Friday, July 1, 2011

Wells Resident Donates $20,000 Grant to Preserve Lands

Howard Hall, a prominent Wells businessman, has donated $20,000 in the form of a challenge grant to Great Works Regional Land Trust for the purchase and preservation of 288 forested acres in Wells and North Berwick.
Hall’s match for every donation up to $20,000 will help Great Works and local volunteers to raise the remaining $40,000 to fulfill the purchase and sale agreement with Unitil, the current owner of the property. It is the former “Granite State” lands that were slated for a huge natural gas facility, and will soon be conserved forever for community enjoyment and conservation.
“Howard Hall’s generous offer to match donations means that the Town of Wells and Great Works Regional Land Trust can finally acquire and preserve this wonderful property for low-impact recreation and wildlife habitat,” said Owen Grumbling, Wells Conservation Commission Chair, who has worked closely with Great Works on the project.
The land contains wetlands, vernal pools, and a mile of shoreline on West and Perkins Brooks, both headwater streams for the Great Works River. The property is located off the Perry Oliver and Quarry roads in western Wells and is crossed on its southern boundary by a portion of the woodland Eastern Trail that will run from Kittery to South Portland.
Hall was inspired to make the donation, he said, because it means everybody can participate in the challenge. He has lived and worked in Wells for over 25 years and served on the Planning Board for many years. This is not his first contribution to conservation causes.
“While I am a developer, I believe it is important for land be set aside for future generations. This land will be open to use. The Eastern Trail runs through it. People can stop and picnic,” said Hall. He also noted the significance of diminishing cottontail rabbits and native brook trout that will be protected, along with other species, on the property.
Great Works, its collaborators and a committee of local residents are seeking donations of $20,000 from individuals and organizations to match the Hall gift and enable the $425,000 acquisition within the coming months.
Thus far, the Town of Wells has contributed $200,000 through the Wells Land Bank. In addition, Maine Nature Resource Conservation Program has awarded a $100,000 grant and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant, the latter for the cottontail habitat creation. Local donors have contributed more than $10,000. Other collaborators in the project include the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge and the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm.
“Each organization is contributing what they can to move the project forward,” said Grumbling. And many individuals have stepped up. Susan Cox, a Wells’ resident and a major organizer for the project, has met the Hall Challenge, doubling her $1,000 donation. She and others have generously given before in this community-inspired effort.
The property had been permitted in 1999 as the site for the nation’s largest liquefied natural gas storage facility over the objections of the Town of Wells and area residents. It can still be developed for industrial use should this acquisition not be completed.
Great Works Regional Land Trust is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 to provide conservation options to the landowners of Eliot, South Berwick, Berwick, North Berwick, Wells and Ogunquit. Great Works Regional Land Trust is committed to saving the best of our region by protecting working landscapes and wildlife lands for current and future generations. In 25 years the organization has completed 94 projects conserving 4,338 acres.
Contributions can be sent directly to GWRLT, PO Box 151, South Berwick, ME 03908. For more information or to join in this community effort, call Anne Gamble, Development Coordinator for Great Works, at (207) 646-3604 or visit
Photo caption: Howard Hall and Susan Cox. (Courtesy photo)