326 acres added to protected land

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TURNER – The Androscoggin Riverlands Park grew by 326 acres Tuesday afternoon.

State and local conservation officials met at riverside for a noon announcement of the Turner Cove addition that provides important public access and multi-use recreation opportunities.

With the newly acquired shorefront land, the Androscoggin Riverlands Park area now totals more than 2,500 contiguous acres of forest through Turner to the Auburn line. The area is part of nearly 10,000 acres of significant undeveloped wildlife habitat that is critical for species such as moose, bald eagle and osprey as well as an array of migratory birds that depend on large forested blocks.

With the sunlit river and shores as a backdrop, speakers at the Center Bridge Road boat launch in Turner praised the land-conservation effort of close to 20 years.

Turner Cove is adjacent to the existing state land. It is located at the end of the park that extends along two miles of Androscoggin River shorefront beginning at the Center Bridge boat launch. Smaller parcels of protected land extend upstream from the bridge on the Leeds side and downstream in Lewiston.

Dr. Kenneth Wolf of Lewiston, who had owned the Turner Cove parcel since 1987, said his original plan had been to develop the land.

“As I saw the river and the area improve, and people come together with the Androscoggin Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land, I realized it could be a positive for the community to let it be a part of the community,” he said. “It kind of made me decide it would be a good thing to do.”

The purchase price for the property was $615,000. The Land for Maine’s Future Program awarded a grant of $372,000 toward the purchase. The Maine Department of Conservation contributed $100,000, and the Maine Department of Transportation allocated $143,000 from the state’s Recreational Trails Fund.

According to Jonathan LaBonte, president of the Androscoggin Land Trust, “The Turner Cove property is only two miles from Lewiston-Auburn, Maine’s second-largest metropolitan area. Its preservation will provide greatly improved access to the park’s southern end, and allow more users to enjoy the trail network from which hikers and skiers can get great scenic viewpoints along the river.”

Labonte said, “We’re also very excited that paddlers and boaters will now have two additional miles of shoreline that will forever be in its natural state.”

Patrick K. McGowan, Maine’s Department of Conservation commissioner, called the Turner Cove acquisition “an ideal addition to these parklands.”

He said Gov. John Baldacci will soon unveil a new statewide initiative called “Take It Outside,” which is aimed at reconnecting young people to the outdoors.

McGowen said such efforts “will make it easier for people in the Lewiston-Auburn area to find Maine’s great outdoors.”

The DOC, the Trust for Public Land, and the Androscoggin Land Trust have been working together for the past two years to add the 326-acre Turner Cove property to the Androscoggin Riverlands Park.

The DOC acquired the 2,200-acre Androscoggin Riverlands Park in the early 1990s with support from the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

The Turner Cove property is located along a section of the Androscoggin River known as Gulf Island Pond.

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