Greg Tondreau stands in front of the sign for the Anna M. Tondreau Preserve during a celebration of the preserve’s opening on Saturday, June 29, in Harpswell. Greg is one of the five Tondreau siblings who elected to preserve the land, selling it to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust instead of developers. Brendan Nordstrom photo

Two herons flew over the Anna M. Tondreau Preserve on the morning of Saturday, June 29. At the time, members of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust were setting up for the preserve’s opening celebration across the street.

“That’s just examples of (how) there’s nature around here,” said John Boomer, a trustee of the Land Trust. “Preserving this land, we don’t add pollution to the area, we give the native animals a good place to do that kind of stuff. So that’s our motivation.”

The 57-acre preserve, located across from Harpswell Community School on Great Island, marks the Land Trust’s 19th preserve and includes a 1.4-mile loop trail.

Saturday’s celebration included guided walks, refreshments, and brief remarks from Land Trust Board of Trustees President Wendy Batson, Executive Director Julia McLeod, and Greg Tondreau, son of the preserve’s namesake.

“It’s very exciting to think about the future and think about how land trusts are promoting a future where … many future generations, people we have not even imagined in our minds, will be able to experience this incredible property,” McLeod said at the event on Saturday. “It’s a legacy that we’re putting forward.”

Attendees at the Anna M. Tondreau Preserve Celebration stand in front of a sign at the Harpswell Community School on Saturday, June 29, in Harpswell. The Harpswell Heritage Land Trust officially closed on the property on June 20, 2023. Brendan Nordstrom photo

The five Tondreau siblings — Greg, Rod, Nancy, Beth, and Claire — inherited the land after their mother, Anna, passed away in 2018. Anna purchased the property in 1996.

Greg, who grew up in Philadelphia with his siblings, recalled coming up to the property in summertime when growing up.

Electing to preserve the land instead of selling it to developers, the siblings offered the property to the Land Trust at a bargain sale of $500,00, less than one-third of its appraised value.

“We siblings wanted to do something to preserve the land because there had been an effort many years ago to develop it, and we thought, ‘Let’s make this special,’” Greg said. “It would be nice to curtail a development and to have a place where people can just go reflect and enjoy the outdoors.”

The Land Trust estimated that 20-25 houses could have been built on the property along with a razed forest and toxic runoff that would diminish water quality and the ecosystem, Greg said in his speech.

The Land Trust raised the funds to purchase the land, closing on the property just over a year ago.

“This adds a moderate-difficulty, slightly longer trail in an area of town that doesn’t have a ton of other trails,” McLeod said. “It’s also just really nice that you can be on a main road but you get in there and because of the topography, you get away from the road noise.”

After acquiring the property, the nonprofit had worked to set up the trails and public access up until the week prior to the opening celebration.

David Walter leads a guided walk of the Anna M. Tondreau Preserve during the celebration of the preserve’s opening on Saturday, June 29, in Harpswell. The trail through the preserve is a 1.4-mile loop complete with moss, rock walls, and an ocean view. Brendan Nordstrom photo

Ron Davis, a trustee who helped set up the trail, said it was an “iterative process” of different groups going through the woods to mark a path that stayed on dry land, provided easier walking, had pretty viewing, and avoided cutting down large trees.

The looped trail has a high side that goes up and down a ridge, as well as a low side that leads to an ocean view. The trail’s highlights include a rock wall, a sea of ferns, and sections full of moss. It also has the most elevation gain of any Land Trust trail.

“This is going to be one of the highlights of the Land Trust’s trails,” said Mary Robinson, an attendee of the celebration who has hiked the trail twice. “The Land Trust is one of the premier benefits of living in the Harpswell area.”

Boomer added the Land Trust is excited about the opportunity for outdoor education due to its location across the street from the Community School.

Greg Tondreau said he hopes the preservation of the land will last forever.

“Our family’s goal all along has been to preserve the tranquility and habitat,” he said. “We trust that these peaceful trails, with their carpeted forests, moss-covered boulders and rock walls, and scenic shoreline, will forever be available for you and future generations of residents and hikers to enjoy.”

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