June 30, 2022
MFT is celebrating 54 acres of open farmland, forest, and riparian habitat along busy Route 9 in Cumberland! A conservation easement, completed in partnership by MFT and the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust (CCLT) now protects the new LongWoods Preserve. Thanks to landowner Alex Timpson’s vision, there will be opportunities for residents of Greater Portland and visitors to enjoy the bounty of this land's natural resources. The plan is for sixteen acres of open field to be leased to a farmer to grow produce for the public to enjoy from a farmstand and at a farm-to-table restaurant on the property. In addition, there will be a half-mile forest loop trail for the public to enjoy, and Alex aims to further expand the trail system in the future.
The conservation easement purchased by CCLT & MFT will ensure that the property provides the area’s residents with local produce for future generations, ensuring continuity of Cumberland’s rich 150-year history of farming. The easement also protects forest and wetlands that are vital to the ecosystem. The purchase of the easement was co-funded by both organizations and made possible through support from the Ram Island Conservation Fund and generous members and donors of CCLT and MFT.
The leasing of the 16 acres of open field, which are currently used for haying, will create access for an incoming farmer who may lack the capital to purchase a property themselves to get started with a thriving farm business.
MFT President & CEO Amy Fisher said, “As Maine Farmland Trust continues to seek opportunities to make farmland more accessible to farmers in southern Maine, we are thrilled to collaborate with the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust and Alex Timpson to protect this property and all the potential it holds. MFT aims to build a thriving Maine agricultural landscape and economy that creates access to fresh local food for our communities – and the LongWoods Preserve will provide benefits to farmers and community members alike.”
The property also consists of 38.5 acres of important forest and habitat. The healthy, mixed-age forest not only provides wildlife habitat, but also provides protective buffering to benefit the water quality of the streams and East Branch of the Piscataqua River that run through the property and eventually to the Presumpscot River and into Casco Bay. The six-acre floodplain offers unique habitat to many species adapted to grow in occasionally flooded areas such as American elm, green ash, and red osier dogwood.
“CCLT is excited to complete another exciting farmland conservation project with Maine Farmland Trust as a wonderful partner,” said CCLT Executive Director Chris Cabot. “This innovative land protection project provides protection of working farmland, essential wildlife habitat, and public access, all in conjunction with an opportunity for a new business in our community. CCLT is happy to play a key role in such a great community project, and we look forward to this property being a gathering place for all to enjoy.”
“The Greater Portland Area is exploding with development,” said Alex Timpson. “We, as a community, need to more greatly appreciate how precious open space truly is, now and increasingly into the future. Thanks to help from MFT & CCLT, this multi-dimensional land conservation project, known as LongWoods Preserve, will hopefully give visitors a taste of the multitude of benefits that land conservation can provide -- river, farm, forest, local food & drink, walking trails, art, and music...it's all going to happen right here on this property only 15 minutes from Portland."
In order to make the project a reality, Timpson was required to request a contract zone from the Town of Cumberland. The project had strong support from town staff, the Town Council, and the Planning Board. A contract zone was approved in May, and the Cumberland Planning Board is now reviewing the site plan application, a final step in the permitting process.
The protected land at the LongWoods Preserve offers something for everyone: 16 acres of fields for local farmers to till and harvest; 38.5 acres of forest and wetland habitat for local flora and fauna to grow; and a grand total of 54.5 acres for the local community to enjoy farm fresh food and nature trails.
“With the rapid pace of development in Cumberland, CCLT is highly focused on working with landowners to help protect Cumberland’s most important natural resources,” said CCLT Board President Rod Vogel.