Friends and supporters of Libby Hill Forest Trails gathered at the trailhead next to the Gray-New Gloucester Middle School on August 1, 2010 to enjoy ice cream sundaes and celebrate the successful conclusion to the Save Libby Hill Campaign. The mood was decidedly upbeat, aided by perfect weather, delicious sundaes, and the knowledge that the lovely trails on Libby Hill are now permanently protected from development. The ice cream was donated by the B & R Dairy Bar and the fixings and bowls by Hannaford Supermarkets.
Anne Gass, GCE President, thanked all the people whose hard work made the purchase possible. “We raised $160,000 during the worst recession the country has seen since the great Depression”, she noted. “That’s a big accomplishment, especially for a relatively young nonprofit with no history of this sort of fundraising effort. Our success demonstrates what we can accomplish when we share a common vision and work together to achieve it.”
Established in 2001, Gray Community Endowment (GCE) focused first on strengthening and expanding the trail network on Libby Hill, located directly behind the Gray-New Gloucester Middle School. Led by Carl Holmquist and Steve McPike, the trails were widened and smoothed out, and new trails were built. In 2004 we negotiated a donation of 46 acres of land on Libby Hill from the Harold Libby family. Added to the 73 acres owned by the town of Gray, approximately 50 acres owned by the school district, and 11 acres GCE has received permission to use from the Burnham Morrill trust we have created 200+ acre parcel that is permanently preserved for public use. We now have eight miles of high quality trails, including six miles of nordic skate ski trails laid out by internationally known nordic trail designer John Norton. The trails are multi-purpose and offer free, year-round access.
From the beginning we knew all our investments on Libby Hill were at risk because a critical parcel remained in private ownership. The 29 acre parcel sat right behind the Middle School and was literally the front door to the trail network. Losing it would significantly restrict access, and require hundreds of hours to relocate the trails. It took several years of negotiating but in 2008 we were eventually able to purchase it from the Hancock Land Corporation for $160,000. We had to arrange a two-year, zero percent interest bridge loan from five local “patient” investors to buy the land, and in June 2010 successfully concluded the fundraising needed to pay off our investors.
We are grateful to the Land for Maine’s Future; the Town of Gray; Davis Conservation Foundation; Fields Pond Foundation; Margaret Burnham Charitable Trust; Hannaford Supermarkets; the National Trails Fund (American Hiking Society); as well as from private individuals and trail users.
In addition to the fundraising, GCE has done the following to improve and promote the trail system:
- Helped form the Friends of Libby Hill to recruit and organize trail stewards and support fundraising and marketing efforts;
- Installed Maine DOT road signs immediately north and south of Libby Hill Road to advertise the location of the Libby Hill Forest;
- Lead guided snowshoeing and hiking tours of the trails to attract new users;
- Created high quality, attractive maps of the trails that are downloadable from the www.libbyhill.org website;
- Improved signage on the trails.