By Justin Ellis, staff writer
The Windham Land Trust is trying to raise $370,000 to preserve 71 acres in the heart of town.
The land off Gray Road, near the Windham Public Safety building, belongs to Larry and Ann Clark. It abuts the 105-acre Black Brook Preserve, the first piece of property the land trust acquired in 2000.
Land trust officials say they will seek grants, ask for private donations and apply to the Land for Maine’s Future program. If they succeed, the public could use the land for hiking, bird watching and other activities.
Larry Clark said he and his wife began looking several years ago for alternatives to selling the land as house lots. His father bought the land in the 1950s for timber farming, he said.
The Clarks contacted the land trust six months ago in the hope of seeing the land preserved.”It would be good to have the land continue as forest land, as opposed to have the bulldozers go through it and turn it into a subdivision,” Clark said.
Windham, like neighboring Gorham and Standish, originally was a farming town. But rapid residential and commercial development has encroached on much of the town’s open land.
Bill Diamond, president of the land trust, said the group plans to hire an official fundraiser to help finance the purchase.
Brian Ross, Windham’s parks and recreation director, said the land trust and the town are committed to preserving open space, but the trust can purchase land more readily than the town can.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s hard for the town to come up with funds to acquire green space.”>br />Town Council Chairman John MacKinnon said the land trust provides a valuable service. “It’s based on the town’s heritage as a farming community,” he said. “Residents here want to keep that. It has intrinsic value.”>/p>
The land trust plans to make a presentation at a council workshop at 7 p.m. Nov. 21, said MacKinnon, who favors using some town money as seed money to help the land trust.
The group received $60,000 from the town and $180,000 from the Land for Maine’s Future program toward the purchase of the Black Brook Preserve in 2000. The land trust bought the 105-acre property for $340,000 from a developer who had proposed a 41-lot subdivision.
Clark said he and his wife occasionally receive letters from real estate agents who ask whether they want to sell their land. He said he understands the need for new homes in Windham, but added that holding some land for open space also is important.
“I’m not against housing for people,” he said, “but there’s a lot more land being developed than land being protected from development.”>/p>