SCARBOROUGH – A large tract of undeveloped land in the center of Scarborough will be preserved forever as open space.

The Scarborough Land Trust announced this week that it has acquired 156-acres of woods, fields and wetlands along the Nonesuch River, which feeds into Scarborough Marsh.

Warren Woods, which is located between Payne, Mussey and Gorham roads, was sold to the land trust by its previous owner, Harvey Warren, on Dec. 21. The property was named after Warren’s late wife, Elaine, who died in 2009 and was a longtime director of the land trust.

“This is truly a holiday gift to the people of Scarborough,” Paul Austin, president of the Scarborough Land Trust, said in a news release. “Warren Woods is a major acquisition for the land trust that required many partnerships.”

The deal has been in the works for some time.

In January, the land trust signed a purchase and sales agreement with Warren that was contingent on the nonprofit organization raising enough money to cover the sale price and stewardship costs.

The project got a huge boost in June when the Scarborough Town Council appropriated $228,000 from the town’s land bond fund toward the acquisition of Warren Woods.

Kathy Mills, executive director of the land trust, said the sale went through after the organization achieved its fundraising goal of $365,000.

Those funds covered the sale price — $285,000 — and left over enough money to build trails, install signs and maintain the land, Mills said.

Mills said Warren Woods is located near Scarborough High School, Scarborough Middle School and the Eight Corners Primary School.

It consists of open fields, mature woods and wetlands, with frontage along the Nonesuch River — the largest source of freshwater for the Scarborough Marsh.

Biologists who surveyed the property found outstanding habitat for unusual plants, including wild orchids, carnivorous sundew plants and a rare pitch pine bog.

Mills said the land could have been developed for housing or retail — it’s not far from the Maine Mall in neighboring South Portland.

“It could have been developed but the Warren family was very committed to preserving this land for conservation,” Mills added.

The Warrens’ daughter, Becky Seel, was a founding director of the land trust.

“This land has been a very special part of my parents’ lives since they bought it in 1966. We are so pleased that the land will be permanently protected, and would love to see Warren Woods used as an outdoor classroom for Scarborough students,” Seel said.

Mills said the land trust plans to convey about six acres of land along Payne Road to the town for a potential future recreational area. The land could be converted into ball fields.

Mills said trails will be developed next year. The land could be used for walking, cross country skiing or snowshoeing.

“This kind of location does not come along every day, a large piece of open land in the center of town,” Mills said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]