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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: July 16, 2018

Hiking in Maine: Kennebunkport preserves are labors of love

Written by: Carey Kish

In the heart of Kennebunkport are 149 wonderfully wild acres known as the Emmons Preserve, which is owned and managed by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the peaceful woods and wetlands along the Batson River, and you’d hardly believe you are just 3 miles from the summer hubbub at Dock Square in downtown Kennebunkport.

Five color-coded trails offer nature lovers close to 5 miles of hiking at Emmons Preserve, the bulk of which was generously donated by the former landowners, Steve and Natalie Emmons. Three outlooks offer views of the Batson River, which follows a meandering 6.5-mile course through the town before emptying into the Gulf of Maine at Goosefare Bay. Pretty Teal Hole Falls along Jenne’s Loop on the parcel’s western margin is the natural highlight.

This hiker visited Emmons for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. Just a few minutes into the walk, as I was about to cross the Batson River Bridge, I met an old friend, Nathan Poore, and his son, Marston. Living less than 2 miles away, both are frequent visitors who truly appreciate the gift of this wildlife-rich environment, and the opportunity to enjoy quality time and good exercise outdoors close to home.

Poore, the town manager of Falmouth, was the Kennebunkport town manager from 2000-06. An avid outdoorsman, Poore was highly supportive of the land preservation efforts of the town and the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust during his tenure.

Through this important work, Poore gained a lasting appreciation of the value of preserving open space for public use, an ethos he carried with him to Falmouth.

Several miles north of Emmons Preserve, in the far northwestern corner of town, is the signature conservation property of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, the Edwin L. Smith Preserve. This 1,400-acre gem is part of one of the largest blocks of undeveloped forestland on the southern Maine coast. Five trails totaling 8 miles of hiking lead through a rich landscape of granite ridges, oak and pine woods, small vernal pools and a stretch of the Batson River.

Smith Preserve has an interesting history, which was recently recounted to me by the longtime KCT executive director, Tom Bradbury.

During the horrible fires of October 1947, often referred to as “the week Maine burned,” more than 200,000 acres from York County to Mt. Desert Island were scorched by the flames. In Kennebunkport, a great wall of fire 8 miles long burned across the town, destroying 200 homes and dozens of woodlots, including the Smith property. Realizing the fire-decimated land no longer had much value, the woodlot owners salvaged what timber they could, then stopped paying taxes on the properties, which then reverted to town ownership and eventually became part of the town forest.

For many decades, the public knew little or nothing about these abandoned properties, and there was no formal public access, according to Bradbury. More than 50 years after the fire disaster, KCT approached the town and its manager, Poore, and requested the responsibility for stewardship of these abandoned properties, to develop a management plan for recreational uses that would benefit the townspeople.

In 2002, Kennebunkport voters overwhelmingly approved the transfer of 741 acres of town forest to KCT. The trust later purchased the Steele property, adding 400 acres. Another half-dozen abutting and interior parcels totaling 300 acres have since been acquired, bringing the Edwin L. Smith Preserve to its present size.

The old Atlantic Shore Line, once the second-longest electric trolley line in Maine (1900-49), forms the western boundary of Smith Preserve. Adventurous visitors can actually ride a trolley from the Seashore Trolley Museum just down the road to the Trolley Trail at Smith Preserve, a pretty cool way to start a hike, if so desired.

In the continuing effort to connect the community to the land and to each other, KCT has preserved a remarkable 2,300 acres across 105 properties, with 20 diverse miles of foot trails to explore. Make a visit to Kennebunkport this summer, go for a fun hike or two and take a good look around at these special places. Then tip your hat to the visionary local folks who made it all happen as well as the volunteer stewards who work hard to care for it.

 

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