Two donations on opposite sides of Rolling Dam Brook in South Gardiner could help spur the creation of a larger conservation project that could preserve up to 82 acres of woods and wetlands.

Kennebec Land Trust officials and members at the nonprofit organization’s annual meeting Sunday recognized the donors of land and a conservation easement that will allow a preserve to be created surrounding part of Rolling Dam Brook, as well as two other landowners who agreed to have their land added to already protected lands in Wayne and Fayette.

“We’re thrilled about this. It’s fantastic. It’s going to be a beautiful property,” Mary Denison, president of Winthrop-based land preservation group Kennebec Land Trust, said. The two Rolling Brook Dam properties which will give the trust its first parcel of protected land in Gardiner.

David Lawrence donated 17 acres of mostly wetlands with 1,600 feet of undeveloped shoreline along the east side of Rolling Brook Dam, which is near Marston Road, to the land trust. Dorothy Washburne granted a conservation easement to the trust which will forever prevent development on a 12-acre parcel on the opposite side of the brook from the Lawrence parcel.

Washburne and land trust officials said it is their hope those parcels can be combined with 53 acres abutting the Lawrence property that is owned by the city of Gardiner to create a much larger conservation area. Land trust officials said there have been conversations with Gardiner city officials about it, but no agreements have yet been struck.

Washburne said she had no plans to develop the land for which she granted a conservation easement, and she hopes someday it will become part of the larger project and have trails the public can use to explore the wooded natural site.

“Money is not the only thing that matters in the world,” Washburne said when she explained her reasons for granting a conservation easement, which prevents development of the site and allows public access to it, rather than selling or developing it. “So it will stay like it is and I hope other people around here will think about putting in easements so Rolling Dam Brook will stay forever wild. I’d love to see a community forest in Gardiner. I’d love it if the public could get in there.”

Two other conservation gifts made to the land trust this year were celebrated Sunday.

A conservation gift from the estate of William Granville Besse will add 10 acres of land to the now 65-acre Besse Historic Conservation Area in Wayne, which features a mix of woods and wetlands.

A 3.4-acre conservation gift from Barbara Crowley and John Orestis will add land to the now 103-acre Echo Lake Watershed III Preserve in Fayette, land which has woodlands, forested wetlands and a vernal pool area.

Bob Mohlar, chairman of the land trust’s land committee, said the property will help protect the water quality of Echo Lake.

“Folks are very dedicated to protecting the watershed there,” he said of Echo Lake.

Echo Lake also played host to Sunday’s annual meeting at Camp Winnebego.

A group of 20 or so attendees followed Eric Doucette, a botanist and member of the trust’s board of directors, around some of the lakefront camp’s paths to learn about ferns and how to identify the different kinds of the leafy plant.

Doucette explained the finer details that distinguish varieties of ferns and in some cases, to his audience’s delight, explained how some ferns got their common names.

There was the New York fern tapered on both ends, so named, he said, because busy New Yorkers are known for “burning the candle at both ends.” The ostrich fern, the source of tasty fiddleheads, so named because of its resemblance to an ostrich’s tail feathers. The sensitive fern, so named because it is highly susceptible to frost. And the lady fern, which Doucette said is also known as “a pretty lady with hairy legs” due to its pretty eyebrow-like leaf and its uniform, dark-colored scales on its stem.

“Oh how pretty,” Susan Parks, of Augusta, said as Doucette showed the group a wispy woodland horsetail fern. She said she learned a lot, and she and other participants praised Doucette, who has helped take inventories of plant life on Kennebec Land Trust properties, for his expertise and easy manner.

“He makes the information so accessible. He translates it into common language,” said Judy Feinstein, of Hallowell.

Later Sunday, annual awards were presented by land trust leaders for volunteering, stewardship and conservation efforts.

They included the Harry Dwyer Forest Stewardship Award presented to college freshman and Wayne resident Vinnie Birtwell.

Theresa Kerchner, executive director of the land trust, said Birtwell designed and built a new covered wooden kiosk, made from wood he harvested and processed from his family’s land, to replace an old run-down kiosk greeting hikers at the entrance to a trail to Mt. Pisgah.

The late Dwyer was a land trust board member, forester, teacher and sustainable forestry advocate.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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