Group seeks to conserve 100 acres of Kingfield farmland

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KINGFIELD — For two years, a group of community members have been looking for ways to protect about 100 acres of scenic land and open space at the southern entrance to Kingfield on Route 27.

Nearly 60 of those acres are owned by the town. On Monday, an informational meeting will be held to explain a proposal to place the land in a conservation easement that would preserve it for agricultural use and recreation.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Webster Hall.

An article on the June 5 annual town meeting warrant asks voters to consider creating the easement. If approved, a committee would be formed to develop a draft plan that would be presented to residents at hearings and at a future town meeting.

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Betty Ann Listowich is a member the Friends of Kingfield Farmland.

“Our goal is to maintain this open space and the shared usage between agriculture and recreation that has been going on for hundreds of years,” she said on Friday.

Without the protection of an easement, however, it would not take a huge number of voters at a special town meeting to change what many people have taken for granted, she said.

“I would like to see these lands protected from any sort of special interests that might take away what we have all come to know and love,” she said.

The process to form a conservation easement would include building support and encouraging community involvement. It would be up to the residents to determine how the land would be used, she said.

There would be no impact on the tax base since the land is already owned by the town, she said.

Maine Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization that focuses on preserving valuable farmland, is working with the Friends of Kingfield Farmland to secure an adjacent, 46-acre parcel put on the real estate market two years ago.

A purchase-and-sale agreement has been signed with the owners and money is being raised through grant programs and donations, Listowich said.

But for the Trust to move forward, it needs to know there is community support, she said.

Another parcel to the south of the town’s land lies in New Portland.

“Ultimately, it is the goal of our group and the family that owns that land to continue to use it for farming. It has been plowed and harrowed for crops this spring,” Listowich said.

The town land is currently being hayed and used for subsurface water treatment beds for the Poland Spring bottling plant across the street. The fields continue to be used for winter recreation and a summer walking trail along the river.

The land was purchased two years ago as part of a “tax-increment financing” district — an agreement between the town, Poland Spring and the state where a portion of the company’s property taxes are sheltered for the business to use and a share is set aside for use by the municipality for economic development projects.

“The need to protect the property at the north end of the intervale has developed ever since a ‘For Sale’ sign appeared two years ago on land to the south and adjacent to the town owned land,” says John Witherspoon, a Kingfield resident who was involved in the town’s purchase of the property.

He will be among those present Monday to answer questions about the easement proposal.

According to Maine Farmland Trust, a conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a nonprofit land trust that permanently restricts use of the land for agricultural production, wildlife habitat or open space.

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