ROCKLAND, Maine — The city this week moved closer to building an expansive trail system that would connect the former MacDougal school property with the Rockland bog.
The city council voted unanimously earlier this week to buy 174-acres of the Oyster River Bog from land owner Malcolm Von Saltza for $52,000, which it says will remain preserved and publicly accessible.
The council also voted to designate the former MacDougal school property on Broadway as a park. Both decisions are part of a larger long-term goal to connect the two areas via new walking trails. Residents voted to close the school in 2010 and it was razed two years later.
The hope is that an interconnected trail system, which the Parks Commission began planning last year, would connect the future MacDougal park to the city-owned baseball fields on Old County Road, and from there, to Benner Hill and the nearby Oyster River Bog — about 2.5 miles one way.
The city will use reserve funds from selling foreclosed properties to pay for part of the bog purchase, and a chunk will hopefully be funded through private donations, Rockland City Councilor Valli Geiger said this week, although no donors have yet come forward.
“Those kinds of green spaces will become more and more valuable in terms of preventing future sprawl,” she said, and it will “be a gift for future generations.”
Acting City Manager Audra Caler-Bell said she hopes to have the agreement finalized with Von Saltza in the next two weeks.
The purchase would bring a new access point off Route 90 and parking lot for visitors to use while walking the trails.
The Oyster River Bog, also known by locals as the Rockland bog and named for the Oyster River that splits the property, is a 6,000-acre mix of woodlands and the watershed that feeds the bog.
If all goes according to plan, the total number of preserved acres — owned by Rockland, the Oyster River Bog Association, the Georges River Land Trust and the Southern Maine Wetlands Conservancy — will exceed 1,700.
“We really do have a jewel in our midst,” Annette Naegel, director of conservation for the Georges River Land Trust, said Thursday.
The land trust manages the 7-mile Georges Highland Path trail, which runs north to south, between Route 90 and Route 1.