By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff
Celebrating a quarter century of conservation, the Kennebec Land Trust is looking to the future with a $3.5 million campaign to strengthen its programs, preserve more wilderness areas and expand recreational opportunities for people in central Maine.
“I think land trusts across the state of Maine have tremendous support,” said KLT Executive Director Theresa Kerchner. “It’s an indication of people’s connection to the land in Maine that people are willing to contribute volunteer hours and make financial contributions to conserve the land that’s so important to us.”
Kerchner said that so far, the campaign is on target to wrap up next October.
Founded in 1988 by a group of Kennebec County residents, KLT is now 940 members strong. In the past 25 years, the land trust has partnered with landowners and communities to conserve more than 4,800 acres in Farmington, Fayette, Gardiner, Hallowell, Leeds, Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, Mount Vernon, Readfield, Sidney, Vassalboro, Vienna, Wayne and Winthrop. And on these properties, KLT has constructed 37 miles of public trails.
To make these trails more accessible, KLT has recently published “Take a Hike: The Kennebec Land Trust Hiking Guide,” which provides detailed descriptions, maps and directions to public trails on 20 of the land trust’s 60 properties. The guide is available at the KLT office and website for about $16.
Bound on a key ring, the trail guide is made up of stiff, water-resistant pages. Each of the 20 property pages include directions, a color trail map, a color photo and interesting information about the property and its trails. At the back of the guide is an overall map of the featured properties, a property checklist and a chart that provides quick facts about each property (for example, whether or not dogs are permitted).
KLT plans to add to the guide as it expands its trail offerings. These additional pages, which can simply be threaded onto the key ring, will be sent to KLT members as they’re made.
If you’d rather explore these trails with a group, KLT invites people to join the new“Hike the Hiking Guide” hiking group, which will embark on a new adventure on the second and fourth Sunday each month, November 2014-September 2015. These walks will be led by KLT stewards, who have come to know their specific properties like the back of their hands.
This hiking group is just one example of the many outdoor programs KLT hosts year round, posted on their website calendar. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 14-15, KLT is holding Maine’s first Local Wood Works Conference, an event focusing on Maine’s wood economy and sustainable forestry, at the Augusta Civic Center. And on Sunday, Nov. 23, KLT is providing a wreath-making workshop at Ladd Recreation Center in Wayne.
Perhaps the land trust’s most anticipated program is the annual “ Lyceum,” multiple presentations and field programs held throughout the spring and summer that center on a specific conservation or natural history topic. The 2014 topic was “The Breeding and Foraging Habitats of Some Maine Migrants.”
“We’ve had outstanding speakers from throughout New England participate,” said Kerchner.
Throughout the years, KLT has been supported by the Maine Land Trust Network, which serves as a central hub of information for Maine’s 90-plus land trusts, which are also a part of the national Land Trust Alliance. To date, 1,700 land trusts have been established throughout the United States, engaging more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members. So far, these land trusts have conserved 37 million acres of land, an area roughly the size of all the New England states combined.
Both organizations, the Maine Land Trust Network and Land Trust Alliance, host annual conferences that bring land trusts together to share ideas.
“The good thing about land conservation work is that success breeds more success,” said Kerchner.
Looking to the future, one of the top projects for KLT is to work with the City of Augusta and supporters statewide to preserve a 164-acre parcel of land including Howard Hill, the backdrop to the Maine State Capitol Building.
“For us, it’s hard to imagine a land conservation project that better represents the connection of Maine people to the land,” said Kerchner. “We hope to raise enough funds to permanently preserve that property.”
The goal is to raise $600,000 for the project by October 2015, Kerchner said.
For information about KLT and the new KLT trail guide, visit www.tklt.org.