Rockland gives parks group OK to pursue hilltop parcel

By Stephen Betts | Aug 09, 2019
Source: This is the view from the Hall property being eyed as part of a proposed waterfront-to-wilderness trail.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council gave the go-ahead Monday evening to the Parks and Recreation Committee to raise money to possibly acquire a large undeveloped parcel overlooking the community and islands of Penobscot Bay.

The vote was 5-0 at the Aug. 12 meeting.

The parcel is considered a key part of a planned recreational trail that would extend from the harbor to the Bog.

The parcel being considered consists of 63 acres owned by Marion Hall's heirs on West Meadow Road, near the intersection with Tolman Road, and extends over the ridge almost to the Bog Road. The land is for sale for $350,000, while the city assessment office pegs the value at $317,000.

The parcel currently generates $7,332 in property taxes for Rockland.

The council voted unanimously at its July 8 meeting for a resolve in support of the trail.

Parks Committee Chair Sarah Austin said at the Council's Aug. 5 meeting that this was a special piece of land. "There's a lovely view of the harbor, out to the islands on a clear day. It's quite fabulous," she said.

The resolve allows the group to negotiate with the landowner and do the due diligence for any possible transaction. She said grants are available from federal programs, as well as the Land for Maine's Future program, and application deadlines are nearing.

Grant applications and private fundraising can get started with the approval of the council. Austin said Aug. 5 the impact on taxpayers would be minimal. "We're cognizant that budget is a major concern," she said.

There is no defined path yet for the waterfront to wilderness trail, but one potential route would go from Oceanside High School to Jaycee Park on Old County Road, across to West Meadow Road and then to the Bog.

"Rockland is a very much waterfront-focused community in some ways, but we have amazing land and ecosystems in the inland portions of the city boundary," Austin told the council last month.

The city's parks group is working with Georges River Land Trust.

Last month, John Anders, trail manager for Georges River Land Trust, said the Bog is similar in size to Camden Hills State Park. The land trust is working with neighboring Thomaston on the trails in the Thomaston Town Forest, and that could connect to the Rockland Bog trail.

In addition, he pointed out that Coastal Mountains Land Trust is working on a trail system around Ragged Mountain.

"The thought of the trail system connecting some day is pretty significant for health, social and even economic reasons. People move to communities where there are trails. Businesses move where there are quality trails. This would be pretty darn special," he said.

The Bog consists of about 6,000 acres of largely forested lands. About a third is owned by Rockland or land trusts.

Comments (16)
Posted by: Amy Files | Aug 12, 2019 22:06

Steve Carroll -- by multi-faceted and layered I mean that it's not always a simple "sell/buy" or "plus/minus" formula -- some properties have more longterm value if used in a different way that is not simply to sell it to a property owner for traditional tax collection. That kind of thinking is pretty limited -- particularly for properties that may have a better/higher use. As a business owner, you would probably agree that, for example, there are multiple marketing methods -- some easier to track than others -- word of mouth is a good example of one being less straightforward and not a simple formula of investing in one ad or media and being able to evaluate its success solely on that one investment -- so, with that example, some marketing strategies I would describe as "multi-faceted" and "layered." As far as this property is concerned, again -- I would encourage you to do your research on the economic benefits that recreational opportunities and trails, such as the one being explored, bring to municipalities. In order to develop these kinds of amenities, some properties do need to be preserved for public use. As a business owner you are likely also familiar with "you have to spend money to make money." Municipalities need to invest in themselves if they want to see forward momentum, growth and stability. I would also point out, as others have, that the volunteers are not asking that the city purchase this property -- only that they go ahead and find out what opportunities there may be for grants.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 11, 2019 09:22

Yes Vallie "someone else will buy it"  the Georges River land trust will buy it and more of Rockland's valuable ocean view property will disappear from the tax rolls.  George Hall's origional intent was to develop this parcel for housing, but became discouraged by the City's stringent rules.  I have a friend who owns a large parcel on West  Meadow Road and has been turned back by the cost to develop this beautiful piece.  Rockland needs to hire someone who knows how to make money, not spend it.  The dodges mountain housing development brings in a lot of revenue to the city from many high end trophy homes.  Many of the comments here are all saying the same thing.  Walking trails are nice but my taxes are too high.  This council needs to stop just talking about taxes and actually do something about lowering them.  Get someone who can work with developers and make these projects happen.

Posted by: Joseph Steinberger | Aug 10, 2019 18:11

This is a great idea. This land, overlooking our city and harbor, will be a great asset for Rockland. It will attract people to build their homes and businesses in Rockland, and our taxes will go down, not up.

The hilltop, with its magnificent granite overlook, has excellent pedestrian access from West Meadow Road, along a winding dirt road built years ago by George Hall. He had the idea that the land could be developed for residences, but his road did not meet the city's requirements and George dropped the project.

To have this beautiful hill as a place where everyone can go, and enjoy nature and a magnificent view, will be so valuable for so many. To have it developed as another mega-mansion and closed to the public would be a loss for the generations.

Posted by: Dennis Corkum | Aug 10, 2019 17:35

"The Rockland Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee wants the blessing of the City Council to raise money to possibly acquire a large undeveloped parcel overlooking the community and islands of Penobscot Bay."

This appears to me to mean the city of Rockland will own it.  Even if the money is raised and the Land Trust owns it, it will be tax exempt.  If someone else buys it they will pay taxes like the rest of us.  I have used that land and enjoyed it but there are more pressing problems the city needs to deal with.  If taxes keep going up no one will move here anyway.

Posted by: Debby Hansen | Aug 10, 2019 15:28

Fund raising is all good and well but appears not to address the loss of tax revenue from the property. What percentage of tax payers are projected to use this trail? I'd rather see money raised benefiting projects for the majority, not the few.  Better yet, would like the city to be a better steward of our finances and work toward reducing our high taxes.

Posted by: Nina Reed | Aug 10, 2019 12:21

i am interested in who will use this walking trail. i know it wont be me at my age. i would like to see more effort going into lowering taxes but of course we know that wont happen, patricia williams


Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Aug 10, 2019 12:09

Ms. Hansen, the city is not buying this parcel. The Parks and Recreation Committee and the George's River Land Trust are going to fund raise for this parcel of land. If they are unsuccessful, someone else will buy it.

Valli Geiger

Posted by: Debby Hansen | Aug 10, 2019 09:32

If the city potentially has the money to buy the property and lose the tax revenue, aren't there more important issues that would affect the tax-payers, like more road improvements?

Posted by: Dennis Corkum | Aug 09, 2019 14:47

No one has mentioned that if the city acquires this land it will no longer be taxed.  Guess that lost revenue will be another "for a person owning a $150,000 house the tax increase will only be$$$".

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 09, 2019 12:22

Amy could you elaborate a bit more on the " multi-faceted and layered formula" for lowering taxes ?  As a business owner it does seem more simplistic then you describe.  You either spend less, or generate more revenue.  This may seem complicated to you but I am sure that when you sit down to balance your checkbook it becomes much clearer.  My Mom used to say that "you cannot have champaign tastes on a beer salary "

Posted by: Nina Reed | Aug 09, 2019 12:04

they could hook it up with dragon point park and make a really long walk. too many hair brained ideas for me patricia williams

Posted by: Amy Files | Aug 09, 2019 11:08

The picture here really does not do justice to the beautiful view this parcel holds of Rockland. There are very few legitimate trails in the city of Rockland. We here a lot from residents a desire to have more activities for kids and families -- this trail would provide a nice, easy and free way to enjoy both the woods and a very unique view of our harbor.

As someone noted above -- the organizers are not asking for the City to pay for this -- only to give permission to pursue the idea and see if we could access funding.

The economic benefits of investing in recreational opportunities are well-documented. If you are interested in the subject -- you can find studies -- here is one example:

Lowering taxes and bringing in more taxes base is not a simple formula but is multi-faceted and layered... and ensuring that we invest in our local infrastructure and amenities for both the residents who live here and the families and visitors we would like to attract is part of that formula.


Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 09, 2019 09:58

You moved to Rockport because the tax base is better. The city council needs to find a way to generate tax dollars to help homeowners that want to live their lives out here. Raise the money, have a plan for up keep and then ask the taxpayers of Rockland for their blessings. Most of use couldn't care less about hiking to the bog.

Posted by: Nina Reed | Aug 09, 2019 09:10

the taxes in rockland never go down. i cant see how a hiking trail will make taxes go down. patricia williams


Posted by: TREVOR MILLS | Aug 09, 2019 07:37

I think you might be surprised how a trail like this could help your taxes. This morning, there were 15 cars at the trailhead at the Ericsson Preserve near the Rockport Elementary School. All of these folks were running up to the summit of Beech Hill which has similar views as the Hall property. Most of these early morning runners are 40-50 year olds who are local, have kids and are making a living in midcoast Maine. I know some of them personally and some of them not as well, and I would would wager a really nice dinner our that most of these folks bought their homes with proximity to trails as a real factor in which home they bought.  In Rockland currently, there are very few legitimate trails. When I lived in Rockland (before I moved to Rockport near some trails) I often ran up to the Hall property via a mix of roads and unsanctioned paths.... its a pretty special place. The sorts of folks who ran this morning are exactly the kinds of people who will drive Rockland's economy and sense of community, and drive down your taxes.


I also believe this proposal is would fully be funded by donors and grants. The organizers need City permission, not city funds.


-Trevor Mills

Posted by: Nina Reed | Aug 09, 2019 03:07

that trail would not benefit me at all. why not think of ways to lower taxes. patricia wiliams

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