Friday, September 9, 2011

Protection of Merriland River Parcel Gets Boost from Federal Grant

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve has received a $287,000 federal grant to assist with the permanent protection of a 130-acre parcel with high conservation value along the Merriland River in Wells. The Wells Reserve and the Wells Conservation Commission collaborated in requesting the grant, which was awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.
“Protecting land along the rivers that flow into our estuaries is a conservation priority,” says Paul Dest, director of the Wells Reserve. “This grant will greatly assist the Town of Wells in acquiring an ecologically significant parcel that will protect water quality and provide public access for low-impact recreation.”
The Merriland River purchase will protect, through fee simple acquisition by the Town of Wells, 130 acres of uplands and forested wetlands including 5,250 feet of river frontage. The parcel will connect with 410 acres of adjacent Town-owned land to create a 540-acre conserved area.
In June 2010, Wells citizens approved a ballot measure to release funds from the Land Bank Account that will be used as the local match required to receive the federal grant.
“The voters of Wells once again acted responsibly in planning for the Town’s future,” says Owen Grumbling, chair of the Wells Conservation Commission. “Conserving the clean water in this beautiful river system is a fine investment.”
While the federal grant and matching funds have been secured, a survey, an appraisal, deed research, and other due diligence tasks must be completed before the sale is complete. Closing is anticipated by the end of the year.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program is a national competitive program meant to protect important coastal and estuarine areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, or aesthetic values, or that are threatened by conversion from their natural or recreational state to other uses. States, municipalities, and national estuarine research reserves compete annually for the funds.
The Merriland River proposal, submitted by the Wells Reserve and the Wells Conservation Commission in 2010, was ranked 4th of the 42 proposals submitted from across the country. “The high ranking by a national review committee underscores the tremendous conservation value this property possesses,” says Dest.
This is the second such grant received by the Wells Reserve. The first helped protect over 400 acres of land in Kittery, York, and South Berwick in 2005.
The Wells Reserve at Laudholm is a 2,250-acre National Estuarine Research Reserve with its headquarters listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wells Reserve’s goal is to protect and restore coastal ecosystems around the Gulf of Maine. Staff and volunteers expand knowledge about coasts and estuaries, engage people in environmental learning, and involve communities in conserving natural resources.
The work of the Wells Reserve and the care of its historic site are made possible by Laudholm Trust. Organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1982, member-supported Laudholm Trust provides vital monetary and in-kind support to the Wells Reserve. This local support enables the Wells Reserve to receive additional funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Wells Reserve at Laudholm is located on Laudholm Farm Road, just off U.S. Route 1 near the Wells-Kennebunk line.