Thursday, May 30, 2002

Land Trust tour shows off Cape Elizabeth gems

Published in the Current

On a rainy Saturday, 11 Cape residents went on a tour of the town’s green spaces. It wasn’t a day for walking the trails, but a driving tour visited the 500 acres of land the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust has preserved.

With another 500 of town-owned acres also conserved of the 9,300 acres of land in Cape Elizabeth, land trust director and tour leader Susy Kist said, “well over 10 percent of Cape Elizabeth is protected in perpetuity.”

The first parcel visited on the tour held earlier this month was the first land the trust preserved, a three-quarter acre plot on Reef Road to which the trust holds a conservation easement. The spot has a beautiful view of Trundy Point, which Kist said is private land.

Kist said the land trust does approach owners of “significant parcels” of land in town to ask if the land can be conserved, but emphasized that all of the conservation is according to the wishes of the landowner.

“We wish to be a resource for voluntary land protection,” Kist said.

Many of the protected parcels throughout town have trails on them, and other property, including Gull Crest, which is next to the high school, has trails in the planning stages.

Trails through Gull Crest, Kist said, could help school athletic teams who now have to take a bus to get to the fields located on the other side of the conservation land. The complication, she said, is that the land between the fields and the high school is very wet and may require boardwalks or other construction.

The land trust has worked with landowners to protect woodland and open land near farms, and is in discussions with Billy Jordan and his family to conserve their farmland as a viable agricultural resource, Kist said.

The Dyer-Hutchinson Farm on Sawyer Road is home to one of the oldest farmhouses in town, which is now undergoing a renovation according to national historic preservation standards. New owner Jay Cox also will expand the business his parents run on nearby land with a Christmas tree farm, Kist said.

Farmland, she said, is “ideally developable land,” as it is already fairly free of rocks and does not have much ledge. Preparing the land for building, she said, is simple, which places farmland or former farms in danger of being developed rather than conserved.

Much of Cape’s land remains open though, giving Kist some good prospects. “In Cape we still have the potential to conserve hundreds of acres of land,” she said.

One example is Cross Hill. That development is on 200 acres of land, but half will remain open and unbuilt, Kist said. Each phase of the development has a trail network that ties into the entire development and the town greenbelt.

Other areas of town have smaller parcels of land protected and trail networks running through them. Two of the larger pieces are Hobstone Woods and Robinson Woods.

Hobstone Woods is the land originally slated for the third phase of the Hobstone development. The trust bought that land for $75,000.