The Kennebec Land Trust has acquired 120 acres in Fayette that the public can use for recreation. Photo courtesy of Kennebec Land Trust

FAYETTE — The Kennebec Land Trust has acquired 120 acres of the Jean E. (Wheeler) Hewett property, bringing the amount of protected and preserved land under the trust’s ownership to 7,450 acres and providing Fayette more public land for recreation.

The land was owned by the Hewett family and had been in the family for generations.

Jean Hewett’s son, Ron, decided to sell the land because “they needed the money,” he said in a statement released by the Kennebec Land Trust to the news media.

He said working with the land trust “was the best way to keep it (the land) the way it is.”

“My dad wanted us to keep working the land,” Ron Hewett said, “but to do it the right way.”

The 120 acres, known as the Oak Hill Conservation Area, is on Norton Road and a “ridgeline just above Echo Lake and a mature hardwood-conifer woodland adjacent to Hales Brook,” according to the land trust.

The trust bought the land for $250,000, using money from two grants and donations from community members. The trust closed on the sale last Thursday.

The total cost to the land trust is $309,000, which includes stewardship funds to cover ongoing monitoring, new trails, bog bridging and local taxes.

Land trust members and supporters have already pledged or donated $262,554, according to officials. The trust must raise another $46,446 through private donations and grants.

The land trust is to manage and oversee the land, while the Hewett family will continue to oversee a sugarbush operation on the land.

The land Kennebec Land Trust is to be in charge of is a “valuable timber resource” according to Theresa Kerchner, the land trust’s executive director. The organization will pay taxes on the land.

“Rather than cutting trees every 20 to 30 years,” Kerchner said, “we will manage (the forest) to grow big trees with a lot of value, where you can get a better return on the market.”

Kerchner said Maine no longer has many mature growth forests, where trees can grow for 80 to 250 years, even though 89% of the state is forested.

Growing the trees for a longer time before harvesting them can increase the trees’ economic and ecological value.

“We don’t have to bring in wood from British Columbia or Central America or New Zealand,” Kerchner said. “We have so many valuable wood resources here. It’s good for the forest and those looking for jobs. It reduces carbon shipping all around the world. We can raise the profit of local wood.”

The land trust plans to design a new trail system, possibly to be open in time for the property dedication Aug. 18, 2022, and to open the area for students to visit and study.

Kerchner said the trust is planning a “bio blitz, in which ecologists, biologists, bird and reptile experts and others would survey the area to see what they find.

“Our work is to benefit the public and to help with natural resources in the community,” Kerchner said.

She added that anyone can walk the trails or survey the area now that the land is available for public use.

Town Manager Mark Robinson of Fayette said the community is grateful to the land trust for the work it has done in the community.

In a small town like Fayette, he said, the “attractiveness of the land” and “miles of shore land” are what draw people to the area and encourage many to buy summer and year-round properties, especially because Fayette has few commercial opportunities.

“It’s a beautiful little town,” Robinson said. “Maine is blessed with a lot of municipalities like Fayette, and efforts are being made in these municipalities to conserve, depending on how active their land trusts are.

“We are fortunate to have the Kennebec Land Trust give so much and assist in conserving the large amount of tracks of land.”

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