Thoughts on the proposed Waterville Interstate 95 Trafton Road Interchange: As you may know, a huge swath of Maine’s highest quality farmland sits on either side of the Kennebec River, stretching from below Skowhegan all the way to the coast. Young farmers are now flocking to central Maine. They want to farm here. They need farmland. They do not need more highway exits and short-lived unsustainable development. Fortunately, we have plenty of Home Depots and Lowe’s and Walmart’s and the like. We have enough to last several lifetimes. These young farmers would use this magnificent land sustainably. In fact, they would improve the land year after year.

California is experiencing terrible drought. Do we want to rely on food “from away” in the future? Maine’s abandoned farmland is our greatest untapped asset. It could provide us with healthy food, good jobs and tax revenues for generations to come. All this with virtually no negative impact on the environment what so ever.

Many of our classic heritage fruit varieties originated along both sides of the Kennebec as well, including several here in the Sidney-Waterville area. One in particular is the extremely rare Kennebec russet. The only known remaining specimen is on the east side of the Eight Rod Road, a couple of hundred feet north of the Trafton Road. This ancient tree is a reminder of an agricultural past that has faded in recent decades but is now making a comeback. Would it too be a victim of a highway exit?

As we consider altering our agricultural landscape for generations to come, it is important for us to be mindful of those resources that might now be lost. If the new interchange project goes through, many acres of our highest quality farmland will be lost forever. It also may be that one of the Waterville area’s horticultural treasures, the last existing “Kennebec russet” tree, will be lost as well.

John P. BunkerPalermo

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