“A warm sun was shining and a smattering of acorns dropped from nearby trees as Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust trustees and staff, along with local and town officials and lead donors and volunteers, celebrated the land trust’s newest trail with a ribbon cutting,” said Hannah McGhee, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, in a news release.
Keyes Woods Preserve is a wooded property in Bristol extending east to the Pemaquid River from Poor Farm Road, with over 1900 feet of shoreline and a free-flowing tributary stream. The outflow of this stream, at a quiet bend in the river, is a hotspot for waterfowl viewing, said McGhee. Crisscrossed with historical stone walls, the preserve offers a number of interesting features including old stone foundations and glacial erratics. Wildlife such as deer, porcupine, and ruffed grouse are abundant. Because of its importance to wildlife, visitors should note that no dogs are permitted at Keyes Woods.
Though it’s been open to the public since its completion last fall, the trail and trailhead have received some finishing touches this summer, including the placement of bog bridges through wet areas, the creation of a multi-car parking area, and the installation of a sign and kiosk. For more information about the trail, visit coastalrivers.org/trail/keyes-woods-preserve.
Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel expressed his thanks to those who made the project possible. Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA) acquired the 70-acre property in 2018, with assistance from Damariscotta River Association (DRA) – just months before the two organizations began the formal process of unification. Hufnagel highlighted how the success of this joint project helped pave the way for the unification process, which resulted in the formation of Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust in 2019.
The purchase was made possible by the generous support of George Keyes, joined by his brothers Henry Keyes and Jonathan Keyes, along with a grant from the Davis Conservation Foundation. Maine Coast Heritage Trust was another key partner, providing a low-interest loan of $35,000 through their revolving land acquisition loan program while DRA and PWA awaited grant funding and pledge payments.
Many hands contributed to the work of planning and creating the new trail that loops through the preserve, as well. Hufnagel lauded the efforts of Coastal Rivers’ volunteers and staff who helped remove a derelict cabin, cut back infestations of invasive plants, marked and cut trails, built bog bridges, and improve the parking area, and who continue to maintain the trail.
Lead donor George Keyes was next to address those gathered, sharing what the property represents for him personally. He commented on the uniqueness of the Pemaquid peninsula, where climate conditions are influenced by the proximity of the ocean as well as the fresh water system that runs down its center. He noted his appreciation for the careful forest management by members of the Avantaggio family, from whom the property was purchased. Keyes also expressed his hope that others will enjoy the sense of perspective and peace he feels when he walks there.
State Representative Lydia Crafts was last to speak, highlighting Maine’s tradition of conservation. She discussed the importance of passing along special places, like those we enjoyed when we were young, to the next generation.
After the remarks and symbolic cutting of the ribbon, guests walked a short distance to a clearing at the first trail junction to enjoy some fresh apple cider and a trail mix buffet. Many then opted to join in a hike of the two-mile loop trail.
Neill DePaoli, Archaeologist and Site Manager at Colonial Pemaquid State Historical Site, was also present at the ceremony and joined for the hike afterward. Having done some initial exploration of a stone foundation on the property, DePaoli shared his observations and theories about the date of construction and style of home that would have been there.
Coastal Rivers is a non-profit, member-supported, nationally accredited land trust caring for the lands and waters of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid Region by conserving special places, protecting water quality, creating trails and public access, and deepening connections to nature through education programs. For more information, email email@example.com or visit coastalrivers.org.