KENNEBUNKPORT – When Lisa Lassey at the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust called the Smith Preserve an experience akin to the North Maine Woods, it seemed a boastful exaggeration.
But a trip Thursday into this thick forestland smack in the center of southern coastal Maine reveals the mixed habitat of moose, bobcats, coyotes, turkeys, deer and fisher cats within a 1,100-acre preserve. And a new partnership between the Trust and the Seashore Trolley Museum now has made this forestland more accessible to naturalists.
So Lassey’s boast is worth considering further.
The folks at the 74-year-old historic trolley museum in Kennebunkport — the world’s oldest and most comprehensive electric railway museum — wanted to draw to its 300-acre campus more hikers, birders, mountain bikers and, maybe in the winter, Nordic skiers.
And as luck should have it, the museum’s land sits beside the Smith Preserve.
So the Trolley Museum board decided to link its campus into the Smith Preserve’s 12 miles of trails via its trolley ride, which runs 1.4 miles out and back into the woods. At the same time, the trolley museum folks opened their campus to dogs for the first time, to really send a new warm welcome throughout southern Maine.
“People today are looking for a mixed experience, whether that’s on a boat to a trail, or some other trail. They want something different,” said Sally Bates, the executive director of the trolley museum.
“We’re more than your grandfather’s trolley museum,” she added with a smile.
The electric railway trolleys tell of a time when Mainers commuted by electric cars for work and entertainment on the weekends at trolley parks. But it wasn’t a practical mode of transportation, even in its time.
“The Atlantic Shoreline Trolley went bankrupt three times,” said conductor Bill Mallory during a trolley trip last week.
Still, with its colorful, bright trolley cars dating back to the early 1900s, the museum is more than a walk through time. It’s a living history experience as well as a unique journey into a thick section of the southern Maine woods that is full of trails.
“It’s three miles round-trip to get into the preserve. That’s long for a family. But when you get into the forest, it’s very beautiful. It’s a quiet space. And this is a nice way to get there. The trolley opens up that whole part of the Smith Preserve,” Lassey said.
What makes the better access to the Smith Preserve even more exciting is the Trust’s main goal: To protect a 20-plus-mile woodland trail stretching from near Route 1 to the coast in Cape Porpoise.
The Trust has protected 2,200 acres, and 1,100 is part of the Smith Preserve. The 12-mile trail system there only has come together in the past few years.
“It’s an obtainable goal,” Lassey said. “We already have 15 miles of trails. In today’s day and age, in southern coastal Maine, it will be an amazing thing to do for the community.”
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: