CAPE ELIZABETH – The stars are aligning to permanently conserve a section of Robinson Woods that residents have enjoyed for generations, Chris Franklin said as he walked through the woods recently.

The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust is making a final public push to raise $1.2 million to buy and maintain Robinson Woods II, a 63-acre parcel adjacent to the original Robinson Woods, just off Shore Road.

Franklin, executive director of the land trust, said the second parcel complements the 79 acres of mature forest, vernal pools and trails at Robinson Woods because of its diverse features.

Robinson Woods II is 12 acres of open fields, a 5-acre stream-fed pond and more than 45 acres of mature woodlands, forested wetlands and marshlands. It provides habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, the threatened spotted turtle and the endangered New England cottontail rabbit.

“It’s amazing this land remained unchanged for so long,” Franklin said.

The trust signed a purchase-and-sale agreement on Robinson Woods II in May 2011 and has since raised most of the money it needs to complete the sale.

The organization has until November to raise $110,000, which Franklin expects to come primarily from individual donations. Paul Coulombe of Cape Elizabeth has agreed to match all donations made toward the final amount.

Support for the purchase of Robinson Woods II has come from a $350,000 allocation by the town, $175,000 from the land trust’s board of directors, $312,000 in private foundation grants and $246,000 in individual donations.

The Robinson family will retain ownership of 60 acres on the other side of the pond in Robinson Woods II.

As he followed a well-worn path through the woods, Franklin said the Robinson family has allowed visitors to use the area for years. The family has maintained a wide, flat path that wends its way through the woods to a grassy field rimmed by trees. The field was once used by athletes from the Waynflete School who took a trolley from Portland.

Farther down the path, a footbridge spans a bubbling brook. A long, narrow wooden walkway cuts across a narrow section of the pond.

Franklin said the sights are familiar to hikers and mountain bikers who regularly explore the woods, and to Cape Elizabeth elementary school students who use it as an outdoor classroom.

Many residents are surprised to learn that the woods haven’t already been conserved, he said. “This property adds so much value to the community,” Franklin said.

He said conservation has been a longtime priority for the town, a sentiment echoed by Town Manager Michael McGovern.

The property is a key link in the townwide Greenbelt Trail system, McGovern said. “This is the last major piece that brings you through the woods from Fort Williams to the center of town.”

Franklin said he is excited about the prospect of adding Robinson Woods II to the 600 acres the land trust manages. The members of the Robinson family who own the property live out of state, but want to see the land preserved in the manner envisioned by the late John Robinson, a well-known conservationist who sold Robinson Woods to the trust, he said.

“We as a family look forward to the prospect of preserving the natural woods, field and pond that we love and grew up with,” the Robinson family said in an email. “We have a great deal of faith in the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and its commitment to conservation.”

The family has committed $50,000 toward the future stewardship of the property, Franklin said. When the sale is complete, the land trust plans to reroute an existing section of trail to keep it within the parcel’s boundaries. Otherwise, Franklin said, the property will continue to look the way it has for hundreds of years. 

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com

Twitter: grahamgillian