GRAFTON NOTCH – Thanks to grants from the federal and state governments, one of Western Maine’s most beautiful roads will receive protection from development while improving public access to natural resources.

A combined grant of $47,000 will be used to buy 10 acres of land with 1,000 feet of frontage along Route 26 just south of Screw Auger Falls in Grafton Notch State Park, said Bret Poi, landscape architect for the Maine Department of Transportation. The forested area lies near the historic Poplar Tavern site and includes a small cleared area used informally for parking. Just off the cleared area is a popular swimming hole in the Bear River known as Deep Hole.

The Bear River runs along much of Route 26 and the state park area and is between 100 feet and a quarter mile from the road. Many people traipse through the woods from various spots along the road to get to the river.

Most of the funding will be used to buy the land, while about 20 percent will be used to control access to the river and to prevent people from stepping on private property through fencing. The land acquisition will ensure that this section of the land near the river will remain undeveloped.

Poi said some recent developments in the area prompted the Route 26 Scenic Byway Committee to seek a grant for the land acquisition.

Just under $38,000 comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation while just over $9,000 was matched by the state DOT.

Poi said the project may go ahead this summer and fall, contingent upon successful land acquisition from the current property owner. If that particular section of property cannot be purchased, Poi said the MDOT has flexibility to acquire a different piece of property that would serve the same purpose.

“We want to make sure we have a willing seller,” he said.

Also planned this summer in the Grafton Notch State Park is construction of a parking lot off the nearby Eddy Road that will serve as the hub of the Grafton Loop Trail.

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