Webster Environmental Reserve

History:

This reserve is the third piece of property on the Mousam River this land trust holds in the Jagger Mill District. There are two parts to this reserve: An eight-acre rectangular lot that borders the river and a one-third mile long by 43 feet wide portion of the rail bed for the former Sanford & Cape Porpoise Railway which later became the Atlantic Shore Line Railway. This electric railway was constructed beginning in 1899. Several borrow or gravel pits are located in the area, one within the site. Some of these probably supplied the fill needed for the bed. Other pits seem to be created more recently. Eight-foot-long, round cedar ties were laid two feet apart and the rails were secured to them. An incredible number of cedar trees were needed to span the 24 miles to Cape Porpoise. A botanist by the name of Norton noted in 1904 that many acres of cedar stands in the area had been cut. Chestnut poles, fewer in number, were used to carry the wires along the railway.

After the railway bed was no longer used, portions of it were sold off. That portion in this reserve was either purchased then by Ray Hilton or some time later. Today it provides access to the main tract from Route Four.

The main part of this reserve has been owned by a number of people. Probably the first owners were members of the Bennett family who were early settlers, Nathaniel Bennett had a farm nearby in the 1970’s. Others owners were Idella McDonald, Gertrude Roberts and finally, Portrait, LLC.

Significance:

Wetlands occupy about two-thirds of the tract. About half is open wetland on peat soil and is fed by a perennial stream that loops across the land. This area provides significant habitat for waterfowl and wading birds. The remaining part is a red maple swamp on mineral soil which is valuable wildlife habitat too.

Uplands along the four hundred feet of frontage on the river provide riparian habitat for species using the river. Beaver and Canada Geese use this area. On the western side of the property about an acre or so is extremely stony with mature pine trees. An adjacent sandy open area with a rock outcrop appears to be the bottom of a borrow pit. This area, if managed as grassland or shrubland, could become another valuable habitat for wildlife. The Sanford Sewerage District holds easement for lines on three sides of the reserve. The easement roads facilitate access to the tract from these sides. In the future, the Sanford Trail will be extended from the City Garage to Route 4 over these easement roads and the railway bed.

Management:

Part of the reserve lies within the 100-year floodplain of the Mousam River. About 2.5 acres, in which the floodplain is included, is within the Shoreland Zone. That portion of the wetland within the reserve is under Resource Protection. Therefore, most of the land that is covered by trees has restrictions for tree harvesting. On the rest of the land there are very few trees that can be harvested. The few large pines by the railway bed should be left to provide an example of a mature pine grove.

Most of the management for this reserve will consist of monitoring, clean up and maintaining the railway bed. The bare sandy area rutted by vehicles needs to be planted to either trees or grass to accommodate species now not found there.

The overflow of the detention pond at the Sanford Center for Shopping is a tributary of the perennial stream on the reserve. This water should be monitored to determine what pollutants are being released.

Directions:

  • The entrance to the rail bed is opposite the intersection of Route 4 and Jagger Mill Road.
  • No off road parking is currently available.

Parcel Information:

Sanford Tax Map R15, Lots 29A and 31B

York County Registry of Deeds, BK, PG