BIDDEFORD — About 25 years ago, the organization now known as the Saco Valley Land Trust was started, with a mission to preserve land that was in danger of being bulldozed to make way for large developments.

Since then, more than 1,000 acres in Biddeford and Saco, as well as 90 acres in Buxton, have been donated to or purchased by the land trust, either as out-right ownership or in perpetuity easements.

Under the mantle of the land trust, this land will forever be conserved.

As a way to make people aware of some of the treasure trove of conserved property in the area, the Saco Valley Land Trust will participate in National Trails Day: On Saturday, the land trust will host a free, guided walk along the Great Cranberry Marsh in Biddeford at 1:30 p.m.

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is the country’s largest celebration of trails, according to the organization’s website.

Tour participants will be guided through Cranberry Marsh North, a 170-acre conservation parcel, by licensed forester Jeff Williams and members of the SVLT board. The woodland and marsh habitat will provide the opportunity to view native flowering plants and wildlife. The area is part of the state-designated Biddeford-Kennebunkport Vernal Pool Complex.

The land trust decided to showcase the Cranberry Marsh on National Trails Day because of the large interest and turnout at the marsh during last year’s Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, said land trust member Annika McGuirk.

In addition, she said, the beauty of the native plants and blooming flowers on the property make it particularly interesting and unique.

A highlight of the tour, said land trust member Richard Rhames, is a one of the tupelo trees on the property, which is estimated as being more than 250 years old. That particular tree, he said, was the county winner in the tupelo category of last year’s York County Soil & Water Conservation District Big Tree Contest. He noted there were only two entrants in that category.

“National Trails Day,” according to the American Hiking Society website, “evolved during the late ’80s and ’90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations.”

The purpose of the event locally, said Rhames, is to create awareness about land conservation and its importance.

“We really need public money to do the big projects,” he said, but a lot of the federal and state sources of conservation dollars have decreased drastically over the years.

Even without much public money, said Rhames, the Saco Valley Land Trust has been able to conserve a significant amount of property, mostly through donations.

“We rely on the kindness of strangers,” he said.

Those who donate land to the land trust are eligible for tax benefits, said Rhames.

The mission of the Saco Valley Land Trust is to “conserve spaces we all care about,” said McGuirk. Tours like the one on Saturday at Cranberry Marsh North are designed to showcase some of the beauty of the local conservation land, she said.

“If we take you there, you’re more likely to take care of (natural habitats) and draw in other people,” said McGuirk.

The guided walking tour of the Cranberry Marsh North will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The walk will start at the end of Georgetown Drive, 3.2 miles from Main Street in Biddeford. The trails are easy to moderate terrain, and appropriate footwear is recommended. All are welcome to attend.

More details can be found on the Saco Valley Land Trust Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sacovalleylandtrust.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]



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