Frenchman Bay Conservancy closed on the purchase of 1,400 acres in Hancock on March 1 as part of its Frenchman Bay Community Forest Project. The land trust is now in the planning phase for developing trails and community gathering spaces on the property, which is located just 5 miles from downtown Ellsworth.
The protection of the 1,400-acre parcel is part of a larger 4,500-acre conservation project. The remaining acreage of the new community forest — 3,100 acres — was conserved by the New England Forestry Foundation in 2020.
“Conservation of Frenchman Bay Community Forest is a win for wildlife because this mosaic of young forest and wetlands is critical for breeding birds, deer, moose and other Maine wildlife,” said Aaron Dority, executive director of Frenchman Bay Conservancy. “Also, the new preserve is a win for people, with walking trails so close to the Hancock School, to the City of Ellsworth and of course, to the Downeast Sunrise Trail.”
A future network of trails on the property will provide opportunities for walking, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Access will be free. There will be two access points: a parking lot off Route 182 and a parking area just off the Downeast Sunrise Trail so recreationists can park their ATVs or snowmobiles and hike or bike onto the property.
To purchase the property and to fund long-term stewardship, Frenchman Bay Conservancy raised $900,000 through foundation grants and individual donations to its public campaign, which launched in the summer of 2020.
“This property was a reach for Frenchman Bay Conservancy because of its size,” Dority said. “We’re thrilled that 140 people stepped forward to help Frenchman Bay Conservancy permanently protect this property.”
Northeast Wilderness Trust contributed $100,000 to the fundraising campaign in exchange for a forever-wild easement on the land. On forever-wild easements, management is kept to a bare minimum. Motorized and mechanized recreation is prohibited, as is all resource extraction, including timber.
“It has been wonderful working with the great staff at Frenchman Bay Conservancy to help conserve this extraordinary property through the Wildlands Partnership,” said Jon Leibowitz, executive director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “The Wilderness Trust is honored to be the holder of a forever-wild easement on the community forest, which will provide habitat for wildlife and an opportunity for people to connect with wild nature.”
Additionally, Frenchman Bay Conservancy expects the Frenchman Bay Community Forest to function as an outdoor classroom, where groups can gather safely outdoors to learn about Maine’s natural resources, ecosystems and native species.
The forest is part of a nearly 25,000-acre block of undeveloped wildlife habitat, which is likely the largest remaining undeveloped block in Hancock County under one mile to the coast. Conserving the property protects the clean water in Kilkenny and Egypt Streams, which flow into Kilkenny Cove and Egypt Bay.
Those interested in learning more about the future Frenchman Bay Community Forest, and updates about plans for the property, can visit frenchmanbay.org/fbcf.