A view of the Wagner Woods Conservation Area in Manchester recently acquired by the Kennebec Land Trust. Courtesy of Kennebec Land Trust

MANCHESTER – MJ Wagner Dedon remembers growing up on acres of land in Manchester with her parents and brother. She remembers going sledding and cross-country skiing, and picking dandelions that would grow around Mother’s Day, from which her father would make wine that she was not a fan of.

Now, she hopes that others can visit and make similar memories.

The Wagner family has donated their land, spanning 68 acres, to the Kennebec Land Trust, which will work to conserve the land’s habitats and potentially utilize the property to offer recreational activities to residents.

Dick, Scott and Mary Jo Wagner donated the Wagner Woods Conservation Area, which shares its borders with 1,368 acres of ecological conservation landscape.

That includes the 228-acre Manchester conservation lands and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s 1,140-acre Jamie’s Pond Wildlife Management Area.

Dick Wagner’s children, MJ and Scott, noted at the time of the donation: “Mom and Dad spent the better part of six decades maintaining the fields and woods around their home in Manchester. It was a labor of love. They always hoped to be able to save the land from development. Many thanks to KLT for giving Mom and Dad the opportunity to make that dream a reality. We are all thrilled that the land will remain undeveloped, preserving its varied habitats, helping to protect the water quality of Lake Cobbosseecontee, and leaving it as open space for future generations to enjoy.”


The newly acquired land offers scenic views of Cobbossee Lake and the Manchester Bog. It also protects woodlands, wetlands and field habitats and features stone walls and ledges.

The donation brings the prospect of sprawling trail connectivity through lands owned by the town, which provides an opportunity for various recreational activities like hiking, hunting, nature observation and skiing.

A view of the Wagner Woods Conservation Area in Manchester recently acquired by the Kennebec Land Trust. Courtesy of Kennebec Land Trust

KLT Executive Director Theresa Kerchner said that bringing a trail to the newly acquired land “is still in the planning process.” Residents, however, can still access the property through the neighboring Manchester-owned land or state-owned land. There will also be informal access off Elliot Avenue.

“The most important goal that we have at the Land Trust is preserving these important habitats,” said Kerchner. “That’s why, unlike our other owned lands, where we might prioritize having trails, what we are focused on is protecting this large block of land that, in turn, protects these habitats.”

The Kennebec Land Trust is a local organization that works collaboratively with landowners and communities to conserve natural habitats and resources. Founded in 1988, the organization has conserved over 7,690 acres of land and constructed more than 58 miles of trails.

Its acquisition of this land aligns with Manchester’s comprehensive plan that prioritizes protecting natural resources.


“We, as a land trust, feel like we are working in cooperation with the goals of the community. We have aligned our goals with the town’s goals, and that’s why this is a win-win,” added Kerchner.

While plans are in motion, the trust will take care of the land with groups of volunteers ready to help mow year-round and keep an eye on the property.

Kennebec Land Trust President Janet Sawyer noted that the response from people about the new land has been positive.

“From what I have (heard) with my friends and informal conversations, they are all excited about this,” said Sawyer. “The (Wagner) family was very generous in donating this land, and people will now have a place to enjoy nature and relax.”

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