WINTHROP — The Kennebec Land Trust announced it has entered into an option agreement to purchase Howard Hill, 164 wooded acres that serve as the scenic forested backdrop for Maine’s State Capitol. This ambitious project is part of KLT’s 25th anniversary “Conservation Across Generations” campaign.

In announcing the agreement Theresa Kerchner, KLT’s executive director, noted, “This property has long been a conservation priority for KLT due to its scenic, natural, community, recreational, and historic values.” The Land Trust has proposed a partnership with the City of Augusta by which the City would own the Howard Hill property and KLT would hold a conservation easement to protect the land in perpetuity.

Former Maine Governor Kenneth Curtis, a KLT land donor, said, “Maine enjoys the most uncongested capital complex in the country. I urge State Government and all Maine people to seize this opportunity to preserve its natural beauty.”

Howard Hill is named for the family of Captain James Howard, an early settler and “founder” of Augusta. In the late 19th century, Howard’s great-great-grandson acquired the property and created Ganneston Park, complete with carriage roads, ponds and wildlife preserves. Beginning in the 1960s, the Ganneston and Parkwood neighborhoods were developed and the City approved an additional 55-lot subdivision on Howard Hill that was never developed.

Understanding that municipal budgets and resources are stretched, KLT is mounting a year-long campaign to raise the funds needed for both the purchase price and an endowment fund to support the future management and stewardship of the property. KLT will be seeking support from the private and public sector including foundations, Augusta and Maine residents, KLT members and the Land for Maine’s Future Fund.

Sumner Lipman of Augusta, manager of Sumner Lipman LLC, owner of the property, said, “I am pleased to be working with the Kennebec Land Trust to conserve this pearl that all of the citizens of Maine can enjoy.”

The overall cost of the project, including the value of the property, the transaction costs and stewardship costs is approximately $1.5 million. The landowner has contributed to the project by agreeing to sell the property at below its appraised value, thereby reducing the funds remaining to be raised by KLT to approximately $1.25 million.

Brian Kent, KLT’s president, noted, “The Howard Hill project is an ambitious, public-private partnership that will ensure the permanent conservation of an iconic property which is viewed by thousands of Augusta residents and visitors to the State Capitol.”

KLT’s 25th Anniversary Campaign includes not only the conservation of Howard Hill, but a number of other important lands in central Maine as well. The campaign will increase the number of acres permanently conserved and ensure the care and use of them; provide new opportunities for outdoor recreation, nature observation and hunting; and expand community and statewide partnerships that focus on Maine’s natural resources.

KLT will be holding public anniversary events throughout the year, including a celebration with local food, music, children’s events and a triathlon in August, and two art shows in October. In addition, a hiking guide sponsored by local businesses featuring 20 KLT properties will be published this summer.

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