NEW GLOUCESTER – A campaign to preserve and protect the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, forest and farm is nearing completion, with 75 percent of the funds in place.
The Planning Board and selectmen were invited to the brick residence on Route 26 where the Shaker brothers and sisters live.
More than $1 million remains to be raised to complete the $3.7 project in a partnership campaign between the Trust of Public Land, Land for Maine’s Future, Maine Preservation, New England Forestry Foundation, Friends of the Royal River and the Friends of the Shakers and private and public donations.
The nationwide fundraising program is to protect the National Federal Landmark of 1,700 acres and 19 historic buildings that comprise the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community.
The funds will purchase permanent conservation and preservation agreements for the Shakers in order to secure the future of the living Shaker landscape and its cultural, natural and historic resources for generations to come, said Brother Arnold Hadd, one of four members of the community that began in New Gloucester and Poland in 1783.
The journey to protect the village and land began five years ago, Arnold said. “We learned about Land for Maine’s Future program and said, that really fits for us.’ We’ve been here since 1783 when the land was consecrated to us. It’s more difficult to meet our obligations (today) and heat a house of this size,” he said.
The stage was set when the Shakers contacted the Maine Department of Agriculture to look at the farm and open space portions of the Shaker Village. “This was the largest and most diverse project ever,” Arnold said. Other partners were added.
“All we see around us is development by the amount of housing around us. If we don’t do something to make a stand for the future, we will have to sell off our land. It was given to us to improve it to pass on to generations ahead. We are stewards of the land.”
Jennifer Melville of the Portland office of Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation group, said the conservation easement on the land restricts future development and will be held in trust forever. “This is a legal agreement between the land owner and a public agency. The Shakers will own the property, but the conservation easement will be held by Land for Public Trust.
And Maine Preservation will hold the easements on the preservation easements on the property following U.S. Department of Interior standards.
“For the Shakers, this is their home. And it’s because of the Shakers that they are the most perfect steward we could ever have of this property,” said Roxanne Elfin, executive director of Maine Preservation.
“We are taking the best of the past into the future,” she said.