Round the Mountain Collaboration reaches two major milestones

Coastal Mountains Land Trust protects Mirror Lake Watershed and selects contractor to begin first phase of Round the Mountain Trail
Oct 04, 2018
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Coastal Mountains Land Trust Executive Director Ian Stewart speaks at the event Oct. 4.

Rockport — A small group of community leaders and members of the press gathered against the misty backdrop of Ragged Mountain Oct. 4 to celebrate one of the largest conservation projects in the history of the Maine coast, one that will increase access for recreation while protecting the area's water supply.

Speakers at the event were Executive Director Ian Stewart of Coastal Mountains Land Trust, Kurt Klebe of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Water Co. President Richard Knowlton  and local attorney Carol Chen.

Coastal Mountains Land Trust completed the purchase of an historic conservation easement Sept. 27, permanently protecting 786 acres of land owned by the Maine Water Co/ on the south side of Ragged Mountain surrounding Mirror Lake in Rockport and Hope.

The land trust also selected a contractor, after a comprehensive bid process, to begin construction of the "Round the Mountain Trail." This trail will expand recreational access for hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoeing, hunting and other outdoor activities. The event was held at the future site of the trail opening and 12-vehicle parking lot off Hope Street next to the Thorndike Brook Dam in Rockport, and the trail will eventually connect with the Camden Snow Bowl on the other side.

The Mirror Lake Conservation Easement, the largest conservation easement ever completed in Midcoast Maine, is the keystone project of the "Round the Mountain Collaboration," the land trust’s partnership with the Maine Water Co., Maine Coast Heritage Trust, local municipalities and numerous local outdoor recreation groups. Combined with an existing conservation easement, this project completes conservation of nearly all 1,000 acres of the Mirror Lake Watershed as undeveloped open space. This watershed protects the water source that supplies Maine Water customers in Rockland, Thomaston, Rockport, Camden and parts of Owls Head and Warren.

The easement protects the entire south side of Ragged Mountain, the fourth-highest peak on the eastern seaboard, and ensures that a large area of critical wildlife habitat will be protected forever.

“Since initial discussions began more than 15 years ago,” said Stewart, "the Maine Water Co. has served as a key partner in this collaboration, helping to navigate multiple regulatory requirements and planning for the long-term stewardship of this land that was no longer strictly required to meet water quality standards, due to newer filtration technology.”

Since its launch in June of 2016, the Round the Mountain Collaboration has raised more than $3.5 million in private funds towards the conservation of 1,500 acres of land around Ragged Mountain in Camden, Rockport and Hope and the development of the nine-mile Round the Mountain Trail.

The project must raise an additional $1 million to acquire a 498-acre easement around Grassy Pond in 2019, and to finish development of the trail in 2019 and 2020.

Knowlton said, “This project has additional benefits in that the Maine Public Utilities Commission has agreed that half of the net proceeds will be reinvested in infrastructure improvements and upgrades within the Mirror Lake water system and the other half of the net proceeds from the company’s sale of the easement will be returned as a rebate to customers in the form of a credit on monthly bills.” Starting in 2019, customers of Maine Water in the Camden Rockland division will share in the benefits of the collaboration through rebate credits totaling more than $400,000 applied to water bills.

Last week, Maine Water donated $250,000 to Coastal Mountains Land Trust in support of the project. The land trust will start work on the trail this year, beginning with the selection of the final trail corridor layout in November.

The land trust has selected OBP (“Off-the-Beaten-Path”) Trailworks LLC, a Maine-based contractor, to build the first 5.5 miles of the trail between the Camden Snowbowl and a new trailhead on the southern side of Ragged Mountain along Hope Street throughout the summer and fall of 2019. The trail, which was designed for non-motorized recreational use, will be between six and eight feet wide and will accommodate users of all levels. Gartley & Dorsky Engineering and Surveying donated its time and expertise to the land trust to develop the comprehensive set of trail design, construction, and erosion control plans for this large project. When completed, the Round the Mountain Trail will connect with a growing network of more than 20 miles of trails, including the Georges Highland Path on Ragged Mountain.

Fifteen years ago, Coastal Mountains Land Trust adopteda  vision of conserving a 3,500-acre area around Bald and Ragged mountains in Camden, Hope and Rockport. With this project, the land trust has fulfilled more than 80 percent of that goal.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust has served as a lead partner in the overall project, assisting with campaign planning and donor outreach. Local recreational groups, including the Midcoast Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and the Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine, have partnered as volunteers, donors and promoters of the project.

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Maine Water Co. President Richard Knowlton (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Maine Coast Heritage Trust Chairman of the Board Kurt Klebe (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Attorney Carol Chen, who donated her time to the project for researching deeds. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Mirror Lake (Courtesy of: Coastal Mountains Land Trust)
(Courtesy of: Coastal Mountains Land Trust)
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