Friday, December 30, 2011

New Perkinstown Commons Preserve in Wells

Residents of Wells, North Berwick and the greater region will be enjoying a new nature preserve in the New Year. After more than a decade of community efforts, the town of Wells purchased the former Granite State lands from Unitil Corporation on Thursday, December 22. Great Works Regional Land Trust will hold a conservation easement on the 288-acre property, which was renamed Perkinstown Commons.
“It was a team effort between the Land Trust, the Town of Wells Conservation Commission, Unitil, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, and other dedicated partners,” said Tin Smith, who is Stewardship Coordinator for the Wells Reserve and a Great Works’ Board Member. “More than 112 donors from 19 different communities, along with granting agencies, made this success possible.”
According to Unitil’s Media Relations Manager, Alec O’Meara, the company had inherited this tract of land as part of its purchase of Northern Utilities in 2008.
“Protecting open space, where possible, can have such value to a community and the quality of life of its residents,” said O’Meara. “We are thrilled to see the property end up in the hands of the Town of Wells and Great Works, where it will remain open and available for recreational use.”
Perkinstown Commons, named after one of the area’s historical families, is located off the Perry Oliver and Quarry roads in western Wells with a few acres in North Berwick. It is crossed on its southern boundary by a leg of the Eastern Trail, a scenic pathway being developed from Kittery to South Portland. The preserve features woodlands, wetlands, vernal pool and significant wildlife.
“The conservation easement with Great Works will help the town manage Perkinstown Commons for open space, recreation, education and ecotourism. I envision people of all ages enjoying its natural rural quality and abundant wildlife,” said Jon Carter, Wells’ Town Manager.
Wells Conservation Committee and a fundraising committee worked with Great Works Regional Land Trust and Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve to fund the $425,000 project. Town voters approved $200,000 from the town’s Open Space Fund.
Perkinstown Commons contains a mile of shoreline on West and Perkins brooks, both headwater streams for the Great Works River Watershed. A grant of $100,000 was awarded from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP) through a voluntary mitigation program managed by The Nature Conservancy on behalf of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. “This program allows us to focus wetland mitigation funds in high priority areas like Perkinstown Commons,” said Alex Mas, Director of Strategic Partnerships at The Nature Conservancy, who manages the MNRCP program.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant for creating a New England cottontail (NEC) rabbit habitat on 75 acres. The non-profit Wildlife Management Institute submitted the grant. According to Kate O’Brien, Wildlife Biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, other endangered or diminishing species, such as the Blue-winged Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and American Woodcock, will also benefit.
Another $2,500 grant was awarded by the John Sage Foundation. The remaining funds were raised in a grass-roots campaign by individuals, businesses and organizations with a $20,000 challenge grant from a local real estate developer, Howard Hall.
“So many people devoted countless hours over the years, and they are all to be congratulated on this significant contribution to the town,” said Karl Ekstedt, chairman of the Board of Selectmen for Wells.
Community collaboration on Perkinstown Commons stems back to the late 1990s, when the so-called Granite State land was permitted, against local opposition, for the largest liquefied natural gas tank in the US. It was never built. Great Works, inspired by local support, secured the purchase and sale agreement from Unitil in 2010.
Perkinstown Commons will be improved with public trails and remain accessible for multiple educational outings and recreation, including skiing, hunting, and fishing. A public hike has already been scheduled for the early new year.
For more information, visit the Great Works Regional Land Trust site at To become a member, contact Patti Mitchem or Anne Gamble at
Photo caption: Left to right — Richard Clark, selectman; Larry Walden, town attorney; Jack Kareckas, board president of Great Works; Jon Carter, town manager; Patty Quinn, Unitil; Mike Livingston, town engineer; David Clark, neighbor who granted trail easement; Tin Smith, Wells Reserve’s stewardship coordinator and Great Works’ board member; Owen Grumbling, chair of Wells Conservation Commission. (Photo courtesy Great Works)