Loon Echo closing in on Peabody-Fitch Woods purchase

106

BRIDGTON — A $50,000 match grant from an anonymous donor “has provided assurance” to Loon Echo Land Trust that it can purchase the 252 acres of Peabody-Fitch Woods. 

Loon Echo, a nonprofit organization that protects nearly 7,000 acres across seven towns in the Lakes Region, is running a fundraising campaign to purchase the Peabody-Fitch Woods. The property surrounds Peabody-Fitch Farm, a historic farmstead that dates to the 1700s, and its Narramissic House, built in 1797.

The match grant and a $75,000 outright gift were donated in November by the Anonymous Foundation.

Loon Echo Executive Director Thomas Perkins said the match grant and gift “really put us over the top in terms of being able to accomplish this acquisition. We still have a ways to go, but this has provided us with the assurance that we can get it done.”

This is the first time the woods have been offered for sale by the Norman family, who also owned the farmstead. The house, barns and fields were donated to the Bridgton Historical Society in 1987, but the woods were not and are being threatened by development.

“There are development potential coming in from three sides of the property,” Perkins said. Purchasing the woods would protect the land as well as the house, fields and barn.

“There’s very little evidence of 21st or even 20th century features” on the Peabody-Fitch property, said Ned Allen, executive director of the Bridgton Historical Society. “We have this authentic house, outbuildings and fields that really provide an unusually complete setting. If you had big mansion sitting on the edge of the wall, it would totally destroy that.”

The Peabody-Fitch Woods provide connections between conserved lands and protect wildlife corridors as well as recreational uses, Perkins said. 

The property is also in the Sebago watershed and features an 18th century historic granite quarry. 

Perkins said the woods will be a designated “gem property,” meaning “a property that has extraordinarily high public benefit.”

The house is “remarkably well-preserved and really protects the mid-19th century. It just has a great story to tell,” Allen said.

Since the match grant was donated in November, Loon Echo has received about $16,000 in donations, or $32,000 with the match. 

The organization has received a number of grants from various foundations and is awaiting grant funding, Perkins said. 

“If we get all the grant funding that we’ve applied for, we’ve got $2,800 left go. If don’t, then we have $65,000 left to go out of $324,000” that is needed to purchase Peabody-Fitch Woods.

Perkins aims to have the match grant goal reached by Dec. 31. He anticipates the purchase of the woods will be finalized by June. 

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

Narramissic Farm in Bridgton is surrounded on three sides by Peabody-Fitch Woods.