More than 240 acres of fields, apple orchards and forestland on Goat Hill in Acton will be permanently preserved for agriculture after two land trusts and the town worked together to protect it from future development.

The hilltop, a favorite destination for residents of western York County, offers views of the ocean, lakes and Mount Washington. The orchards have produced apples for the wholesale market for 80 years. When the former property owners decided to sell, residents worried the property would be subdivided for development.

The three-year process to protect the 243 acres was finalized recently with the sale of a parcel of land to a cider maker. The majority of the fields and orchards have been divided between two new farm owners. The protection of the orchards was dependent on Three Rivers Land Trust and the town acquiring the summit of Goat Hill.

“This complicated project has been three years in the making, but it is hard to imagine a better outcome,” Adam Bishop, farmland protection program director at Maine Farmland Trust, said in a statement.

Both farm parcels are protected by conservation easements that ensure the land remains available for farming and forestry. Dave Cote of Lakeview Orchard will restore the former pick-your-own apple orchard where he worked every summer as a teenager. Alex and Denise Snape of Far From The Tree Orchard will expand their orchards to produce apples for a hard cider operation.

The summit of Goat Hill will become a local park with a fully accessible trail. The purchase of that land was made possible when the town passed its first-ever bond issue for conservation and contributed $25,000 from town forest earnings. The land trust’s contribution included donations from local year-round and seasonal residents.

“Goat Hill is one of those truly spectacular places that take your breath away,” said Jean Noon, president of Three Rivers Land Trust, which covers Acton, Alfred, Lebanon, Shapleigh and Sanford/Springvale.

The town of Acton expects to receive a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to help with the purchase and the construction of a parking area and trail to the hilltop.

Elise Miller, chairwoman of the Acton Board of Selectmen, praised the foresight of the Three Rivers Land Trust to preserve the land.

“When the taxpayers of Acton voted in June of 2016 to approve the purchase of Goat Hill (and) partnered with (Three Rivers Land Trust), it was a win-win result,” Miller said in a statement. “A spectacular piece of land is now protected and open to the public for mountain and lake views while recreating with family and friends.”

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

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