Steep Falls preserve – and trails – near finish line
When the late Donald and Beverly Anderson closed the Maine Woods Products Corp. mill in Steep Falls Village in 1984, they knew they wanted the land to be preserved and returned to the community. Over time, they removed the pallet mill’s buildings so nature could take back over.
Now their son, Mark Anderson is hoping to donate the family’s roughly 20 acres of meadows and forest in Steep Falls Village to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust for conservation, public access and trail development.
“This is the idea and goal that my parents had. I’m doing this on their behalf, ultimately it’s their gift and their idea,” Anderson said.
Currently, there are no public trails within six miles in all directions of Steep Falls Village, so the project is a priority, said the land trust’s executive director, Rachelle Curran Apse.
“We haven’t had this opportunity before,” Apse said. “The feedback (we’ve received) over and over is we are so excited to have walking trails that are welcoming and good for families to use. It’s been very positive.”
For Andrew Walton, a Steep Falls resident, the trails would provide a safe space for him and his family to be outside.
“This project would allow me to bring my son to walk a safe maintained trail with a dedicated parking area, and it would also allow us to bring your dog or bring your family,” Walton said. “It would be used pretty heavily by the local residents, but also the surrounding areas as well.”
Although the land will be donated, the land trust says it needs $120,000 to build and maintain the trails. It has raised 80% of that goal so far. In addition to a matching pledge of up to $5,000 from the Anderson family, donations have come largely local contributors and grants.
If the land trust is able to finish fundraising by the end of the month, they can build trails over the summer and open this fall. Otherwise, the project will not open until the following year as trail building must happen over the summer.
The Anderson land is mostly meadows and is a habitat for ground nesting birds and pollinator species. The land also abuts the Steep Falls Wildlife Management Area, which is home to wetlands, and in combination with this new addition of preserved land, would provide more opportunities for wildlife viewing and conservation, Apse said.
“We will work to keep the species in the meadows, and the two different habitats together make it that much more important,” she said.
The land also bears historical significance. Originally home to the Wabanaki People, the land was then used as the site of lumber mills for 100 years, including A.F. Sanborn & Sons and later the Anderson family’s Maine Woods Products Corp.
“The land has served the area well,” Anderson said. “I think it will end up being a great resource for people to not only get outside and see conservation efforts in place, but also to learn about nature.”
The Land Trust plans to place educational signage on the land, informing visitors of the important natural and historical aspects of the property.
“Steep Falls Village is a village that has seen many phases, and people would love to see Steep Falls Village be more of a destination and have stronger community ties,” Apse said. “Trails are really unifying, bring people of all ages and different backgrounds and priorities together. It’s neat to see trails as connecting community.”
Both Anderson and Apse are optimistic that the land trust can raise enough funds to open the preserve in the fall.
To support the project, you can donate online here or mail a check to PRLT, P.O.Box 33, Gorham ME 04038 with memo: Steep Falls Village Preserve.