The Howard Hill Historical Park is a very significant achievement and a very special place — it has stunning views, wonderful hiking trails, and a bunch of wildlife, all just a short distance from our state capitol. For thousands of years, the Wabanaki used these woods; now they are preserved forever.

I doubt there is any place like this near state capitols throughout our country. Kennebec Land Trust deserves a lot of credit for never giving up on this project. When the Land for Maine’s Future program sharply reduced its contribution, I really thought that the land trust might not be able to raise the necessary money.

But with lots of help from individuals and groups, they did raise the money. Kennebec Savings Bank especially deserves credit for stepping up with a $337,500 loan to move the project forward. I had no idea, until I read Keith Edward ’s story in this newspaper, that David Silsby, the father of bank president Andrew Silsby, advocated for creating this park for many years, with no luck. David has to be very pleased that his son helped get this done.

A couple years ago my wife Linda and I donated our woodlot to the Kennebec Land Trust, partly because they do such a great job hosting children’s events. They now own a lot of property in our area, all which is available with wonderful hiking trails. But I’ve got to say the Howard Hill project is probably their greatest achievement to date.

I wasn’t able, in my wheelchair, to hike to the spot where they hosted their celebration. But my friend, Sue Bell, a KLT board member, sent me some photos including stunning looks out over the capitol building. And a few days later Sue came out for a visit and gave me a lot more information, including a brochure listing all the donors. It’s a very impressive list of groups and people.

Another friend, Howard Lake, is also a KLT board member who spoke at the celebration. I had joked before with Howard that he certainly should be pleased that the hill was named for him. Actually the property was once owned by William Howard Gannett — and it is named for him.

And I have to thank Theresa Kerchner for her exceptional leadership of the land trust, and for never giving up on this project.

While there are trails accessing the property from Augusta’s Ganneston Drive and from the Hallowell end of the park, I was very pleased that they built a new trail that starts right near the capitol. It would not surprise me to find legislators and others enjoying the hike and land.

Judy Camuso, the outstanding commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, delivered a great speech at the celebration. She captured the purpose, saying, “This dedication is an excellent example ensuring that not only does Maine’s wildlife have a home, but the people of Maine and those that visit have a place to enjoy Maine’s wildlife. One of my personal passions has always been connecting people with nature, with the belief that people will protect what they care about, and this property is an excellent opportunity to make new connections every day.

“Having an area like this within the view of the state capitol and in the city of 19,000 people is extremely important if we want the next generation of Mainers to value our woods and wildlife as much as we do.”

And she summed it all up very well: “We realize that no single entity can accomplish projects like this alone. While each of us may have a slightly different vision or focus, together we can combine our visions to protect areas like Howard Hill, a property that Mainers will value for generations to come, an area that gives us a sense of place and reminds us not only of the way life should be, but the value in ensuring that our Maine, the Maine that we cherish and strive to protect and enhance, will be here long after we are gone.”

I recommend that you get out and enjoy this beautiful and special place. And be sure to bring your camera.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.