WATERFORD — Selectmen last week reached an agreement with the Western Foothills Land Trust that will preserve public vehicular access on the town’s right of way to the Hawk Mountain scenic overlook, owned by the town. 

The Land Trust, based in Norway, acquired 143 acres next to the town’s Hawk Mountain Park in 2016 as a gift from Ron and Brooke Hatch of Bridgton. The new parcel is known as the Hatch Preserve at Hawk Mountain.  

Last year, the Land Trust selectively harvested wood on the land, and plans to create three miles of recreational trails on the best of the twitch trails on the property, according to Executive Director Lee Dassler.

A skid trail on the Hatch Preserve is the legal right of way from the Hawk Mountain Road to the park. It has been used by the public for years to hike to or otherwise reach the scenic overlook.

The Land Trust had hoped the town would agree to retire the right of way and establish a new one, for authorized vehicles only, from a parking area/trailhead, according to Dassler. Snowmobile access would be encouraged in the winter over the new three-mile trail system, she said.

That idea was presented to Waterford selectmen in July, but they were concerned they have a duty to preserve the public vehicular access over the road.


With about 20 people attending the Aug. 13 meeting, the board discussed the issue again with Dassler. 

Chairman Randy Lessard said selectmen balked at the proposal because it would mean closing down “historic” access to Hawk Mountain, something residents have enjoyed for decades.

As an example, he said the full vehicular access could be needed for weddings on top of the mountain, if some attendees are unable to make the climb.

Selectman John Bell wondered whether, if the current right of way were closed, how the Land Trust would prevent ATVs from still finding a way to get on it. He said that in his experience, working together with motorized vehicle users on land issues produces a better result than closing down access.

Lessard agreed. He said while it’s generally possible to work with “reasonable” people, closing down vehicle access to the right of way would likely result in “unreasonable” people coming through the woods to get to it. “They’ll see it as a challenge,” he said.

Several audience members said they would prefer to see the road use preserved. One also noted that ATVs do not have easy access to the land because there are no established ATV trails nearby.


Dassler said most vehicles on the road are trucks. A sign posted at the beginning of the road/trail says ‘foot traffic only.’

Option 2

Dassler also presented a second option to the board: keep the right of way use intact and have the town responsible for maintaining it. The Land Trust would gate off recreational trails where they cross the right of way.

Selectmen said they weren’t sure the road needs work. Lessard said it has eroded down to ledge in places and that is now stable, and as long as firetrucks can get up the road he does not see a reason to fix it.

Dassler said the road is very eroded, though she added it might be good if cars cannot drive it. Water bars and culverts placed there have deteriorated over the years, she said.

One audience member asked if the town would preserve the hiking trail on the right of way by fixing the culverts and water bars.


Lessard said if there are erosion issues, he does not know of a good long-term fix that would prevent damage by vehicle owners determined to use it in the future. Because of that, he questioned putting money into the right of way.

Another attendee suggested the town put a small amount of money toward maintenance each year.

After more than an hour of discussion, Lessard said he did not believe the selectmen had a choice to shut down the right of way use without a town meeting vote. Dassler agreed to the option of keeping it open.

Wood harvest 

Also discussed at the selectmen’s meeting was reaction by hikers to the Land Trust’s selective wood harvest that took place late last year.

The purpose of the harvest is outlined on the organization’s website, which said it “derives up to 40 percent of its operating income from the sale of forest products. Second, responsible forest management is an economic driver for our rural Maine community, providing jobs for the local forest industry.


“Third, the harvest will provide stewardship monies for the preserve, so that trails, a parking lot, and kiosk can be developed and maintained. The most opportune time to have such a harvest is before such amenities are developed and the funds generated are readily available.”

Dassler acknowledged last week that the cutting had produced a strong negative response from some users.

One of them, summer resident Pat McGrory of Bridgton, attended the selectmen meeting. She said she has hiked the right of way up Hawk Mountain for 20 years, and she described the harvesting operation as more like stripping, and the result “a desolate wasteland.” McGrory said she had met dozens of other hikers on the mountain who were “saddened” by the appearance of the land.

Dassler responded by describing another harvesting process, at WFLT’s Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway. It was harvested not long before the trust acquired it in 2007, she said, and afterward its appearance was “very rough.” But a decade later, with the area growing back, “it’s gorgeous,” she said.

For more on the Western Foothills Land Trust and Hawk Mountain go to http://wfltmaine.org/.

WFLT’s Lee Dassler presents a proposal at the Waterford selectmen’s meeting for the Hatch Preserve at Hawk Mountain.

A draft map by WFLT showing the town’s right of way (in purple) across the Hatch parcel to the town land on Hawk Mountain. Shown in orange are pedestrian trails planned by the land trust. They are named after male members of the historic Hamlin family. Note that South is toward the top of the map.

The scenic overlook from the town land on Hawk Mountain in Waterford.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.