OTISFIELD — The Western Foothills Land Trust has asked the town to consider accepting a 252-acre parcel the trust is negotiating to buy as a community forest.

The Norway-based land trust is working with the Loon Echo Land Trust in Bridgton to acquire about 550 acres in Otisfield and Harrison from a single landowner for preservation as forest land.

Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust met with the Otisfield Board of Selectmen last week to outline the conceptual plan that would protect 252 acres in Otisfield and 300 acres in Harrison, all part of a 1,000-acre parcel.

If the sale is successful, both parcels will provide protection to land that has frontage on the Crooked River.

The land trusts and others have been working for years to protect the 50-mile-long Crooked River, which flows from Songo Pond in Albany Township through Waterford, Norway, Bridgton, Harrison, Otisfield, Naples and Casco, where it joins the Songo River before flowing into Sebago Lake.

The Crooked River watershed is part of the larger Presumpscot River Basin and contains 76,000 acres of predominantly forest land in a drainage area of 275 square miles, according to information from the Western Foothills Land Trust.

Western Foothills Land Trust, Loon Echo Land Trust, Greater Lovell Land Trust, and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, along with the Portland Water District, have been leading an effort to increase public awareness and voluntary protection along the Crooked River.

Dassler said the Western Foothills Land Trust and Loon Echo Land Trust in Bridgton are working on purchasing the parcels separately through grant money. The Otisfield land would be retained by the West Foothills Land Trust, while the Loon Echo Land Trust hopes to have the town of Harrison take ownership of the parcel there.

Dassler said the Otisfield land, located off Twin Bridges on Route 117, has a mile of frontage on the Crooked River.

Part of the 300 acres in Harrison also fronts the Crooked River.

The Land Trust is currently getting an appraisal on the Otisfield land and has applied for a grant for the purchase price of $600,000 that the land owner is asking. The Western Foothills Land Trust wants to retain the land and seek a tax exemption from the town. Tree harvesting on the property could yield additional revenue for both the town and land trust, she said. Both the town and the land trust would pay for maintenance.

The land is currently classified in tree management with minimal taxes paid now, she said.

While selectmen listened to the proposal, Selectman Len Adler said he was concerned about the loss of any tax revenue.

“We have to look out for the taxpayer,” said Selectman Rick Micklon, who asked for more detailed financial plans.

The Western Foothills Land Trust has been involved in the land purchase for the past two years. 

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