Updated: Record Breaking Land Protection by Midcoast Conservancy

Posted on January 9, 2018 by | News

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Midcoast Conservancy announces the permanent protection of one of the largest and most important parcels of land in the Midcoast. The property is land on which Hidden Valley Nature Center (HVNC) operates, almost 1,000 acres with over a mile of frontage on the Egypt Road in Jefferson.

Jody Jones, Midcoast Conservancy’s Executive Director, says, “This acquisition boldly confirms the driving force behind the merger in 2016 of four conservation organizations to form Midcoast Conservancy. A key aim of the merger was to enable large scale protection of land. The Hidden Valley Nature Center property is the largest single land conservation project ever completed by the organization or any of its four founding organizations. And it has been done in record time.”

Anna Fiedler, Director of Conservation for the organization, says, “From an ecological perspective, the property has been identified as exceptionally significant and is part of one of the largest remaining undeveloped blocks of land in the Midcoast region.” The parcel includes a diverse array of wetland habitat types, over one mile of shore on Little Dyer Pond, nearly a mile of frontage on Stearns Brook and numerous vernal pools for breeding amphibians including wood frog and spotted salamander. The rare four-toed salamander which is under threat has also been found there.

Because of its size and proximity to over 3000 acres of other permanently protected lands, it offers excellent habitat for native plants and animals including wildlife that require large areas, such as moose, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, hawks, and migratory songbirds. Permanent protection will also ensure high water quality by providing buffers from contaminants contained in runoff flowing into Little Dyer Pond and its streams.

“From a community perspective,” adds Andy Bezon, Director of Community Programs, “the Hidden Valley Nature Center property has become a magnet for people of all ages who come to enjoy 25 miles of trails open to the public, sunrise to sunset.”  Keri Lupien, long-time user of the property agrees. “HVNC has been a part of our family for many years- we’ve enjoyed many hikes, runs, skis, overnights, and moments of peaceful solitude in the beauty of nature there. We’re so happy that this wonderful gift, right in the backyards of so many people here in the Midcoast, will be preserved for many more generations to come.”

Hidden Valley trails are open for hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and mountain biking.  Over 15 miles of trail are groomed for cross country skiing, and community members and skilled experts lead ongoing clinics and classes focused on outdoor skill development and natural history exploration.  The property’s waterways are open for canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing. Four rustic huts and two yurts at HVNC are available for overnight stays year-round.

Each year Midcoast Conservancy hosts several key events at HVNC including a biathlon (this year on March 4th), the Maine Summer Adventure Race (on June 16th), the Live Edge music festival held in late summer, and a fall half-marathon trail race including a children’s course – each of which draws hundreds of participants. In addition, HVNC is home to several four-day workshops teaching timber frame construction. Educational programs enable several local schools to regularly bring their students to HVNC for scientific exploration and outdoor fun.

Midcoast Conservancy leased the land at Hidden Valley Nature Center for the last two years but with this purchase, the land becomes protected forever as a community forest, with public access guaranteed. Says Jody Jones, “This land in Jefferson is already beloved within the community and we’re looking forward to finding new ways to share this special place.”

The idea for creating a nature center began when sellers Bambi Jones and Tracy Moskovitz wanted to use the land to align three of their passions: education, outdoor recreation, and sustainable forestry. Bambi Jones explains, “In the late 80s, we discovered what a magical place it was and bought the first parcel in 1993.” Six purchases later they had what is now the 950 acre Hidden Valley Nature Center. With help from many friends and supporters, Hidden Valley Nature Center was incorporated a decade ago. Jones said “We have enjoyed watching it take off. For us, the final step was finding the right partners to create what we see as the next generation land trust – one that combines the best of Hidden Valley Nature Center and the best of our area’s land trusts. Being part of the merger helped make our dream come true.”

The purchase was made possible by a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; generous contributions from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and Jane’s Trust; and numerous private donors, including all of Midcoast Conservancy’s board members. The U.S.D. A.’s Forest Service ranked Midcoast Conservancy’s proposal as one of the top three in the nation last year. The fact that HVNC practices exemplary sustainable forestry, promotes wildlife habitat improvement, provides local jobs working in the woods, and has active outdoor recreation was part of what made the proposal so successful.

Midcoast Conservancy Board Chair Susan Russell said, “We’re very excited about this acquisition but it’s just the beginning. We’ve been hard at work identifying over 2500 very special acres in need of protection. The parcels range from the headwaters of the Sheepscot River to the southern end of our region. We are always eager to find people wanting to help.”

Update 1/17: We have been working with each town where we own land to understand the needs within the community and determine an appropriate policy regarding property taxes. While we are a tax-exempt organization, we realize that Hidden Valley Nature Center is an often-visited property with a potentially greater need for fire and rescue services from the town of Jefferson than the average preserve. For that reason, we have come up with an agreement with the town of Jefferson to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes that is similar to the tax rate paid prior to our ownership of the property.

We love being part of Jefferson and are glad the woods and waters at HVNC will forever be available and maintained for wildlife and public use, provide forestry jobs and draw people to the town for recreation.

Midcoast Conservancy welcomes comments, concerns and questions. Please feel free to contact us at 389-5150 or at info@midcoastconservancy.org.