Sunday, April 6, 2008

What if you couldn't get to the Trails?

Monday was a good day. The Gray Community Endowment negotiated a buy agreement to purchase 29 acres next to the Gray - New Gloucester Middle school from Hancock Land Management. This property already contains 1/2 mile of trails that link the Libby Hill Trail system to the school and parking lot. We have sought to obtain this property since we began the trails in 1999 and now finally we have a unique, one time option to forever guarantee Libby Hill Trails will remain an unspoiled open space!

For many years, I envisioned what might happen if this property became developed. How would we get to our trails? Rebuilding the Old Libby Hill Road to our main property would cost in excess of 1 million dollars. The schools would no longer have access to the trails or outdoor classrooms that the Libby Hill Forest had provided. Should developers get the land, a new crop of a half dozen 'McMansions' would pop up having their own private trail system all built for them. Traffic would increase through the school zone and future expansion of the schools would be limited. All these things, haunted me year after year as I made the trek up the hill to the trails.

So, now it is time to act. We have to find funding for $160,000 to secure this critical piece for Libby Hill Trails. We have applied for a grant from the Land for Maine's future for $110,000. This grant will get a decision by July and is a very competitive process with other non-profits. We also have asked the town to provide $25,000 from the "open space" fund. This fund was created more than a dozen years ago to purchase open space to offset land lost to development. The money in this account (which now is over $100,000) was completely funded by developers and has no tax payer money.

At a minimum we need to fund raise $25,000 and at worst $160,000. If you are a trail supporter, we now need your help. Perhaps you can contribute money (see our donation page), you could give time (volunteer), network with others to tell our story, or maybe you would like to leave a legacy like Harold Libbey and forever be remembered by thousands of trail users. If you can't do any of these but still use the trails, at a minimum consider completing our online trail registry which assists us with grant applications.

Finally, don't take your time on the 'hill' for granted. Last weekend one of the founders of the trail system suffered a major medical event that nearly took him from us. It scared all of us who are lucky to know how much he has done for our trails. We now feel very lucky is now doing well and able to go back to the hill he loves so much. It made me think that I need to treasure each trip to Libby Hill like it might be my last romp in the woods. So whether it be the challenges of life or politics, it is time for us all to see the "Forest through the trees" and do what we can to make Libby Hill Forest a permanent open space for generations to come! Just keep thinking....."what if I couldn't get on the trails?"

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