Agreement Would Protect Indian Cellar Property (ME)

Hollis, Maine, 7/13/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization with an office in Portland, announced today that it has reached an agreement with Maine Woodland Properties, Inc to purchase the 58-acre Indian Cellar property, which lies along the Saco River downstream from Salmon Falls in Hollis. TPL plans to work with the town to seek grants and donations that will help the town acquire the property for permanent conservation.

The current owners have proposed a 12-home subdivision on the property, but have now agreed to sell the land to TPL, which has until July 30, 2008 to complete the purchase. In the next year, the town will apply to the Land for Maine’s Future Program to help defray its cost of the purchase, and also seek private donations.

The Indian Cellar property, which runs for a mile along the Saco River, got its name from the deep sheltered bedrock walls of the Saco gorge that stayed cool enough in warm summer months for native Indians to store their food. The Saco River once roared through the rugged bedrock gorge at Hollis and Buxton. In 1948, the Skelton Dam was built for power production, and raised the water level 30 feet, thereby calming the river’s flow through the gorge.

Today, the impounded section of the river is a popular place for boating and fishing, and the river’s scenic character invites canoeists and kayakers. Blue heron are common and bald eagles nest on the shore.

Across the river from the Indian Cellar property, on the Buxton side, is Pleasant Point Park. The new conservation project would therefore help preserve the natural character and habitat on both sides of the river.

Wolfe Tone, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land, said, “The Indian Cellar project really has it all – history, wildlife habitat, and recreational value. This is truly an area that should be preserved permanently for public enjoyment. We’re pleased to be able to hold this property off the market while the town seeks to acquire it.”

Hollis Selectman Stu Gannett said, “The Hollis Selectboard is enthusiastic about the opportunity to preserve the property. Over one hundred years ago Cyrus Woodman had the vision to donate Pleasant Point Park for the public to enjoy. Today is Hollis’ opportunity to protect the natural beauty of our side of the river and preserve the unique character of our community. The Selectboard is ready to roll up its sleeves and help make this project a success. And we don’t have to do it alone; we’re ready to leverage our resources at the town level to attract the public and private funding we’re going to need to make this a success.”

State Representative Don Marean, R – Hollis, applauded the effort to preserve the property for everyone to enjoy. He said, “We have a great opportunity to protect a piece of land that helps define our community. This project demonstrates how conservation is not just about the Allagash or Katahdin Lake. Our part of the state has important conservation work to do too. For many generations, the Indian Cellar area was a place by the river where our community came together, and it would be great to keep it that way for generations to come.”

John A. Mattor, Chairman of the Hollis Conservation Commission, said, “From any point of view, this is the most significant conservation property in Hollis, and possibly in our area of the state. The 60 acre park on the Buxton side of the gorge, and the pristine condition of the land on the Hollis side, makes this project even more remarkable. The town should own this property, and ensure that it never be developed. The public has had free access to this place in the past, and we want it to be forever.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. In Maine, TPL has protected over 87,000 acres with projects ranging from city parks and pathways to coastal habitat and working farms and forests.