000 in private donations to purchase 24 acres of land along the Royal River in Yarmouth from Steve and Greg Dugas.

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