The High Peaks Alliance was involved in the development of the Fly Rod Crosby Trail from Strong to Oquossoc. Submitted photo

REGION — High Peaks Alliance, formed in Madrid in 2007, brings voices from recreation and local communities to the table when conservation projects are being planned.

There have been major shifts in land ownership in the area from “paper companies” to investors, Brent West, executive director of the Alliance said in a recent email.

“These landowners aren’t well known by the local communities and, as such, access and trails tend to get shut down,” he said. “We have taken our lifestyle for granted. Now is the time to make sure we can stand together to make sure our families and children have places to get outside.”

The Alliance is co-coordinator of the High Peaks Initiative, a group of 16 non-profits that work to conserve and offer access to area land for recreation. Maine Appalachian Land Trust is the co-coordinator. Other groups involved are the Wilderness Society, Northern Forest Center, Trust for Public Land, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Maine Huts and Trails, Me Mountain Collaborative, Longfellow Mountains Heritage Trails, Center for Community GIS, Greater Franklin Development Council and United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Alliance, Trust for Public Land and the Town of Kingfield have been working on a 215-acre parcel of land that includes Shiloh Pond. On Sept. 22, by a margin of 119-64, Kingfield voters accepted the land gift.

The project was made possible by gifts from generous private and public donors ensuring that Kingfield’s first piece of conservation land will be a reality at no cost to the local taxpayers, West said in a release Wednesday.

High Peaks Alliance, Trust for Public Land and Kingfield worked together to conserve a 215-acre parcel that includes Shiloh Pond. By a margin of 119-64, voters accepted the land gift on Sept. 22. Submitted photo

“I am so pleased that the Shiloh Pond conservation project has attracted such broad and overwhelming support, both from the local community and from national partners,” West said. “High Peaks Alliance is proud to have served as the local voice throughout this project that has attracted wonderful partners like The Trust for Public Land to bring resources to our region, and we look forward to continuing to work with the town to manage this parcel going forward.”

The Alliance will help the town of Kingfield start investigating how they want to manage the property through a community forest committee, West said.

The Alliance is currently partnering with the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land on multiple large conservation projects.

“Our role is to bring the recreation and local voice to these projects. Part of conservation is making sure that the uses we have had for generations are continued,” West said. “An example of this is we are currently inventorying all the motorized and non-motorized trails in the region. This data is given to land trusts to make sure they are written into easements and are protected.

“This is very important because this region is a high value conservation target for these groups. The national climate change agenda doesn’t include much input about how local communities use it or envision future use. Having the High Peaks Alliance involved ensures that these projects have some level of local support.”

Some projects are in the Town of Farmington. The University of Maine at Farmington received a grant to build trails off its property on Front Street, and the Alliance developed trail maps that will be available on a student-built kiosk on Prescott Field, West said.

“The area is way under-utilized and needs to be worked on,” he said. “Farmington has over a mile of frontage on the Sandy River that many use for swimming and walking, but the trails are unmapped. The area has no signs or official parking. Rebuilding the bridge where the train trestle was would be a great addition to the town.”

The bridge project is in the Farmington’s comprehensive plan and the downtown TIF plan as a top priority.

“We see Farmington as inextricably linked to the rest of the High Peaks,” West said. “It truly is the gateway to the High Peaks and can be the place where families, students, and businesses embrace our beautiful surroundings through trails and access. We all need places to get away and relax during these stressful times. The High Peaks Alliance thinks we should have these experiences in the back country but also close to home and in town.”

Another current project is a Region-wide recreation inventory which will help prioritize work in the area, West said.

“If the public has areas or experiences that should be considered, please reach out,” he said. “We are very interested in helping community members plan for conservation and recreation. The natural landscape is constantly identified as one of our biggest assets.

“We pride ourselves on setting our differences aside to work on the common good. We have birders, hunters, fishermen, hikers, ATVers, snowmobilers, loggers and bikers involved who all agree there is enough space for all of us. If we don’t stand together, we will lose our freedom to explore this wonderful landscape.”

Previous projects that the Alliance has supported include the Fly Rod Crosby Trail and the Orbeton Stream easement and Perham Stream bridge in Madrid.

For more information, visit highpeaksalliance.org or call West, 207-491-2750.

 


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