KINGFIELD — A 215-acre forest with a pond is for sale and townspeople have the opportunity to own it.

Selectmen were contacted in May by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit with one of its 30 offices based in Portland. One of its many purposes is finding and buying unique pieces of land that can be turned over to municipalities for future preservation and public accessibility.

To gauge townspeople’s interest in the project, selectmen have scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Webster Hall.

The gated acreage for sale is at the top of Tufts Pond Road and includes Shiloh Pond. The Trust for Public Land has helped acquire a number of privately owned parcels in Franklin County to conserve them for public access. In 2018, the trust acquired two nearby conservation easements that will protect 10,000 acres along the nearby Appalachian Trail.

“When you’re hiking in these mountains, it’s easy to think that the views and remote experiences we have will always be there for us,” Betsy Cook, project manager for the trust said by phone Tuesday. “But the reality is that much of that land is still vulnerable to drastic change or lack of public access.”

The trust helped protect access to over 12,000 acres on neighboring Crocker Mountain in 2013,  and nearly 6,000 acres on Orbeton Stream in 2014. Fewer parcels of privately owned land are becoming available for public purchase and future public access, according to High Peaks Alliance Executive Director Brent West.

High Peaks Alliance formed over a decade ago as a group of concerned Franklin County residents seeking similar goals. They have partnered with the Trust for Public Land on several projects and support the Kingfield land purchase, according to West. He grew up in New Portland, and he sees potential in the Kingfield land purchase.

“Individuals and investors like to buy unique parcels like this to have their own little kingdom or to develop into lots for resale,” he said by phone Tuesday.

He’s hoping to see a big audience next Thursday.

“At least people will have the chance to talk about this,” he said. “It’s one of the last places in this area to preserve for future generations.”

The trust anticipates providing most of the $360,000 purchase price but will require about 20 percent of the total cost to be raised from other sources, whether from town funds, donations, fundraising or other resources, according to Cook.

“This public information meeting is just a chance for people to ask questions and learn what we’ve done in other parts of the state,” she said. “And it’s a chance for us to listen to what people want for the future of their community.”

With past community forest projects in The Forks, Millinockett and Bethel, the trust helped develop a community planning process to ensure that the future use and management of the land meets residents’ goals. For example, the town could generate future income from wood harvesting, if that were something townspeople wanted.

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