WATERFORD — A desire to protect a historic property has led Bart and Mary Ann Hague to place 88 acres of agricultural fields and forest lands under a conservation easement, Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust said.
The easement protects the fields and working woods surrounding the 1790s McWain farmhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes 3,116 feet of frontage along the picturesque McWain Hill Road.
“My aunt had the vision to buy the fields,” Hague said of some of the extensive land holdings that surround the house.
Sited high on McWain Hill with panoramic views of the White Mountains and the Mahoosuc Range, the Hagues’ lands comprise a significant portion of settler David McWain’s original holdings in Waterford. McWain was the town’s first settler.
“I feel strongly about the farm’s architecture,” Hague said of one of the main reasons he wanted to protect the farmland around the house. “It is more than structure. It’s the relationship (of the farmhouse) to the fields and to the orchards and the old quarry.”
Hague dedicated the easement to his father, professor Arthur Bartlett Hague, an outstanding pianist and professor at Yale University for 40 years, his mother, Marjory Abbott Hague, a prized watercolor artist, and his aunt Mary Russell Hague, who taught high school English in New Jersey and who bought the farmhouse in 1929.
“Aunt Mary instilled in me a love for the homestead beginning in earlier childhood, hints on caring for it and desire to preserve it,” Hague said. “She left it to my stewardship. My father and mother instilled a love of beauty — of landscapes of fields, forests and lakes flanked by the Mahoosuc Range. We hiked the mountains and woods together; I felt inspired by father’s tones and by mother’s capturing clouds and landscapes.”
Hague’s aunt and his father and brothers grew up in the parsonage of the South Bridgton Congregational Church where his grandfather was the minister.
While the siblings went away to school, Hague said they never forgot the Waterford/Bridgton area. His aunt came back in the 1920s and purchased the McWain farmstead and surrounding land.
“I came and visited her in the early 1930s and loved this place so much,” Hague said. Eventually he bought his aunt’s farm and as the years went on he purchased more acreage to protect the original farmhouse and existing land.
He recently winterized a section of the house to live there year round.
Hague’s love for the environment led him to a lifelong work in the public sector with the government in Washington and later in Maine as president of the Maine Congress of Lake Associations and through statewide stewardship and advocacy work for Maine lakes and watersheds.
Dassler said the protected property is primarily forested, but includes 18 acres of working fields and grassland habitat that may house rare or declining species of grassland birds, such as the Bobolink and Eastern meadowlark.
The forest on the property is described as mid-successional mixed growth with a variety of tree species, Dassler said. The fields are managed by local farmer Jeff Springer at Prides Farm.
This was the fourth conservation easement that the Hagues have donated to the trust since 1999, Dassler said. Their contributions total 460 acres in the Crooked River watershed, including a mile and a half of shoreline along the river and 1,500 feet of shoreline on McWain Pond.
According to information from Dassler, protection of the Crooked River’s upper most watershed is “critical to maintaining Class AA water quality in the Crooked River,” which contributes 39 percent of the direct flow into Lake Sebago — drinking water for greater Portland’s 200,000 people. The river is also home to a genetically unique landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery protected by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The Crooked River has also been designated as one of Maine’s Outstanding Rivers under state legislation.