December 18, 2013

After years in limbo, Maine land board ready for new proposals

The group is anxious for new projects now that Gov. LePage has released funds approved by voters more than three years ago.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A state program forced to keep a low profile in recent years announced Tuesday it is prepared to spend millions of dollars to conserve open space, protect farmland from development, create access to waters for boating, fishing and swimming, and preserve working waterfronts for fishermen.

click image to enlarge

Mount Kineo, in the center of Moosehead Lake, is one of numerous areas the Land for Maine’s Future program has protected from further development.

AP File Photo

The Land for Maine’s Future program said it has $10.4 million in state bond money available to fund projects that meet its criteria. The funds were approved by Maine voters at referendums in 2010 and 2012 but the bonds were never issued after Gov. Paul LePage ordered them held. The governor freed up the money earlier this year.

Project proposals are due by March 28.

“It is great news,” said William Vail of Saco, chairman of the Land for Maine’s Future board and former commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Now we can begin to look at new projects. We had been limping along for some time.”

Vail said that at the referendum in 2010 Maine voters authorized about $5 million in bonds for the program, and they approved a similar amount two years later.

Land for Maine’s Future bonds were not the only agency targeted by the governor as he battled with the Legislature over budget issues, Vail said.

However, this past summer, LePage approved selling the bonds for the purpose of conserving land, providing public water access and for outdoor recreation projects.

At its November meeting, the Land for Maine’s Future board decided to put out a call for new proposals, Vail said.

Tom Abello, spokesman for the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy in Brunswick, said the Land for Maine’s Future program has been wildly popular with voters. Since the project was established in 1987, voters on six occasions have approved borrowing money for land conservation by 2-to-1 margins.

Since the program was established in 1987, funds have been used to preserve some of Maine’s best-known outdoor recreation spots.

Tim Glidden, who served as director of the program for 10 years and is now president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust in Topsham, cited the preservation of public access to Tumbledown Mountain in Weld and the Bold Coast in Cutler as among the agency’s greatest accomplishments. The agency also protected Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake from development.

Tumbledown Mountain offers hikers access to a spectacular mountaintop pond, also known as a glacial cirque, with broad views of the western mountains. The Bold Coast is a 30-mile stretch of shoreline between Cutler and Lubec that offers hikers access to five miles of the stretch.

“This program has stood the test of time,” Glidden said.

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

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