A project to preserve 76 acres of wooded land along the Saco River in Hollis has reached its goal now that the Land for Maine’s Future program approved a grant to help purchase the Indian Cellar property. The land was originally slated for development by Maine Woodland Properties, a high-end land dealer specializing in undeveloped waterfront property.

Last week’s funding decision by the Land for Maine’s Future, a land conservation program in the State Planning Office, will provide a $375,000 grant for the Saco River Indian Cellar Project. The funding was the key piece to add to $550,000 in funds already raised. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation group, last year secured a purchase option for $830,000 with Maine Woodland Properties.

“We’re all thrilled. The committee’s really thrilled,” said Wolfe Tone, a project manager for the Maine Trust for Public Land.

“We’re dancing in the streets,” said Ren Wilkinson, a member of the Indian Cellar Property Preservation Committee, the group of Buxton and Hollis residents who spearheaded the project to preserve the land.

The purchase option secured by the Trust for Public Land was set to expire at the end of June, but the contract was extended to the end of July as the groups waited to hear the grant decision from Land for Maine’s Future.

The project began nearly a year and a half ago, and the committee met once a week as members tried to secure numerous forms of funding for the project. The Land for Maine’s Future funding wasn’t even in their sights when they began the project; Maine voters hadn’t yet approved the $35.5 million bond that appeared on the November ballot.

“That vote needed to happen,” said Jane Ryan, another member of the committee.

Tone said he can’t say enough about the committee and the amount of work it did over the past year and a half.

“It pulled Hollis and Buxton together,” Tone said. “It’s just an incredible story.”

In November, Hollis residents voted 71 percent in favor of using $250,000 of town money toward the purchase of the land. The committee then set and met a goal to raise $300,000. With the $375,000 from Land for Maine’s Future, the project has raised $925,000, including $150,000 to be donated by the Poland Spring bottled water company over the course of three years, and $50,000 from the Narragansett One Foundation

Maine Woodland Properties bought the Indian Cellar property just under two years ago for $400,000. The land is located on the Hollis side of the Saco River, just below the Salmon Falls bridge, across the river from the 65-acre Pleasant Point Park in Buxton. The preservation of Indian Cellar property will secure the donation of another 18 acres of adjacent land on Old Alfred Road by property owner Rodney Littlefield. According to Tone, the total property with project costs is valued at just under $1 million.

The money raised beyond the $830,000 purchase price is needed to set up a perpetual stewardship fund. The land will be owned and cared for by Hollis.


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