From Hart Farm on the slopes of Copeland Hill to Holden, there is a beautiful view to the northwest over the wide valley of the Penobscot River and far beyond, to the mountains along the Appalachian Trail Corridor, to Barren to White Cap to Katahdin. The old farm is the site of an ambitious conservation project undertaken by the Holden Land Trust, which has built a 3 1/2 mile network of hiking trails for year round enjoyment.
Pocket Field Trail, the longest segment, makes a lollipop loop along the margin of large agricultural fields and what are known as “pocket fields” before entering the forest, while Middle Trail runs along the western edge of the small fields. Shelterwood Trail makes a circuit through a section of wood operated by professionals. Finally, the Fields Pond Connector Trail connects the Holden Land Trust Trails with 4 miles of trails on the adjacent 229-acre Fields Pond Audubon Center property.
Established in 2005, the Holden Land Trust “is committed to identifying and preserving the wildlife habitat, scenic views, farmland, access to wetlands and logged forests that are integral to the rural character of Holden, benefit current and future generations, ”according to the association’s website.
In 2011, HLT secured a conservation easement that protected the summit of Hog Hill in the southeast corner of town, while keeping a close eye on the potential prize for Hart Farm, a working farm that was owned by the family. Hart since the mid-1800s, but was now in decline. The 157-acre property had a house and barn, fields and forests, and that great view.
There you go, “The Hart family approached us in 2016 to see if we would buy the farm,” said Kris Mangene Reid, Chairman of the Trust. “That’s when we started fundraising and reached out to the Maine Farmland Trust to get them involved. “
There are very few active farms left in the Bangor region and enormous development pressures. Ultimately, Maine Farmland Trust purchased the agricultural rights to the land to keep Hart Farm in working order, while HLT raised the rest of the money needed to finalize the purchase. And with that, Hart Farm became an official “Forever Farm” in 2018.
As part of the deal, HLT kept an easement that allowed for a network of trails to be created, and while they added a new roof to the farm, cleared the land and found the right farmer to buy it all. , they also got to work developing the trails, erecting a kiosk at the trailhead and building a parking area.
“When we started walking around the property, we really discovered the true character of the place,” said John Bryant, vice president of HLT. “The agricultural fields, the old rock faces, the hilly terrain, the ravines, the tall trees; everything was unique and beautiful.
HLT volunteers spent a lot of time marking the routes with markers and then coming back and adjusting here and there. Finally satisfied, the next step was to do the brush clearing and submersion. Then came the bridging of the peatlands to span the many wetlands. Using milled cedar spars, 800 feet of bog bridge was installed in 2020, a monumental task that required a lot of helpers.
“It was stacked at Copeland Hill Road and we had to haul it into the woods,” said Bryant. “In the midst of the pandemic, this was our way of working. We called it our “outdoor gym”.
Working with their neighbors in Audubon, the Lake Shore Trail along pretty Fields Pond has been extended and the Beechwood Trail built to connect to Hart Farm, giving hikers plenty of room to walk around.
As if they didn’t already have their hands full, HLT also had shelter timber – a type of timber harvesting – cut on part of the land as a forestry demonstration.
Farm easements and trails aside, the farm was sold in 2020 to a working couple who turned the place into a thriving farm once again.
“We are delighted to have preserved a working farm,” said Bryant.
“We’ve worked hard as a completely volunteer organization,” added Reid, noting that the new “HLT Trails at Hart Farm” have become very popular.
Find more information about Holden Land Trust and a trail map on Facebook.
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Hikes along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s more adventures on Facebook @CareyKish
Birdwatching: A wanderer can spice up a generally slow November for watchers