BAR HARBOR, Maine — On Mount Desert Island, which is largely occupied by Acadia National Park, it is rare that 500 acres of land is open to development.
But one such tract on MDI could end up being largely preserved in its natural state, perhaps with some trails running through it linking the high school with some island villages, if a land trust can raise the necessary funds to protect it.
The land in question is 566 acres between Norway Drive and the section of Route 102 that connects Somesville with Town Hill. Kittredge Brook, which runs east of Route 102 almost all the way to the north side of Mount Desert Island High School, and its adjacent wetlands run through the center of the mostly wooded parcel.
With the blessing of the landowner, local developer Shepard Harris, Maine Coast Heritage Trust is looking to acquire the property, according to MCHT spokesman Rich Knox. Knox said Wednesday that the land trust has four months, until the end of April 2011, to finish raising the money it hopes to use to buy the land.
“We need to raise $2 million to accomplish our goal,” Knox said. “It’s looking very positive, but we still have a ways to go.”
According to MCHT, the owner has offered the trust the option of acquiring the most ecologically sensitive sections of the parcel for less than half of the property’s market value. Harris would retain 50 acres of the property for possible future development.
“This is a remarkable opportunity to save the last large tract of its kind on MDI,” MCHT Project Manager Brian Reilly said in a prepared statement.
If the sale goes through, trails linking the high school to Somesville, Town Hill and possibly parts of Acadia could be laid out on the property, MCHT staff have indicated.
As the trust continues to work on the MDI project, it also has completed several other projects in Washington County in the past year, according to Knox.
Two of those projects, with the cooperation of Downeast Coastal Conservancy, preserve waterfront public recreational access and wildlife habitat in Harrington and Milbridge.
Knox said the projects, which conserve 75 acres in Milbridge and 65 acres in Harrington, protect shorebird habitat and ensure that duck hunting will continue to be allowed on the properties.
MCHT also is working with blueberry growers in Trescott Township to switch from traditional farming practices to organic blueberry farming at property on Bog Brook Cove near Cutler, Knox said, and to assess the viability of establishing a new blueberry processing plant in the area.
In Pembroke, the trust worked with Maine Farmland Trust to revitalize a farm property on Leighton Road that had fallen into disuse. Aaron Bell of Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds Township now leases the property and is using it to raise cows and turkeys and to grow hay.
Tom Ireland, president of MCHT, said in a prepared statement that 2010 has a been a “remarkable” year and that the trust hopes to help spread economic benefits and land conservation along Maine’s coast in the coming year.
“The common thread running through all these success stories are people and organizations with a deep love for the Maine coast and a desire to assure that Maine remains a special place into the future,” Ireland said.