NEWRY – One of New England’s premier hiking areas will be recognized at noon Friday with a commemoration ceremony at Bear River Grange Hall off Route 26. A brief talk will be followed at 1:30 p.m. with a hike up Table Rock in Grafton Notch State Park.

Working through the U.S. Forest Legacy Program, Trust for Public Land – Maine bought 3,688 acres of stunning, rugged landscape in the Mahoosuc Mountain Range in December 2006 for $3 million for the Maine Department of Conservation. Then, in late May, the DOC closed on what is known as the Grafton Parcel using $2 million in federal legacy funds, $660,000 from a Land for Maine’s Future grant, $40,000 from the Maine Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program, and $10,000 from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Program.

The tract largely drapes the shoulders of the 4,180-foot summit of Old Speck mountain, one of Maine’s highest peaks. The parcel includes four miles of the new Grafton Loop Trail. A popular snowmobile trail traverses the lower elevations.

Additionally, the land is in the view-shed of the Appalachian Trail, both from the famed Mahoosuc Notch and from the Baldpate Mountain section of the A.T.

Future plans include the second phase in the Grafton land buy – a 3,300-acre chunk known as the Stowe Parcel, which cost $1.5 million in June. In that deal, the trust obtained an option with landowner Carthage Lumber of Canada to buy the parcel, which includes the summits and eastern sides of Sunday River Whitecap, Stowe and Bald mountains.

Irvin “Buzz” Caverly, who managed Baxter State Park for 24 years before retiring in 2005, will lead the Table Rock hike, according to Kim Gilman, public affairs manager of the trust.

“From Table Rock, you can see both the conserved property and the Stowe Parcel,” Gilman said late Tuesday afternoon by telephone from Boston.

Gilman said DOC Commissioner Patrick McGowan, Anne Archie of the U.S. Forest Service, and Maine representatives will attend the ceremony, which is open to the public, as is the hike.

Officials will speak about what it means to conserve the parcel and future area conservation plans, Gilman said.

Gilman said the trust should get a decision early next year if the Stowe Parcel gets included in the next round of Forest Legacy funding. If so, the state could close on the deal by next summer.

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