Hikers enjoying trails on the Bittner property. Contributed photo via Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.

Properties in West Bath and Harpswell are among 20 new land conservation projects in Maine that will benefit from state funding designed to preserve public access to lakes, rivers, scenic views and mountain vistas.

Gov. Janet Mills on June 6 announced the allocation of $40 million in state funding through the biennial budget for the Land for Maine’s Future program.

The total cost will be $5.06 million, which will be combined with any private or municipal funding obtained.

The Bittner project in West Bath is a 165-acre acquisition by the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust.

“KELT’s goal is to manage the property for recreational opportunities (e.g. hiking, hunting, mountain biking, ATV riding, snowshoeing, and backcountry cross country skiing, to name a few. And to protect its existing forests and wetlands as whole healthy habitats,” said the land trust’s director, Becky Kolak.

“The Land for Maine’s Future program has a long history of supporting conservation organizations, municipalities, landowners, and state agencies to protect wild and wondrous landscapes in Maine. KELT’s most popular preserve, Thorne Head Preserve in north Bath, was supported by the LMF program in 2000,” Kolak said. “To be one of the selected projects this round is exciting and a real honor. It showcases how the Bittner Project has real impact for our local communities, both for people and for nature.”


Mountain bikers on the existing trails on the Bittner property in West Bath. Contributed photo via 6 Rivers Chapter of The New England Mountain Bike Association.

The Tondreau project in Harpswell is a 57.2-acre acquisition by Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, protecting coastal water quality, a rare plants and trail access for residents.

Formerly owned by the Tondreau family since the 1940s, its most recent owner, Anna M. Tondreau, died in 2018. Tondreau’s children then offered to sell the property to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust for $500,000 — 30% of its actual value. The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust appraised the property at $1.65 million.

“This large property includes valuable wildlife habitat and undeveloped shoreline. Conserving it protects the clean water of Quahog Bay, preserves habitat, and will provide public access to a new, yet to be built, walking trail,” land trust director Julia McLeod said.

McLeod said she is grateful for the LMF funding and the Tondreau family’s dedication to conserving their land.

“Maine people value the outdoors, and each of these projects represents an exceptional opportunity for us to get outdoors and to protect public access for the enjoyment of generations to come,” Mills stated in a press release. “I am proud that the State of Maine, thanks to my Administration and the Legislature, is once again partnering with towns across Maine to preserve our cherished lands and waters for Maine people.”

A view from the Tondreau site in Harpswell. Amelia Graham photo

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