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Three Rivers Land Trust is working to preserve a large recreation and conservation area in Springvale to benefit the community and the region. This 550-acre property, to be named the “Sanford Community Forest,” is one of the largest remaining undeveloped areas within city limits, and Three Rivers aims to protect its ecological health while keeping it available for public recreation and traditional uses.

The property is part of the former LaValley Lumber forests, and extends from Oak Street (Route 11A) to the Rail Trail in one direction, and from Harry Howes Road to the border with Lebanon in the other direction.

This landscape of valuable plant and wildlife habitats is currently enjoyed by exploring hikers, mountain bikers, and hunters in season, who would continue to have access once the property is protected. It includes a rough trail from previous forestry operations with access from both Oak Street and the Rail Trail, which would be improved after the property is purchased by Three Rivers. The Community Forest will provide vital water quality protection in the Salmon Falls River watershed and carbon storage throughout its extensive forests.

The western part of the Community Forest is rich with wetlands, and Three Rivers has received generous funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program to acquire, restore, and steward the western 310 acres. This portion of the forest will be allowed to develop in a wilder state, with a low-impact trail from which to admire its beauty. The eastern part of the Community Forest is about 240 acres, and will be more actively managed to demonstrate sustainable forestry and develop recreational trails. The entire 550 acres will be open to hunting under local regulations and land trust guidelines, and the forested nature of the land will be maintained indefinitely.

Of the nearly $800,000 needed to acquire, restore, and improve access to the property, Three Rivers has already secured $620,000 through foundation and government grants, and is now kicking off an energetic campaign to raise the remaining funds, with the help of Mousam Way Land Trust and other organizations.

Three Rivers needs to raise the final $180,000 by the end of 2021 to make this massive project a success. Money raised will cover the cost of purchasing the property, installation of a trailhead on Oak Street, creation of a community forestry plan, and will provide a dedicated fund to help care for the property over time. The land trust will continue to apply for grants, but expects to raise the majority of the funds from community members and local businesses who support land conservation for recreation, health, and environmental sustainability.

Find more information about the project and how to donate on the Three Rivers website: Keep up with project updates through the Three Rivers Facebook page, or by signing up for the land trust’s e-newsletter.

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