FAYETTE — The Kennebec Land Trust intends to buy and permanently conserve 120 acres of land in Fayette, hoping to complete the $250,000 purchase by the end of the year.

The land, according to the organization’s website, includes “a ridgeline just above Echo Lake and a mature hardwood-conifer woodland adjacent to Hales Brook.”

The property is currently owned by Jean Hewett and has been in the Hewett family for several generations. Ron Hewett, Jean’s son, said the family now has to sell the land.

“My mother and father owned it, my father passed away in 2005 and I’ve been taking care of it since then,” said Hewett. “We have to sell it for financial reasons, and we didn’t want to just sell it to a developer and have them put a whole bunch of houses up there. And if I sold it to a wood guy, he’d cut every stick of wood on it. We’ve always taken care of it the right way.”

He said that because the family is not in a financial position to give the land away, selling the 120 acres to the Kennebec Land Trust was the best option.

The Kennebec Land Trust was founded about 33 years ago by a group of local conservation-minded people. Kim Vandermeulen, president of the board, said that it is protecting a little over 7,000 acres of land throughout central Maine. He said that on those 7,000 acres, the group has established between 50 and 60 miles of hiking trails, including some that were already on the properties when purchased, and some that were developed afterward.

The trust recently began working on a conservation burial ground, where people can opt to be buried without embalming fluid, allowing their bodies to compost within roughly six months.

Echo Lake can be seen through the leaves during a tour of the Hewitt Oak Hill property Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Fayette. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The Hewett property fits us beautifully,” said Vandermeulen. “It’s scenically gorgeous, and on a ridge looking at a beautiful territory.”

He said Ron Hewett told the land trust that he was selling the land to help his mother. As a result, the land trust is raising money to purchase the land at its full market value, or roughly $250,000.

In addition, they also calculated that stewardship costs, which include property taxes and maintenance, are roughly $59,000, bringing the total amount needed to almost $310,000.

“We have a purchase-and-sale agreement scheduled to close in December of this year,” Vandermeulen said, adding that an anonymous donor recently made a substantial donation and that the land trust is on its way to raising the full amount before the deadline.

Once purchased, he said, the land trust will develop hiking trails, and eventually look into sustainably harvesting wood on the property. Conserving the land will also help the water quality in Echo Lake, Pocasset Lake, and Lovejoy Pond. Because of this, Vandermeulen said lake organizations associated with all three have expressed interest in helping with fundraising.

In addition to improving water quality, the conservation effort will help local wildlife, he said and added that keeping the land forested will have a positive impact on carbon loads.

Kennebec Land Trust Stewardship Director Jean-Luc Theriault, right, leads a tour of the Hewett Oak Hill property Thursday in Fayette. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“This property, frankly, if it weren’t conserved in this way, would probably be developed into lots for home ownership,” he said. “It would be a wonderful spot for a home, so we are really going to focus on public access when we get trails in it, because it would be a very beautiful place to go hiking.”

Vandermeulen said the town of Fayette has shown great support for the conservation campaign.

Hewett said his parents, who owned the Fayette Country Store for 24 years, bought the land in 1965.

“My family liked to go up there,” he said. “There’s gonna be a lot more people going up there now.”

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