CARRABASSETT VALLEY – The state’s recent acquisition of 11,800 acres in the Crocker Mountain Conservation Project was celebrated Wednesday night by those involved in the effort, especially town officials.

The Western Maine property includes the peaks of North and South Crocker mountains. The property will be protected from development but will continue to be a working forest and used for recreation. The property, now public reserved land, is managed through the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The project cost $7.6 million, with the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program providing $5.8 million. The Land for Maine’s Future program contributed $650,000 and the town of Carrabassett Valley gave $10,000. Individuals and foundations donated more than $1.2 million.

Wolfe Tone, director of the Maine offices for the Trust for Public Lands, works countless hours over several years to recruit hundreds of supporters and millions of dollars in funding. He said he regularly hears two comments when he tells people what he does for a living.

“Hey, you guys did that project?” is the first response, he told the audience at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library. The other response, he said, is his favorite: “We had the best experience on that piece of land. We’re so glad you did that.”

The purchase will also preserve local timber jobs, protect 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and guarantee access to all-terrain vehicle trails.

Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, said the partnerships were the key to the project’s success.

“This is a project you all should be proud of,” he said.

Jason Horn, a senior Trust for Public Lands project manager in Vermont, said he became very enthused about the Crocker Mountain Conservation Project when he learned it could involve skiing, his favorite sport.

He met with David Cota, town manager of Carrabassett Valley, and learned Cota was the “go-to” contact for local information and advice on maneuvering successfully through land access obstacles. Cota and the Board of Selectmen were adamant they they didn’t “want another Bigelow,” he said.

The nearby Bigelow Range has limits on the types of recreational opportunities, and town leaders wanted access that included motorized vehicles. They wanted to support snowmobilers and ATV riders, as well as hikers, mountain bikers, and cross country skiers.

The success of the Crocker Mountain Conservation Project was also due to the talents and dedication of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, and support from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, all of Maine.

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