Loon Echo Land Trust has just less than two months to raise the final $30,000 needed to purchase the Raymond Community Forest on Conesca Road from the Hancock Lumber Co.
To accelerate this effort, the trust, along with the Raymond Steering Committee, will host a fundraising evening of arts and entertainment on Saturday, May 21, at the Denmark Arts Center.
The event will cap off the trust’s third year of a capital campaign to raise $680,000 for the purchase and long-term management of the 350-acre forest in North Raymond, according to Carrie Walia, the trust’s executive director from 2008 to spring of 2016.
Walia resigned from her position and was replaced by Thom Perkins in late April, but will continue to serve as the trust’s senior adviser until June 30, “with a goal of going to the closing table with Hancock Land Co. for the purchase of the Raymond Community Forest,” she said.
Walia will relocate with her family to her home state of Wisconsin later in the summer.
A portion of the community forest abuts Crescent Lake and is home to the Pismire Mountain. The mountain, according to Walia, was identified by the town as “one of the special places in Raymond,” by the town, which shared the trust’s interest in protecting natural resources.
The Bridgton-based land trust is committed to land conservation in seven Lakes Region towns, including Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Naples, Harrison, Sebago and Raymond. The Crescent Lake Watershed Association has also been involved, according to Walia, in part due to the forest’s proximity to the lake.
“Ultimately, protecting large forests will protect water quality, and that’s really important to Raymond residents,” said Walia.
Perkins, the trust’s new executive director, will hit the ground running with the community forest. He brings nearly 40 years of experience in nonprofit trails systems in New Hampshire, including serving as executive director of Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. There, he gained experience in planning, fundraising and legislation, as well as designing and planning trails.
His skills in trail designing and planning are already being put to good use. The comprehensive plan for the community forest is “pretty extensive because of the terrain involved,” said Perkins, and will include trails extending to the top of Pismire Mountain. The trails will be compatible for walking, hiking, mountain biking, and other uses, he said.
As soon as sale is complete, the trust will begin the process of constructing the trails. They should be available for use this summer, but until then, people should not use them, she said.
Volunteers like Sheila Bourque have been involved in the process from start to finish, she said, building trails, fundraising, and hosting community events to raise awareness and solicit input.
Bourque, a full-time Raymond resident since last year, became involved after she came across members of Loon Echo Land Trust celebrating at the top of Hacker’s Hill, shortly after it purchased the property.
What has attracted her to the work, Bourque said, is “the fact that one person can make a difference by rolling up their sleeves and getting involved.”
In Maine, Bourque said, private citizens can play a big role in shaping the future of their communities in terms of protecting environmental resources and preserving water quality.
“That’s why I’m passionate about it,” she said.
Fundraiser features one-woman play
The Loon Echo Land Trust will host a fundraiser at the Denmark Arts Center on Main Street in Denmark on Saturday, May 21, at 7 p.m. Tickets are a suggested donation of $15, and proceeds will be split between the Loon Echo Land Trust and the Denmark Arts Center.
The event will feature Chicago-based artist Paddy Lynn as Harriet Beecher Stowe in a one-woman play. The evening will also include a silent art auction with work donated by local artists, and refreshments, according to Sheila Bourque, secretary of the Loon Echo Land Trust’s Board of Directors and a member of the Raymond Forest Steering Committee.
Lynn was connected to the Loon Echo Land Trust through her acquaintance with Bourque, Bourque said, and the committee selected to present the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe because of the state’s ties to the abolitionist. Last week, a home on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick was formally recognized as a station for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad.
“She’s the perfect character to do here in Maine,” Bourque said.
For more information, see the art’s center website at: http://www.denmarkarts.org.
John Evans, center, stewardship manager at Loon Echo Land Trust visited North Conway forest trails Tuesday to discuss the impact of mountain bike trails with local experts Rob Adair, left, and Al Hospers, right. The Bridgton-based land trust is looking to develop mountain bike trails in the Raymond Community Forest this summer, following its purchase from Hancock Lumber.