Local woman seeks to protect farmland, community area

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KINGFIELD – It’s an issue facing small, rural communities across the state; farmland is up for sale.

As a worsening economic climate combines with high transportation costs in an increasingly globalized economy, many farmers are starting to sell off chunks of land to developers.

In Kingfield, however, someone’s trying to do something about it.

46 acres of hayfields were recently put up for sale by their owner. The land, which is bordered by Route 27 and the Carrabassett River, falls within a 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 ability to utilize that land will vanish.

“When I saw it was up for sale,” resident Stacey Cuppernell said, “I was concerned. This is almost our park, like cities and suburbs have parks, and we use it in the same way.”

Cuppernell, a teacher at the Carrabec Community School, is trying to organize an effort to purchase and protect the land for the town. The property abuts 42 acres of similar terrain which is currently owned by the nearby Poland Springs bottling plant and is in the process of being sold back to the town through the Tax Increment Financing district plan. Cuppernell says that the combined area  forms a gateway to the town, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep it undeveloped.

A meeting to discuss the situation, solicit ideas and assess the public’s interest in protecting the property will be held on August 28 at 6 p.m. in the Webster Hall. Cuppernell has sent out 200 letters to area residents, inviting them to the meeting. Those interested have already formed a group, tentatively named “Friends of Kingfield Farmland.”

She contrasts this situation with another piece of property, the Old Wood Farm, which was on the other side of Route 27. That white farm house and barn were torn down, and a development is believed to be in the works for that site. While Cuppernell does not begrudge the new owner use of their land, she says that many were sorry to see the farm go.

“It was sad, for a lot of us, to see it go,” she said.

Cuppernell has signed for a 90-day option on the property, in order to buy more time. That option will expire at the end of September. The land is being sold through CSM Real Estate for $225,000.

The hope is to raise the money and purchase the property, then either turn it over to the town or have a conservation trust maintain control. Another integral piece would be securing an agricultural conservation easement, so someone could continue to use the area as a hay field. Cuppernell is not interested in returning the property to a wilderness state, she believes that continuing the tradition of farming along the Interval is a key piece of the project.

Those involved in the effort have reached out to Maine Farmland Trust, a non-profit agency which works across the state to protect working farmland, through a system of easements, land trusts and other agreements. Established in 1999, MFT has assisted in protecting 10,000 acres of farmland in situations similar to the one unfolding in Kingfield, and a local agent will attend the August 28 meeting.

Cuppernell is hoping to come out of that meeting with two committees; one to look at developing a non-profit organization to possibly administer the property and develop an agricultural easement, and another group to look at fundraising options. Most funding will likely need to come from private sources.

“I’d like to see everyone in our town, or anyone who has enjoyed [the property], or people interested in sustaining farmland to give what they can,” she said.

The August 28 meeting is open to the public. Anyone with questions can contact Cuppernell at cuppernell@yahoo.com.

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