KINGFIELD – Friends of Kingfield Farmland, the working title for a group of residents interested in protecting part of the area know locally as the “Interval,” met for the first time Thursday evening.
The plan? To some how acquire and protect 46 acres of hayfield, which was recently put up for sale, from development or closure to the public. The current asking price for that property? $225,000.
“I can see an opportunity,” the Friends founder Stacey Cuppernell said, “an opportunity that could be really fun and really exciting, to keep these fields the way they’ve been.”
Cuppernell, a teacher at the Carrabec Community School and Kingfield resident, is trying to organize an effort to purchase and protect the land for the town.
The land is bordered by Route 27, falling within the section known locally as the Interval. It is privately owned but used by many people in town as a recreation area, a place to run, cross-country ski, snowboard and exercise their dogs. Some residents are concerned that if the property is sold, the opportunity to use that land will vanish.
Cuppernell has signed for a 90-day option on the property, in order to buy more time. The land, considered water-front property due to its proximity to the Carrabassett River, is being sold through CSM Real Estate for $225,000. The option that Cuppernell invoked will expire at the end of September, but she now believes she has secured an extension of some indefinite length.
The land to adjoining the parcel currently belongs to Poland Spring, which has opened a new bottling plant nearby. Those 48 acres however, will be sold back to the town of Kingfield over the next 10 years as part of the tax increment financing plan that the company is operating under. The hope is that both parcels could be maintained in their current condition, to continue serving as a gateway to the town.
“I remember driving up here, we were going white-water rafting,” Representative Timothy Carter (D – Bethel), who is also a farmer, said, “and I was just awed by those fields. It would be very sad to see it broke up.”
Throughout the hour-long meeting people raised questions, concerns and voiced ideas and opinions. It was generally agreed that the next steps were to confirm the future protection of the land the town would gain through the TIF, assess the value of the 46 acres being sold privately and begin looking at options as far as easements and stewardship of the parcel.
Representatives of Maine Farmland Trust were on hand to offer guidance and information. A non-profit agency which works across the state to protect working farmland, MFT uses systems of easements, land trusts and other agreements to keep farmers working farmland. Established in 1999, MFT has assisted in protecting 10,000 acres of land in situations similar to the one unfolding in Kingfield.
MFT Representative Nina Young said that her organization would “love to help with this project.”
Some of the many suggestions Young and MFT Field Agent Jo Josephson had included setting up a holding account with their agency so donations could be considered tax deductible, drafting an agricultural conservation easement to allow farmers to continue using the fields and agreements to continue letting residents enjoy the property.
“We believe in options,” Young said.
Fundraising ideas included suppers, possibly on the property, auctions and other local efforts, in addition to seeking some sort of grant. A preliminary committee has formed, with one of the first steps being to have the property appraised independently. Further research into what options and responsibilities Friends of Kingfield Farmland would have is also being discussed.