A 60-acre beaver marsh is located in the middle of Thayer Brook Preserve in Gray. Rachel Vitello / For Lakes Region Weekly

The Land for Maine’s Future board later this month is expected to approve about $65,000 in funding for the Thayer Brook Preserve project in Gray.

Royal River Conservation Trust, which owns the preserve between Ramsdell Road and Libby Hill Road, has created new trails to complement and connect to existing Libby Hill Trails, which have a trailhead behind Gray-New Gloucester High School. The trust also plans to construct a parking lot at 92 Ramsdell Road using $30,000 funded through the the town of Gray’s Open Space Plan.

The Land for Maine’s Future board will vote on funding for Thayer Brook Preserve on Nov. 29. Rachel Vitello / For Lakes Region Weekly

“The theme of the open space plan is ‘protect and connect,’ to connect existing trails and protect new ones, which Thayer Brook accomplishes,” said Anne Gass, a member of Gray’s Open Space Committee. “This access to the trails is much more accessible for the people of West Gray and it now adjoins the existing Libby Hill preserve, which is a great thing for the community.”

The Royal River trust acquired the 147-acre preserve in March through bridge financing with a private donor. The conservation trust will receive $65,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the project and that and the potential state funding will be used to replace the donor’s bridge financing money. The donor’s money will then be used for trail maintenance and community programming and to further the trust’s goals of more land conservation in Gray, according to Royal River Executive Director Alan Stearns.

Open Space Committee member Kaitlyn Nuzzo, left, Maine Coast Heritage Trust Public Policy Manager Jeff Romano, Royal River Conservation Trust Executive Director Alan Stearns and Rep Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, at the Thayer Brook Preserve. Rachel Vitello / For Lakes Region Weekly

The trust anticipates the state funding will be approved Nov. 29, Stearns said. If it isn’t, the trust will continue to own the preserve, but it will be a “struggle to meet (the) budget for trail work, programming, and future projects,” he said.

David Dowler, a longtime volunteer for the trust, said the Thayer Brook project is a vital step in protecting Maine’s forests.


“I started exploring what is now the Mill Trail and Libby Hill on my first mountain bike in the mid ’90s. Then, I thought the forests from here up to my house on Route 85 in Raymond would be around forever, somehow,” Dowler said. “Now I know that is far from true, and this forest around us is under development pressures from all sides.

“For me, this preserve saves a very special piece of that forest, which includes unique wildlife habitat, high-quality wetlands and parts of the Libby Hill trails, and takes one small step in conserving the larger, unbroken forest tracts in the region.”

Dowler’s volunteer work, especially at Libby Hill and now at Thayer Brook, includes flagging the trail corridor, trimming branches, pulling puckerbrush, raking trails and some manual earthmoving.

State Rep. Amy Arata, a New Gloucester resident, said connecting Thayer Brook with Libby Hill will be a great asset for everyone, especially Gray-New Gloucester students and athletes, like cross country runners who make use of the trails.

The 147-acre preserve has walking trails, hiking trails, mountain-biking trails, and a short segment of snowmobile and ATV trails. Dogs are allowed on leash, and hunting is not allowed. It is also home to a 60-acre beaver marsh and bird habitat. The trust hopes to keep that part of the preserve, which lies right in the middle of the protected land, undisturbed.

“Thayer Brook gives the community natural resources to meet everyone’s passions and needs,” Stearns said.

More information about Thayer Brook Preserve and updates on its progress can be found at rrct.org under the “preserves, trails & farms” tab.

Rachel Vitello is a freelance writer in Portland. 

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