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Kennebec Highlands recreation management plan hearing June 29

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands will hold a public meeting later this month on the final draft of the Kennebec Highlands Management Plan.

The public is invited to comment on the final draft, which proposes a blend of recreational uses for the region. The draft document is available on line, according to Amy Hudnor, BPL senior planner.

The public meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at the Mount Vernon Community Center, Mount Vernon.

Kennebec Highlands is a state-owned property that stretches across the woodlands and hills of four towns, Vienna, Mount Vernon, Rome and New Sharon, Hudnor said. The area was purchased using Land for Maine’s Future funds over the last 11 years in partnership with the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.

The land features remote ponds, streams, rolling uplands, several low mountains and two parcels with frontage on Long Pond.

“In fact, the highest peaks in Kennebec County are on the property,” Hudnor said. “Spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and mountains can be seen from several vistas, and scenic remote ponds provide excellent fishing.”

The property is remarkable for the variety of recreation opportunities located close to many of central Maine’s population centers, the BPL planner said.

“Part of the beauty of the Kennebec Highlands is that it is a large landscape available for public recreation in close proximity to population centers such as Augusta, Waterville, Skowhegan and Farmington,” Hudnor pointed out. “The landscape is enjoyed by residents and visitors to the surrounding towns, and it is also easy for nearby residents to drive up on a Saturday afternoon for a hike, or even after work for a short visit, to go fishing on McIntire Pond or pick blueberries.”

The final draft plan recommends recreational uses — both motorized and non-motorized — for separate areas of the Highlands as recommended by the public in a series of public meetings held in 2007 to get early input on management of the region, Hudnor said.

Feedback at those meetings showed that people wanted a variety of recreational opportunities; many wanted the area to be remote and reserved for hiking and other non-motorized uses, while others wanted open access for ATV riding.  At that time, information also came to light about the potential for public rights of access on gravel roads in the Highlands, many of which have existed since the 19th century as access for early farms and homesteads.

BPL decided that it had to determine if public access rights existed on any of the Highlands roads before motorized access decisions could be made. The management planning process was suspended so the road issue could be researched, Hudnor said.

The bureau has been able to determine which of the gravel roads have public access rights, Hudnor continued. That in turn has allowed the planners to determine which areas are most suitable for trails for snowmobile and ATV use, and which areas could be reserved for remote recreation, where uses such as hiking, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing will be concentrated, she said.

“The focus of the final draft plan is on providing separate areas, particularly during the non-winter months, for remote non-motorized areas and motorized trails in a backcountry setting,” Hudnor explained. “The benefits of having a large public land in close proximity to where many people live are matched by the challenge of accommodating the great variety of interests in those lands. Fortunately the Kennebec Highlands is large enough, with enough landscape variety to in some way accommodate all interests expressed in the past public meetings.”

The final draft is available at: www.parksandlands.com

Scroll down the page and click on the Kennebec Highlands link.

To receive a paper copy, call or e-mail Amy Hudnor, BPL planner, at: (207) 287-2163 or amy.hudnor@maine.gov.

Written comments are invited until July 20. Please send written comments to the email address above, or mail to Amy Hudnor, Bureau of Parks and Lands, 22 State House Station, Augusta  04333.






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