NORWAY – Forgoing any fanfare, the Western Foothills Land Trust recently made its last payment on a 150-acre parcel near Lake Pennesseewassee.

The trust purchased the land for the Roberts Farm Preserve from the Oxford Hills Growth Council in July of 2007 for $310,000. The council, which purchased the property in 2000, sold the land after the plans to establish a technology park on the site fell through.

“It’s quietly exciting news,” program coordinator Lee Dassler said. “We’ve paid off the major loan we had for the project.”

The Growth Council retained control of a 10.5-acre parcel atop Pike’s Hill, but the land trust has also purchased that land for $40,000, which is due in June.

The trust put a down payment of $31,000 on the purchase in 2007. Since then, it has raised money through individual and corporate donations, fundraising events such as the Norway Triathlon and grants. A grant from Land for Maine’s Future, a part of the Maine State Planning Office, contributed $87,000 toward the preserve while the triathlon raised $8,000.

“If we were dealing with this in the recession, it would have been a different thing,” said Dassler. “It’s great timing for the community.”

The preserve will include 12 kilometers of recreational trails available for walking, bicycling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and some horseback riding. Construction of the trails will begin this summer, and may be available for some recreational uses this winter.

Dassler said the trust has contracted with a Bethel biologist to determine whether a former farm pond on the property has the attributes of a vernal pool. Some trails may be rerouted slightly depending on the findings.

The land is named for the Roberts family, which owned it from 1884 to 2000 and operated a dairy farm on the site.


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