On July 25, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Crabtree Neck Land Trust, and the Frenchman Bay Conservancy celebrated the official opening of a three-mile trail in the town of Hancock. This community trail became a reality thanks to an ongoing partnership that has also included the town of Hancock, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a local business, three Eagle Scouts, numerous local residents, and the generosity of landowner David Sammis.
The project began in 2008 when the Crabtree Neck Land Trust acquired from David Sammis, an old rail bed running from the Hancock town office to Old Pond and on to Kilkenny Cove. No longer used for trains, the trail follows a portion of the former Maine Shoreline Railroad route that a century ago transported Bar Harbor bound tourists from Brewer to Hancock's McNeil Point ferry landing. Last used for rail in the 1980s, today it is the perfect location for a scenic path.
It addition to being a tremendous new recreational asset for the community, the trail helps to connect many acres of conserved land around Old Pond. The heavily-wooded region enjoys diverse wetlands that contain valuable habitat for bald eagles, wading birds, waterfowl, and migratory shorebirds. Old Pond is also frequented by seals and other marine animals.
A key step in the process occurred when MCHT Project Manager Bob DeForrest helped negotiate a three-way land swap among the Town of Hancock, Crabtree Neck Land Trust, and neighboring Hancock Homes. The deal created a public access point and parking area, expanded space for the town office, and enhanced Route 1 frontage for the business. Simultaneously, Frenchman Bay Conservancy acquired a conservation agreement on town-owned shorefront on Old Pond and MCHT received an easement on the trail that guaranteed future public access.
In 2010, the focus of this ambitious effort turned toward trail enhancements as three local Eagle Scouts became involved. Their contribution resulted in a new parking lot, an upgraded trail, and the installation of a new deck on the once-decrepit railroad bridge across Old Pond. Thanks to these efforts, trail visitors can now safely enjoy the best views along the new trail.
In August of that year MCHT purchased a waterfront property at the western end of the trail with the assistance of a partner contribution from Crabtree Neck Land Trust and Land for Maine Future Funds. MCHT then transferred the property to Frenchman Bay Conservancy who subsequently built a parking area and made trail improvements thus completing the three-mile trail network.
Two dozen people, including representatives for each of the many partners involved in this project, joined together for the celebration in July. In addition to the three-mile trail, more than 700 acres of land has now been conserved in the area. Thanks to the commitment of all involved, the Old Pond area will be providing access to hikers, birdwatchers, wormers, and others, for many years to come. "The board of selectmen and townspeople fully embraced the entire project," reflects DeForrest. "It definitely improved perceptions of land conservation in the community."