Educational recreation was the theme of the day. Guests at the Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District's Demonstration Forest hiked miles of trails while learning about forestry, wildlife planting and more.
The Sept. 7 grand opening in Williamsburg Plantation kicked off at 9 a.m. with Board Chair Stephen Hobart greeting 32 guests and explaining the forest project. Associate Supervisor Gordon Moore of the Maine Forest Service told the crowd about some of the special features of the land; two historical homestead sites, forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) examples, a glacially formed canyon and miles of hiking and skiing trails on 180 acres of district land.
Moore mentioned some partnerships that helped the district develop the land into a community asset. Supervisors serving in the 1970s worked tirelessly to bring the property into local possession. Before that, it was part of the White Mountains National Forest due to federal land purchases made during the Great Depression.
Work on the Demonstration Forest is ongoing and has been accomplished with help from the Brownville area Boy Scouts of America, the Land Use Regulation Commission, the Low Impact Forestry Project, the Maine Forest Service, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Piscataquis Public Health Council. New partnerships are being formed, Moore said. The Penobscot Indian Nation, whose land borders that of the district, has applied for grant funding to improve the road into the Demonstration Forest. Those improvements would make the forest more accessible for passenger cars and school busses.
After Moore spoke there was a brief service to dedicate a monument donated by Sheldon Slate in memory of three deceased supervisors who worked very hard on the forest project – Gordon Andrews, Robert Bridge and Rodney Kennedy. At the end of the day, the monument would be hauled deeper into the forest by tractor and permanently placed. It now rests where two hiking trails converge, at the base of three legacy pines overlooking the canyon.
Workshops were offered as part of the festivities. Supervisor Richard Johnson taught guests about apple tree pruning. FA Forestry Teacher Kirby Ellis and Moore guided guests through BMP sites. Later Ellis assisted Chad Perkins of FA in a GPS demonstration. Buster Carter and Kevin Stevens of IFW spoke about wildlife planting and habitat.
The Demonstration Forest is located on the Old Williamsburg Road. Directions are available from the district office at 564-2321. Brochures with maps and a trail key are also available. Work is ongoing on the road, parking area, privy, outdoor classroom, picnic tables, benches, a kiosk, hiking trails and Best Management Practices demonstration sites.
The foresters, teachers and the general public are encouraged to make use of the forest for educational and recreational purposes, and to make comments about things they would like to see demonstrated. Volunteers to help complete the project would be welcomed.
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