Celebrating our newest trail with a ribbon cutting

Celebrating our newest trail with a ribbon cutting

At Keyes Woods Preserve, Bristol

A warm sun was shining and a smattering of acorns dropped from nearby trees as Coastal Rivers trustees and staff, along with an intimate group of local and town officials and lead donors and volunteers, celebrated the land trust’s newest trail with a ribbon cutting.

In the new parking area at Keyes Woods Preserve in Bristol, Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel expressed his thanks to those who made the project possible. Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA) acquired the 70-acre property in 2018, with assistance from Damariscotta River Association (DRA) – just months before the two organizations began the formal process of unification. Steven highlighted how the success of this joint project helped pave the way for the unification process, which resulted in the formation of Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust in 2019.

The purchase was made possible by the generous support of George Keyes, joined by his brothers Henry Keyes and Jonathan Keyes, along with a grant from the Davis Conservation Foundation. Maine Coast Heritage Trust was another key partner, providing a low-interest loan of $35,000 through their revolving land acquisition loan program while DRA and PWA awaited grant funding and pledge payments.

Many hands contributed to the work of planning and creating the new trail that loops through the preserve, as well. Steven lauded the efforts of Coastal Rivers’ volunteers and staff who helped remove a derelict cabin, cut back infestations of invasive plants, marked and cut trails, built bog bridges, and improve the parking area, and who continue to maintain the trail.

Lead donor George Keyes speaking at the ribbon cuttingLead donor George Keyes was next to address those gathered, sharing what the property represents for him personally. He commented on the uniqueness of the Pemaquid peninsula, where climate conditions are influenced by the proximity of the ocean as well as the fresh water system that runs down its center. He noted his appreciation for the careful forest management by members of the Avantaggio family, from whom the property was purchased. Keyes also expressed his hope that others will enjoy the sense of perspective and peace he feels when he walks there.

State Representative Lydia Crafts was last to speak, highlighting Maine’s tradition of conservation. She discussed the importance of passing along special places, like those we enjoyed when we were young, to the next generation.

Henry Keyes cuts the ribbon

Henry Keyes does the honors with a hand from Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel. Looking on are (left to right) State Representative Lydia Crafts, Bristol Town Manager Chris Hall, George Keyes, outgoing Board President Joel Russ, and incoming Board president Martha Lynch.

After the remarks and symbolic cutting of the ribbon, guests walked a short distance to a clearing at the first trail junction to enjoy some fresh apple cider and a trail mix buffet. Several then opted to join in a hike of the two-mile loop trail.

Neill DePaoli, Archaeologist and Site Manager at Colonial Pemaquid State Historical Site, was also present at the ceremony and joined for the hike afterward. Having done some initial exploration of a stone foundation on the property, DePaoli shared his observations and theories about the date of construction and style of home that would have been there.

Keyes Woods Preserve is a beautiful wooded property in Bristol extending east to the Pemaquid River from Poor Farm Road, with over 1900 feet of shoreline and a free-flowing tributary stream. The outflow of this stream, at a quiet bend in the river, is a hotspot for waterfowl viewing. Crisscrossed with historical stone walls, the preserve offers a number of interesting features including old stone foundations and glacial erratics. Wildlife such as deer, porcupine, and ruffed grouse are abundant. Because of its importance to wildlife, visitors should note that no dogs are permitted at Keyes Woods.

Sign and parking area at Keyes WoodsThough it’s been open to the public since its completion last fall, the trail and trailhead have received some finishing touches this summer, including the placement of bog bridges through wet areas, the creation of a multi-car parking area, and the installation of a sign and kiosk.