Kingfield group seeks to preserve tract along river

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KINGFIELD — A community group dedicated to farmland preservation shared its dream of keeping a section of land along the Carrabassett River from being developed.

The Monday night meeting at Webster Hall drew about 30 residents, many of whom questioned a plan for them to become involved in developing an easement over “the big fields” at the south end of the town.

Two years ago, a community group, Friends of Kingfield Farmland, began meeting to find ways to protect scenic acreage along the river on Route 27. Because they could not buy the property outright, they collaborated with the Maine Farmland Trust, which recently signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for approximately $140,000 with owners Mark and Mary Alice Hurvitt.

On June 5, voters will be asked to approve a conservation easement, which would prevent future owners from developing the property and instead, use it for recreational, agricultural and other approved uses. If the vote is approved, Farmland Trust will sell the property with those conditions.

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“We wouldn’t have Poland Spring or Sugarloaf or lots of things if land had been in conservation easements,” former Planning Board chairman David Guernsey said. “Perpetuity is a long time.”

If voters turn the easement option down, Farmland Trust can sell the property without restrictions.

“I might seem like I’m playing the devil’s advocate,” business owner John Goldfrank said. “I’ve heard that someone could own the property for much less that what it’s valued for.”

FKF committee member Warren Cook explained that, even though some local rumors have surfaced suggesting this was an “under the table” deal, the arrangement had no ulterior motive or personal benefit to any group or individual.

Nina Young, a Farmland Trust representative, explained that any voter-approved easement would be tailored to that property. Land trust would require $5,000 to $25,000 in a fund for stewardship of the easement.

Another privately-owned tract further south will remain as farmland. Two other parcels along Route 27 across from the new Poland Spring bottling plant are currently being hayed, used for the plant’s subsurface water treatment beds, and provide winter recreation space and a summer walking trail along the river.

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