2023 Secretary’s Report

Winter/early spring
In January, board members met with Executive Director Cheri Dunning to discuss stewardship needs on fee properties like Walnut Hill, Sousa, and Sanford Community Forest. This annual meeting identifies and prioritizes tasks for our volunteer Second Saturday trail workdays. These were held throughout the season and focused on trail clearing, blazing, and getting the Goat Hill Trail ready for events.

In early 2023, Three Rivers Land Trust supported Shapleigh Pond residents by serving as the fiscal agent and applicant for a cost-share grant through the Maine Department of Environmental Services to fund manual removal of variable leaf milfoil from the pond. Three Rivers helped to raise the required matching funds, and the application was successful. Three Rivers will continue to participate as a partner while residents form their own lake association.

In February, we partnered with Alfred Recreation to host a winter snow sculpture and sledding event in Ricker Field, at the Globe sledding hill next to our office. There was plenty of snow and the event was well attended.

The snow was still plentiful for a winter tree i.d. walk at Hansen Pond in Acton. We learned many tips for how to recognize tree species even with the leaves absent, though it required some wading through hip deep drifts.

We continued work on a conservation easement in Newfield to protect 70 acres that includes half a mile of undeveloped frontage on Shapleigh Pond and the Little Ossipee River. This easement had been under development and discussion for some years, to ensure it met landowner needs and concerns.

During this time, work on the forest management plan for Sanford Community Forest got underway, and we continued planning for restoration and trail work. While we did get the parking lot and a small amount of trail work done, other restoration work was ultimately held up by a permitting delay at the Army Corps of Engineers. The forest management plan was completed, as was an invasive species management plan, and both will guide our work at the forest for years to come.

In May, we held a very well-attended annual meeting at Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred focused on restorative agriculture and “no till” farming, which was fascinating for our approximately 40 attendees.
June was packed with events. Early in the month, the Goat Hill Trail in Acton officially opened – again! – but this time it was ready for wheelchair use. Enock Glidden (now with Maine Trail Finder) and Keenan Weischedel (Disability Rights Maine) ascended the trail in manual wheelchairs and gave it their approval. The trail is more challenging than many accessible trails and they both appreciated this challenge. Enock thanked us for persevering with this difficult and unique project!

Mid-month, we joined forces with Maine Audubon to host four Sanford Middle School science classes (almost 80 students) at the Sanford Community Forest to explore ecosystems and food webs and collect data. Maine Audubon received a grant from the Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation to assist a land trust with creating an outdoor education program and Three Rivers was the lucky recipient. The grant enabled us to assist the school with transportation costs and other expenses. Three Rivers volunteers walked the trail with small groups of students and we discovered alongside them the wide variety of plants, insects, and amphibians that call the Forest home.

June also kicked off our efforts to center community interests at Sanford Community Forest! From the start, Three Rivers was committed to making sure “community” wasn’t just part of the name, but a part of the spirit of the project. Before our community meeting at McDougal Orchards in Springvale, we hosted a walk at the Forest to make sure folks got a chance to see it in person. The meeting was attended by area residents interested in hunting, horseback riding, bird watching, snowmobiling, and walking local trails. We have been taking their interests and comments into consideration and will continue to involve the community in planning.

We returned to McDougal Orchards in July to talk to Open Farm Day visitors about the land trust and our commitment to conservation, recreation, and education. Though we haven’t hosted our fundraising breakfast at the farm in a few years, it’s still a great opportunity to show our support for local agriculture.

Around mid-summer, Cheri told the board she had decided to accept a full-time position at the Saco River Corridor Commission. While we’re sad to see her go, we’re so proud to see her in this new and challenging position and we wish her the best!

Ruth Gutman, who had been working for the land trust in membership and development for the past 10 years, decided to explore stepping into the executive director position. Cheri stepped down on the last day of September, and Ruth began on October 1. Their last days working together were spent completing grant applications to LL Bean to support stewardship and to the Recreational Trails Program to fund an accessible trail at Sanford Community Forest – both applications were successful!

We held our 9th annual kite fly at Romac Orchards and Goat Hill after one delay for a storm that was predicted to have high winds. For the last several years, the wind has been somewhat lacking at our kite event, so this was somewhat ironic. We had a beautiful afternoon at the orchard with members of the Nor’Easters kite club from South Portland. The apples were ripe, and many folks enjoyed lunch from the local Howling Hunger food truck. We continued our tradition of giving away kites because kite flying is a great way for families to enjoy the outdoors.

In partnership with the Parsons Memorial Library in Alfred, we put up another Story Walk™️ in Ricker Field, next door to the land trust office at 235 Swetts Bridge Road. This year we chose “Magnificient Homespun Brown: A Celebration” by Maine author Samara Cole Doyon, which is an exploration of the natural world through the eyes of children learning about belonging and self-worth. Unlike many story strolls, ours is fall and winter only, to allow the ground nesting birds like the bobolinks to nest and thrive, and the hay to be cut later in the summer.

We fulfilled our longstanding goal to place a dock at Hansen Pond in Acton and have a boat rack with kayaks available for folks to use! We had quite a few visitors throughout the fall who were finally able to venture out onto the undeveloped pond and enjoy the trees and view. The boats are intended for adult use only, and you must provide your own PFD (personal flotation device).

We held another late fall Goat Hill event to help spread the news about the trail, and to thank AARP for a Community Grant to help fund the accessible benches, distance marker posts, and permanent signage (early summer 2024). We were honored to be join by a member of the Concord-based WHIM (Wheelchair Health in Motion) group and were able to see firsthand how a powerchair handled the trail. Biggest lesson: All trail visitors need to please leave room for accessible vans in the parking lot! Also good to know: Your powerchair should be fully charged when you begin. Michelle, one visitor, said Goat Hill was “better than Crotched Mountain”, which is an exceptional accessible trail in Greenfield, NH. Wow!

To round out our busy year, we were offered a donation of 100 acres in Shapleigh off Apple Road and Town Farm Road. The property had frontage on Square Pond and two streams that flowed directly into Square Pond, in addition to well-managed forest land, giving it high conservation value. Thanks to the generous and conservation-minded folks on Square Pond, we made a good start on raising the significant stewardship funds needed to manage and protect this property in perpetuity. We look forward to welcoming you to visit the Marjorie Dunnells Chadbourne Preserve in 2024!