The Falmouth Land Trust is asking the town for $400,000 to help buy a 52-acre parcel on the east side of town it’s calling Underwood Springs Forest. Courtesy / Falmouth Land Trust

FALMOUTH —  The Falmouth Land Trust wants taxpayer help in buying 52 acres of undeveloped forest east of Route 1, to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars.

The trust asked the town Feb. 3 for more than $400,000 to help purchase Underwood Springs Forest. So far the land trust has raised $400,000 of the $830,000 cost of the land, located at the corner of Route 1 and Johnson Road and zoned for commercial development.

Although the council expressed interest in the proposal, Chairwoman Amy Kuhn said last week it represents a “significant expenditure.”

A public forum  on the proposal will take place 7 p.m. March 9. The council will likely vote on whether to help buy the land March 23.

Amanda Stearns, the town’s open space manager, told The Forecaster the Open Space Acquisition Fund contains just over $225,000.

Earlier this month, Town Manager Nathan Poore said he’s recommending that another $190,000 be put into the fund in the fiscal year 2021 budget. If councilors agree, that would bump the land fund up to $415,000, but leave little available for other land purchases, at least until 2022.

Jenny Grimm, executive director of the land trust, said the organization has entered into a purchase and sales agreement for the property, which expires March 31, although she’s hopeful the seller, Don Hincks, who lives out of state, will give the trust more time to raise funds if necessary.

Jenny Grimm, executive director of the Falmouth Land Trust, said Monday that a large piece of forestland on the Foreside is “a great target for conservation.” File

She described the price as a “bargain sale situation,” noting the initial asking price was $1.9 million.

Grimm said although the parcel’s been for sale for years without any takers, “without intervention, it will eventually be developed.” She also noted, however, that some of the things which make the property so attractive for conservation purposes, including 13 acres of wetland, have put significant constraints on prospective developers.

Norton Brook, which runs through Underwood Springs Forest provides “excellent habitat” for brook trout. Courtesy / Falmouth Land Trust

The property has “lots of ecological variety,” Grimm said, which makes it “a great target for conservation.” The property is home to several vernal pools and the sedge plant, which is endangered in Maine. In addition, Norton Brook, which runs the length of the property, provides “excellent habitat” for brook trout, she said.

Grimm said there are 370 homes within half a mile of the parcel, and access would benefit about 1,100 people, or about 10% of the town’s total population.

Both Grimm and Michelle Draeger, vice president of the land trust, said purchasing Underwood Springs Forest would align with the town’s own open space goals, which include “provid(ing) a range of open spaces and experiences for a diverse population” and “utiliz(ing) open space acquisition as a land use growth management tool.”

Grimm noted it’s been 20 years since a property was purchased for conservation on the Foreside and councilors also seemed interested in the idea of conserving a large parcel of land in what they described as a densely developed part of town.

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