CMP parent lowers price on Portland forest after conservation effort falls short on fundraising goal

A man walks through the Canco Woods in Portland on Nov. 5, 2012.
A man walks through the Canco Woods in Portland on Nov. 5, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 21, 2012, at 5:12 p.m.
The 12-plus acre property in Portland known as the Canco Woods is outlined.
Friends of Canco Woods
The 12-plus acre property in Portland known as the Canco Woods is outlined.

PORTLAND, Maine — The parent company of Central Maine Power Co. dropped its asking price on a nearly 13-acre urban forest in Portland after neighbors and conservationists came up short in their fundraising efforts.

As a result, the so-called Canco Woods were ultimately sold to the city of Portland and placed under a conservation easement to prevent future development. The property — which has long been used by hikers, ice skaters, dog walkers and wildlife watchers despite being privately owned — was zoned for light industrial development when it went on the market about nine months ago.

The potential sale and development of the acreage scared neighbors, who partnered with The Trust for Public Land to raise money to buy the site after an initial pending sale with an unnamed private buyer fell through.

However, the local coalition of fundraisers was unable to raise the $350,000 necessary to purchase the property from CMP parent Iberdrola by its Nov. 30 deadline, The Trust for Public Land acknowledged Friday.

Instead of putting the property back out onto the market, Iberdrola USA Foundation dropped the asking price to $300,000 and completed the sale.

“We are pleased to continue Iberdrola’s long legacy of protecting and preserving the environment by supporting this successful campaign to preserve the Canco Woods,” said Bob Kump, chairman of the Iberdrola USA Foundation and chief executive officer of Iberdrola USA, in a Friday statement. “The woods and trails will be an asset for the neighborhood and a good addition to the city’s larger system of parks and walking trails.”

The City Council in early November agreed to allocate $75,000 from the city’s Land Bank account to buy and conserve the 12.9-acre lot between Canco Road and Torrey Street — assuming the neighbor group and their conservationist partners could acquire the property to set the stage for a resale to the municipal government.

Now the site is publicly owned and subject to a conservation easement to be held by the organization Portland Trails, which advocates for and maintains hiking trails throughout the city. Private donors gave nearly $270,000 toward the cause of buying and preserving the woods, according to The Trust for Public Land, which notes that another $10,000 must still be raised for a stewardship fund for the park.

“Portland has consistently been ranked one of America’s most livable cities largely because its people have had the will to strike a balance between development and open spaces,” said Ben Bernard, president of the Friends of Canco Woods, in a statement. “We are proud to be part of passing on that legacy to our children and our grandchildren, and that so many of our friends and neighbors have joined us in this effort.”

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