By Abigail W. Adams
Wildcat Creek on the Zak Preserve in Boothbay Monday, Sept. 7. The tax acquired Lallis property on McKay Road in Edgecomb will connect the Schmid Preserve in Edgecomb to the Zak Preserve completing the River-Link Trail between the Damariscotta and Sheepscot rivers. (Abigail Adams photo)
For nearly 13 years, volunteers with local land trusts have worked to connect the Damariscotta and Sheepscot rivers through the River-Link Trail. Those efforts are now coming close to completion due to a tax-acquired parcel in Edgecomb known as the Lallis property.
Located on McKay Road, the Lallis property is the missing link between Edgecomb’s Schmid Preserve and Boothbay Region Land Trust’s Zak Preserve. Once the two preserves connect, hikers will have access to one of the longest hiking trails in Lincoln County, which will stretch from the Dodge Point Preserve on
River Road in Newcastle to the Zak Preserve on Route 27 in Boothbay, and will connect two of the busiest rivers in the Midcoast.
Edgecomb residents approved an appropriation of $1,600 at their annual town meeting in May to survey the Lallis property. Leighton & Associates, of Boothbay, will complete the survey. Selectmen hope to carve off two lots from the property for sale and retain a portion of the property to connect the River-Link Trail to the Zak Preserve.
The survey work is scheduled to begin later this month, a representative of Leighton & Associates said. The trail through the Lallis property will be flagged this fall with the hope of opening the trail in spring or early summer, Bob Leone, chairman of the Schmid Preserve Advisory Board, said.
“It’s been a long, drawn-out process,” Leone said. “I’ll feel a lot of satisfaction once it’s complete.”
The River-Link Trail was initiated in 2002 through the support of a grant from Land for Maine’s Future, according to the Damariscotta River Association website. Since then, through the collaborative efforts of the Damariscotta River Association, the town of Edgecomb, which owns the Schmid Preserve; the Boothbay Region Land Trust, and a host of state, municipal, and nonprofit agencies, the River-Link Trail has worked to create a contiguous link of conservation land in excess of 1,500 acres.
According to “On the Trail in Lincoln County” by Lincoln County News columnist and reporter Paula Roberts, the effort to link two of the Midcoast’s most heavily used rivers was undertaken not only for recreational purposes. The concept behind the trail was also to create a wildlife corridor to support the seasonal migration of wildlife and protect their natural habitat.
The current end of the River-Link Trail on McKay Road in Edgecomb Monday, Sept. 7. The trail connects the Dodge Point Preserve in Newcastle to the Schmid Preserve in Edgecomb with plans to connect to the Zak Preserve in Boothbay. (Abigail Adams photo)
The trail connecting the Dodge Point Preserve, a 506-acre parcel with more than 8,000 feet of Damariscotta River frontage, to the Schmid Preserve in Edgecomb, a 726-acre parcel which contains Mount Hunger, one of the highest peaks on the Boothbay peninsula at 275 feet, was completed in 2007.
Three years later, the River-Link Trail was extended beyond the limits of the Schmid Preserve to McKay Road in Edgecomb with the Church property, which was acquired by the Boothbay Region Land Trust through a Land for Maine’s Future grant.
Edgecomb and the Boothbay Region Land Trust had long discussed a property swap of the Church and Lallis properties with conversations dating back to 2005, according to Schmid Preserve Advisory Board meeting minutes. The property swap and completion of the River-Link Trail was why Edgecomb retained ownership of the Lallis property for over a decade, despite interest from would-be buyers.
According to Leone, negotiations of a property swap are no longer on the table, due to the different valuations of the properties. The Lallis property, however, will still be used to complete the River-Link Trail.
Approximately 1 mile of trail will be cut through the Lallis property to connect it to the Zak Preserve, a 208-acre parcel with trails along Wildcat Creek, Leone said. Wildcat Creek connects to Back River, which drains into Sheepscot River.
Zak Preserve’s salt marsh is a significant saltwater estuary of the Sheepscot River, according to the Boothbay Region Land Trust. When water levels are high, canoes and kayaks can be launched from Wildcat Creek.
According to Maine’s Natural Areas Classification Program, the preserve is a rare wildlife habitat. It is home to moose, deer, fox, raccoons, and martens, and serves as a nesting area for migratory birds, according to “On the Trail in Lincoln County.” The Maine Audubon Society spotted approximately 59 species of birds on the preserve.
Once the Zak and Schmid preserves are connected, the River-Link Trail will extend approximately 7 miles.
“The trail is one of our long-distance trails, which is unusual in Lincoln County,” Leone said. “It’s a really nice trail that hasn’t gotten really popular. Hopefully, as the Boothbay peninsula gets busier, we’ll see a surge in its use.”