After previous owners completed timber harvesting operations and decided to sell the land, conservation-minded landowners approached the Trust with an offer to act as “Conservation Buyers”, buying and holding land until the Trust’s fundraising efforts could reimburse them for the purchase price. Land acquisition was thus completed, and an additional block of land was donated to create the 110 acre McKeon Environmental Reserve.
Previous timber harvests resulted in many skidder trails, which began receiving year round use by the locals. These 2 1/2 miles of trails are now also being discovered by the many folks using the linked “Rail Trail”, Sanford Trails 5 1/2 mile, multi-use and heavily used, re-purposed “Portland and Rochester Railroad Company” (1870) rail road bed. The Reserve’s linked trails traverse 4 types of Forested Wetlands, rolling uplands peppered with several large glacial erratic boulders, a meadow restoration project, and a very interesting Outcrop which forms a 25’ cliff plunging into the meandering, bird-rich Branch River, with views of the uplands to the north and west. A self-guided Nature Discovery Trail system will be incorporated into the existing trail system, having several dozen stopping points with placards and kiosks, offering information about plant and animal species, and geological, ecological, environmental and historical features. Benches will be located at strategic points. The hub of the previous wood harvests — a “wood yard” — is being restored into a pollination meadow, with close to 1,000 plants of many species already planted. A community home for the chimney swift, an increasingly rare bird, was built in the summer of 2021 as part of a Boy Scout Eagle project; This tower sits in the center of the meadow. The trail system is experiencing increased four-season use, with folks enjoying hiking, jogging, snowshoeing, biking, cross-country skiing, dog-walking, and of course wildlife watching, in all types of weather, in this ever-changing and regenerative, young forest environment.
An existing barn, drilled well, old but functional privy, and an adjacent field are being developed into The David and Linda Pence Community Ecology Center. Restoration of the barn will offer a place for meetings, workshops, and community functions. The adjacent field supports a vibrant community garden, with volunteer and oversight help from the York County Master Gardener Program, generously supported by Kennebunk Savings Bank. The field will also support a nursery for growing seedlings of native plants and trees to a size suitable for transplanting to this and other reserves. A greenhouse is also planned for horticultural instruction, demonstrations, and plant propagation. The existing deep-water well will provide a generous water supply for these functions. A modern ADA-accessible outdoor restroom is has been constructed at the old privy site.
Recognizing that MWLT engages in varied community-orientated projects, and that these projects most often involve local and regional participants performing educational, experimental, and restorative activities, often in off-trail and other relatively remote areas of the reserve, the traditional activity of hunting would pose an unacceptably high level of risk to these activities. Also, motorized vehicles would have a deleterious effect upon various restorative and regenerative efforts in various areas of the Reserve. Therefore, the Trust has concluded that a “No Hunting”, “No Trapping”, and “No Motorized Vehicles” policy for the McKeon Reserve is in the best interest of both our vision for the reserve, and MWLT’s primary directives of environmental advocacy and awareness.