September 18, 2017
Contact Person: Rachelle Curran Apse, Executive Director of PRLT, 400-7154
After over a year of discussion, members of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust voted on September 17 to incorporate the conserved lands of Gorham Trails Inc—a small land trust within the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s coverage area. The vote took place during an event at Randall Orchards in Standish.
The leadership of Gorham Trails reached out over a year ago asking Presumpscot Regional Land Trust if they would assume responsibility for the Gorham Trails conserved lands. As an all-volunteer town land trust, the coverage area of Gorham Trails overlaps with that of Presumpscot Regional Land Trust—making the two organizations a natural fit to combine.
“After a thorough due-diligence process, we are confident that adding the Gorham Trails conserved lands and trails within our land trust will help build our regional organization. This process was made possible by grant funding from Maine Coast Heritage Trust and extensive pro bono legal services from Pierce Atwood. As one organization, we will be able to continue the current work of both organizations more effectively and efficiently,” said Rachelle Curran Apse, Executive Director of Presumpscot Regional Land Trust.
Jeff Merrill, a long time Board Member of Gorham Trails, said, “Too often people consider outdoor recreation as something to be enjoyed sporadically, requiring a vacation, a weekend getaway, or a full day’s outing. The vision of Gorham Trails was to ensure these activities remain available in our own back yard, to be incorporated into our daily routines. All of us at Gorham Trails are so glad that Presumpscot Regional Land Trust shares this vision. They are the ideal steward for Gorham Trails’ conserved lands and trails going forward.”
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is committed to continuing the mission-based work of Gorham Trails. After the consolidation, the land trust will have 33 conserved properties totaling about 1,600 acres—including 14 public access preserves with miles of trails and water access in the towns of Gorham, Gray, Sebago, Standish, Westbrook, and Windham. The land trust will also continue to coordinate the 28-mile Sebago to the Sea Trail project and monitor water quality at 30 sites along the Presumpscot River and its tributaries. Go to https://www.prlt.org/preserves/ for an interactive map of public access lands and a brochure of trails in Gorham.
The most well used Gorham Trails lands is the western half of the Cross Town Trail, the section of the trail called the Frazier Preserve. The conserved land starts adjacent to the Access Road to Gorham High School and connects to the town owned land adjacent to Gorham Middle School. In addition to the trail, the land trust will own 6 acres of conserved land adjacent to the high school, with opportunities to collaborate with the school to create an outdoor learning space that will enhance place-based learning.
Mike Parker, current board member of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and past board member of Gorham Trails in the 1990s said, “Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is well placed to steward the Gorham Trails conservation lands. I am proud of our land trust’s commitment to conservation throughout the region.”
Warren Whitney, Program Director for the Maine Land Trust Network, a program of Maine Coast Heritage Trust said, “Gorham Trails provided some important trail resources for the community, but despite the energy of a few dedicated volunteers, it didn’t have the organizational capacity to continue managing these lands over the long term. To its great credit, Presumpscot Regional Land Trust has stepped up to take responsibility for these community assets. That’s not only a great thing for Gorham, but for Maine, as Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is doing its part to strengthen the statewide fabric of conservation lands which are so important to Maine’s future.”
Land trusts have been conserving land for a generation and have been very successful in protecting wildlife habitat and providing access for public recreation. In Maine, land trusts now hold more than twice as much land in conservation as all the state parks and public lands combined, which is vital since Maine has one of the smallest percentages of public lands in the nation. But as conserved land continues to grow, so do the resources needed to steward these lands in perpetuity.
The board structure will remain the same. The staff will remain the same: Executive Director, Rachelle Curran Apse; and Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator, Toby Jacobs.
The merger vote happened at the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust annual meeting on Sunday, September 17, at Randall Orchards in Standish. Randall Orchards is owned by the Randall family. As of 2014, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust now holds a 500-acre conservation and agricultural easement on the orchard and surrounding forest.
More information about Presumpscot Regional Land Trust can be found at www.prlt.org.