Sanford Community Forest

The Sanford Community Forest comprises 550-acres of forests and wetlands in western Sanford, with the trailhead located on Oak Street (Route 11A). The large undeveloped area is less than three miles from downtown Sanford, and connects to both the Rail Trail and other conserved lands. (See the map)

Three Rivers Land Trust would like to see the proposed community forest become a resource for and a benefit to Sanford and all our communities. We successfully purchased the Forest in September 2021, and donations will now go toward creating a parking area and trail improvements so we can open the property to the public in 2022. Read below to learn more about the vision.

What makes the forest special?

The Sanford Community Forest will be a unique and important recreation area for the city of Sanford due to its proximity to downtown Sanford and the center of Springvale. We were committed to protecting the property as it is rare to find a large parcel of land this close to a thriving city where development is sure to continue. Not only will the Forest provide a place for recreation, but the forests and wetlands will serve as protection for future air and water quality. The Forest can also serve as a place for students to take field trips and learn about our native plants and wildlife.

Three Rivers is partnering with Sanford/Springvale’s Mousam Way Land Trust and seeking collaboration with other conservation organizations and local recreation groups to plan for the future of the forest and trails.


Donations from the community and our members will cover the following:

  • Installation of a trailhead on Oak Street
  • Improvements to the existing trail
  • A dedicated fund to help care for the property over time

“It is so exceptional to have a large tract of forest within a city, and this is a wonderful opportunity to preserve these woods. In a time when so many of us are even more appreciative than usual of time outdoors, we are pleased to be planning trails in a forest that can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”

Amy Titcomb, president of Three Rivers Land Trust


The Vision

It is rare that a city has a forest this size within its limits, let alone one that includes thriving wetlands and connection to an existing trail system. The Sanford Community Forest can be managed for trails, public enjoyment, and ecological health.

Development pressure in our region continues to grow, and land parcels of this size are becoming rarer. Three Rivers envisions protection of the wetlands and forests for climate protection. These 550 acres are precious as a large block of unfragmented habitat for plant and animal species, and as a recreation space for residents and visitors.

The Wetlands Trail – West Side

The funding for the wetland-rich western 310 acres came from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program, which prioritizes wetland protection and will not permit forestry or intensive recreation, keeping this part of the property wilder and able to mature into an old-growth forest. A single trail will curve through the western side, allowing nature observation and low-impact recreation.

Recreation & Forestry – East Side

Connected Trails

There is already a 3.6-mile rough trail on the overall property, and more trails are possible on the east side. Right now, the trails are old logging roads that will need significant improvement. Three Rivers plans to design a trailhead on Oak St. to allow parking and access to the trails. There will also be a way to reach the property through the Rail Trail.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is becoming a popular and healthy way to experience the outdoors. Linked with Sanford’s 22-mile network of bike- and footpaths, the new trails at the Community Forest could attract mountain bike enthusiasts and foster collaboration between Three Rivers and Mousam Way Land Trust to build new trails or specialized routes.

Demonstration Forest

The Sanford Community Forest will have about 240 acres available for sustainable forest management and will allow Three Rivers and its partners to showcase carbon sequestration forestry, serving as an example for private landowners in the region. The horticulture program at Sanford Regional Technical Center would be invited to join Project Learning Tree and develop a Forest Inventory Growth plot — teaching students about basic forestry concepts.

The Sanford Community Forest is part of the former LaValley Lumber forests. Three Rivers would like to see the legacy of Maine timber honored here through responsible and sustainable forestry. The Community Forest will serve as a model and become a place to learn.

Arboretum in the Wild

While meeting the goals of sustainable, carbon-focused forestry, we envision a property that will have diverse tree species, habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, and impressive specimen trees. Thinking even beyond the boundaries of the Community Forest, this vision could encompass the Native Plant Trust’s sanctuary and Mousam Way Land Trust’s chestnut grove.

Working Landscape

The Hanson Ridge-Deering Neighborhood area has Sanford’s strongest agricultural and rural identity, but it is being eroded by housing needs and and solar development. A community forest would strengthen the region’s working landscape identity.

Environmental Equity

The Community Forest could someday be served by public transit from downtown Sanford. This would allow residents without individual transportation to access a quality natural area for enjoyment and recreation. We also plan to design the trailhead to accommodate bus access, so that students across the area could visit for field trips.

We welcome your support!