Bucksport blueberry field, forest conserved

Outdoor adventurers will have a new destination in Bucksport this year, now that GPMCT has received a stunning 65-acre forest and blueberry field on the town-abandoned Upper Long Pond Road.

The property sits high on the north side of a ridge and contains a 5.5-acre blueberry field, a 5-acre wetland and 50+ acres of mixed woods. From the blueberry field, the view north to the Stone House area and Peaked Mountain is spectacular. An old cellarhole, stone walls, apple trees and perennials on the property tell the story of a vanished community on this road that dates back to at least 1792, called “Santiago” on 19th century maps.

Joan Kimball, a musician living in Philadelphia, donated the land to the Trust in March. When Kimball and her (now ex) husband bought the land in 1975, she was enchanted and struck by the tremendous variety it offered. She remembers “walking onto it and seeing the wonderful sloping meadow, being close to the creek (Colby Brook) and walking back into the forest to see the wonderfully old white pines. The forest seemed to have every tree native to Maine.” The couple and their daughter enjoyed camping on the land for several years, exploring the swimming holes in Colby Brook and drinking from natural springs nearby.

The property conserves the upland buffer to Colby Brook, rich in native trout habitat, and includes a beaver pond and a variety of other habitats for local wildlife. A visit last fall turned up nodding ladies’ tresses, a native orchid, at the edge of the blueberry field.

Why donate the property for conservation? Kimball and her husband never did build the little cabin they envisioned on the land so long ago, and now her family has another Maine retreat. Donating the land for others to enjoy seemed like the thing to do. “I’d known about the Trust and was a member, and thought ‘why not’? Why hold onto something I’m not benefiting from? Why not let it be enjoyed by more people?”

The Trust plans to turn an old woods road on the property into a hiking trail out to the beaver pond and back, to put up a sign and improve a couple of parking spots. The blueberry field has been managed for years by Allen’s Blueberries in Ellsworth, and GPMCT plans to keep the field open and will work with Allen’s for at least one more two-year cycle, while researching our options for other types of blueberry management, including organic. GPMCT will pay taxes on the property through the Open Space program.

The Kimball property is at the center of a 2,480-acre expanse of forest and blueberry fields along the Upper Long Pond Road that has yet to be invaded by paved roads, electricity or housing developments. This area is mostly in Bucksport, but stretches into Orland and up to Dedham’s Peaked Mountain and Moulton Pond. It is just west of Dodge Hill and White’s Mountain, now being studied by Eolian Energy for possible siting of three wind turbines. It’s an area identified by Ecologist Janet McMahon as a potential focus for local conservation in a 2013 study GPMCT commissioned. The study is being shared with the Bucksport Comprehensive Plan Committee this spring to see whether town residents or local landowners have an interest in seeing the area remain wild and accessible to the public into the future. The Upper Long Pond Road, despite its rough condition in spots, gets a lot of use by local people looking for a place to hike, hunt and fish and ride bikes, horses, snowmobiles and ATVs.

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