READFIELD — When John Rosmarin and his family were getting ready to sell Saunders Manufacturing Company — which makes aluminum clipboards in a factory on Nickerson Hill Road — he didn’t think the 342 acres of forestland bordering the factory would add much value to the deal.

Rather than watching that land get subdivided into residential lots, John Rosmarin said, he decided to donate it to a group that would preserve it. He reached that decision with his wife, Lisa Rosmarin, and their two daughters, Kelly Byron and Karrie Lykins. Byron and Lykins were part-owners of Saunders Manufacturing until its sale earlier this year to a holding company based in Chicago.

Earlier this month, they donated the 342 acres of woodlands, streams and wetlands to Kennebec Land Trust, an organization based in Winthrop that manages 5,630 acres of conserved land around central Maine.

The idea to donate the land to Kennebec Land Trust first came to John Rosmarin several years ago. He was president and chief executive officer of the Readfield company, which he first joined in 1982, and another executive informed him of the land trust.

“Even then it sounded like a marvelous idea,” Rosmarin said. “It’s beautiful land.”

John and Lisa Rosmarin, who live in Monmouth, also felt preserving the Readfield land would be consistent with the wishes of Joseph Saunders, who died in 2014 after founding Saunders Manufacturing in 1947 with his father, A.H. Saunders.

Over the years, the Saunders accumulated various tracts of land on either side of Nickerson Hill Road, according to a news release from Kennebec Land Trust. They left the forestland largely undeveloped and available for use by family members, employees, friends and area residents. The hilly, wooded property has been used year round for hunting, snowmobiling, skiing and hiking.

John Rosmarin became one of the partners in the business in the early 1990s, and in 2005, he and his daughters bought all remaining interests in it. The donated land will be known as the Rosmarin and Saunders Family Forest. A formal dedication ceremony will be held in 2017.

“We are proud to continue Joe Saunders’ rich tradition of giving back to the community,” the Rosmarin family said in the news release. “We know that (Kennebec Land Trust) will do a fantastic job of protecting the land for future generations.”

The land’s new stewards are also appreciative, not only because the donation will allow the public to continue using that area for recreation, but also because it will protect the wildlife and waterways now contained there and in nearby forests, said Theresa Kerchner, executive director of the land trust.

There are several other protected lands near the newly donated forest, including the Macdonald Woods Conservation Area, also managed by Kennebec Land Trust, and the Readfield Town Forest just south of it. Together with the Rosmarin and Saunders Family Forest, those properties have a total area of 552 acres, Kerchner said.

The Kennebec Land Trust will develop a trail system that loosely connects with those other two forests. It will also develop a plan to harvest wood from the donated land in a sustainable way so that it doesn’t hamper the long-term growth of the forest.

“The most important aspect of this property is that it’s large enough — when you combine it with the other two (nearby forests) and other private landowners in the area — to provide habitat for species that need a large home range, iconic Maine species like black bear, moose, some of our raptors,” Kerchner said. “Our intent is always in wildlife management. The bigger the property, the better the wildlife habitat. We’re looking at this as a great property.”

Plus, Kerchner said, there’s a stream that flows through the donated land and eventually into Maranacook Lake. By protecting the land, she said, they will be protecting the quality of the water that enters the lake.

“There’s a benefit for both year-round and summer residents, a direct water quality benefit,” she said.

Both Kerchner and Mary Denison, president of the Kennebec Land Trust board of directors, were grateful to the land’s donors.

“We’re really pleased with this donation,” Denison said. “It’s a real gem. It speaks volumes to the Rosmarin family. For them to preserve this land and dedicate it to the company’s founders, the Saunders, it’s a lovely honor. And it also gives the people of Kennebec County the opportunity to ski and get out there.”

Visitors to the forest can use a small parking area that is just west of Saunders Manufacturing on Nickerson Hill Road.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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