NORTH YARMOUTH — The Royal River Conservation Trust recently announced it has secured Mémak Preserve, which is now open to the public at 78 Lufkin Road.

Standing in front of the new trail head kiosk at Memak Preserve are, from left, Royal River Conservation Trust board member Rob Wood, Alan Stearns, executive director of the trust and RRCT Board President Mark Power.

The 32 acres of land was donated to the Royal River Conservation Trust by Ed and Joyce Gervais, who lived on a farmhouse attached to the land for 45 years. Over time, they bought portions of the property that now makes up the majority of the Mémak Preserve. The assessed value is $56,000 according to Alan Stearns, executive director of the trust.

The preserve includes the adjacent 14-acre Deer Brook conservation easement, another property owned by Royal River Conservation Trust, for a total of 46 acres of conserved land in one area.

About two miles of hiking and biking trails loop through Mémak Preserve from the Lufkin Road entrance.  Stearns said the land also has designated trails for snowmobilers that travel from the snowmobile trail at the North Yarmouth Variety Store on Route 115 to the bordering Central Maine Power line.

The donation was made this past August, and trust volunteers have been working since to clear the existing trails and create new ones.

Ed Gervais recalls that before he bought the land, it was open for the enjoyment of the neighborhood. His kids grew up exploring the forest and collecting wildflowers. He and his neighbors maintained a trail along a stonewall that remains today where nearby residents would go running or cross-country skiing.

“About five or six years ago we had the land surveyed and looked into the possibility of developing it, but we decided it was too pretty to be developed,” said Gervais. “We were fortunate enough to be able to donate it. I hope it’s there for a long time for other people to enjoy as much as we did.”  

Mémak is the Wabanaki word for pileated woodpecker, according to the conservation trust website. Maine’s indigenous people believed Mémak symbolized luck and friendship, according to the site.

The woods are still filled with woodpeckers, along with warblers and other wildlife in a forest made up of mature oak, hemlock, white pine, beech, red pine and maple trees, according to the trust website. Wild blueberries, lady slippers, mushrooms and wildflowers can be found, depending on the season.

The organization is still working to reach its $30,000 goal for trail maintenance, land management, education and outreach, and to ensure they can take care of Mèmak Preserve for future generations. To date, they have raised $18,000.

According to Stearns, the preserve is now available to be used by the public, even as work continues throughout the winter. He hopes to have a proper ribbon cutting in the spring of 2021, once an official sign has been erected and the last touches are finished.

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