Mills Administration Announces the Permanent Protection of Land for Outdoor Recreation
April 29, 2022
For more information contact: Jim Britt at: Jim.Britt@maine.gov
Augusta - The Mills Administration announced today that 813 acres of highland wild blueberry fields, wildlife habitat, and recreational lands in the towns of Vienna and New Sharon have been permanently protected for outdoor recreation. The newly acquired lands represent the largest inholding within the Kennebec Highlands Public Land. The acquisition builds on the more than 20 years the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's (DACF) Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) has worked with 7 Lakes Alliance (formerly Belgrade Region Conservation Alliance) to conserve 6,800 acres across this significant landscape.
The newly acquired lands include forests, open wetlands, streams, and Vienna Mountain summit - which provides a 360-degree view of the Highlands region and beyond. Since the inception of the BPL and 7 Lakes Alliance partnership, the acquisition of the Vienna Mountain lands has been a top priority.
Situated in the middle of Kennebec County and within 15 miles of Augusta, Waterville, Skowhegan, and Farmington, visitors to the Kennebec Highlands are drawn to miles of hiking, biking, snowmobile, ATV trails, and secluded woods and ponds for hunting and fishing.
"We are pleased to have the opportunity to conserve lands with such value to the public," said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. "From more than 200 acres of productive wild blueberry barrens to important wildlife habitat and access for numerous types of recreational activities, there is something for everyone here."
"With remote ponds and miles of trails, the Kennebec Highlands is one of central Maine's best-kept secrets," said BPL Director Andy Cutko. "Now, with the addition of a scenic hilltop and hundreds of acres of beautiful fields and forests, the Highlands is an even bigger public asset to the region."
"Conservation of these lands protects the very heart of the Kennebec Highlands, envisioned and supported by community partners for a quarter-century," said Laura Rose Day, President and CEO of 7 Lakes Alliance. "We are grateful and excited to work with many partners to realize the benefits of this significant investment in these lands and waters for all."
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Land for Maine's Future Program (LMF) were essential to the state's ability to acquire Kennebec Highlands Public Reserve.
"The Program has a 20-year history of supporting acquisitions in the Kennebec Highlands; this acquisition marks our fourth investment in the area," said LMF Director Sarah Demers. "Since 1987, over 610,000 acres of Maine land has been preserved in all sixteen counties with significant financial assistance from the people of Maine through the LMF.
"With this most recent acquisition, the LWCF has helped to acquire five parcels in the Kennebec Highlands, the first in 1976," said Douglas Beck, Director of the Grants and Community Recreation Program. "For over fifty-seven years, LWCF has helped local communities and state agencies acquire and develop over 680 parks and outdoor recreation areas for the benefit of the people of Maine and our guests from away."
The Kennebec Highlands project partners enthusiastically support the LWCF and the LMF. Learn more about LWCF at maine.gov/dacf/parks/grants/landwaterconservation_fund.html, and the LMF at maine.gov/dacf/lmf/.
In the coming months, BPL will develop a plan for how best to manage these critical new lands, including creating new trails and connecting the existing trail system through the new parcels, managing the blueberry fields and coordinating public picking, and developing new access points for public recreation and resource management. Poor road conditions presently limit vehicular access to the new Vienna Mountain lands. Work to begin road and parking improvements is slated for Summer 2022. Learn more about Kennebec Highlands at maine.gov/kennebechighlands.
About the BPL
The BPL manages more than 700,000 acres of State Parks and Public Lands for a wide range of environmental, recreational, and economic benefits for present and future generations. BPL is a leader in conservation, sustainable forestry, and recreation, providing access to Maine's outdoors through hiking and biking trails, public use roads, boat launches, campsites, ocean and lake swimming, and an extensive network of snowmobile and ATV trails. Maine State Parks and Public Lands include some of the state's best-known recreational destinations, including Tumbledown Mountain, Popham Beach, and Lily Bay State Park. BPL has a forty-year history of exemplary forest management on Public Lands, yielding some of the most productive timberlands in Maine and generating revenue to support management, recreational infrastructure, wildlife conservation, and ecological protection. Maine State Parks welcome over three million visitors annually, providing close-to-home camping and day-use experiences that feature Maine's outstanding natural, historical, and cultural resources. Learn more at parksandlands.com.