Indian Cellar Conservation Completed (ME)

Hollis, Maine, 4/1/2009: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization with an office in Portland, announced today that it has purchased the 58-acre Indian Cellar property from Maine Woodland Properties, Inc., and transferred ownership to the town of Hollis. The property lies along the Saco River downstream from Salmon Falls, and is now permanently protected from development.

At the same time, the town is receiving 23 acres of abutting land donated by life-long Hollis resident Rodney Littlefield in memory of his parents, Murial and Percy Harmon, resulting in a total of 81 newly-conserved acres along the river.

Wolfe Tone, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land, said, “It has been an honor and pleasure to work with the Town of Hollis to protect this incredible property. The Indian Cellar property really has it all – history, wildlife habitat, and recreational value. This is an area that truly deserved to be preserved for public enjoyment. We want to thank the town, the state’s Land for Maine’s Future Program, Mr. Littlefield for his gift of land, and all the donors who contributed generously to make this a success story.”

Ren Wilkinson, Chair of the Committee to Preserve the Saco River Indian Cellar, said, “We are very grateful to Rodney Littlefield for his generous donation of 23 additional acres. His donated land greatly enhances the benefits of this project to the community, and will serve as a wonderful legacy to Mr. Littlefield and his family.”

The former owners of the 58 acres had proposed a 12-home subdivision on the property. Wishing a different outcome for this spectacular landscape along the river, area residents organized an effort to designate the historic area as conservation land. In 2007, TPL negotiated an agreement to hold the property off the market until funds could be assembled to purchase the property. The nearly $1 million project was funded by the Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) program ($375,000), the town of Hollis ($250,000) and private donors ($350,000), including a $150,000 donation from Poland Spring.

Hollis Selectman Stu Gannett said, “The Hollis Select Board is pleased that the conservation of Indian Cellar has succeeded. Over one hundred years ago the Woodman family had the vision to donate Pleasant Point Park for the public to enjoy. Today Hollis has done the same for our side of the river, by preserving its natural beauty and the unique character of our community.”

State Senator Bill Diamond said, “Having toured the Indian Cellar area last summer, I want to congratulate the town on this wonderful achievement. This project underscores the importance of the Land for Maine’s Future program, and that’s why I strongly believe we must replenish this program with another bond – so there can be more accomplishments like this one. Meanwhile, the residents of this area deserve our appreciation for looking ahead and protecting this property for future generations.”

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 74 feet, thereby calming the river’s flow through the gorge.

Today, the impounded section of the river is a popular place for swimming 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 conservation project has therefore helped preserve the natural character and habitat on both sides of the river.

State Representative Robert Hunt said, “Indian Cellar is truly a community effort. I spent several days this past winter snow-shoeing through the park and was awed by its beauty and serenity. I think I speak for many when I say that we are very thankful to the town of Hollis and The Trust for Public Land for their foresight and dedication to preserving this property. As southern Maine becomes more and more developed it becomes increasingly difficult to find space to take a step back and enjoy nature. Indian Cellar is a refuge from the modern world, yet a congregation point for the community to share a common love of nature.”

Bill Maples, the Northeast Supply Chain Director at Poland Spring, said, “We are honored that the towns of Hollis and Buxton invited us to partner with them on this worthy project. Our investment in the conservation of Indian Cellar is one of many ways we try to give back to the communities surrounding our bottling plant. It benefits our employees, our neighbors and all the people of Maine.”

Former State Representative Don Marean said, “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 will be great to keep it that way for generations to come.”

John A. Mattor, Chairman of the Hollis Conservation Commission, said, “We want to thank the Land for Maine’s Future program, Poland Spring, all our generous private donors, and the citizens of Hollis for helping us to seize this exceptional conservation opportunity. The 60- acre park on the Buxton side of the gorge, and the pristine condition of the land on the Hollis side, make this project even more remarkable. The public will now have free access to this place forever, as it’s always been.”

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.