KINGFIELD, Maine — Cathy Houston stands on the edge of Shiloh Pond in Kingfield, looking at the water, the woods and the mountain beyond.
“I like the wildness of it,” she says.
Shiloh Pond feels wild, even though it's only a few miles from the center of town.
And assuming residents vote next month to accept the gift, the pond and 215 acres will soon belong to Kingfield for guaranteed public access to fish, hike and enjoy the outdoors.
The High Peaks Alliance, a western Maine land conservation group, has been working to raise money to buy the land and pond ever since they became aware the family that has owned it for years decided to sell. Like many parts of the Maine woods, the private owners have always allowed public access. Brent West, executive director of the High Peaks Alliance, says they wanted to make sure local people continue to have that access.
“Shiloh Pond is really a spot where people can come and fish, recreate, hike, hunt. And we really want it to be a community project, people come together for this landscape,” West says.
To make that happen, the Alliance teamed up with the Trust for Public Lands a national group, to raise roughly $500,000 to purchase the property. Betsy Cook of the Trust says they have gotten a grant from a state program for part of the total, as well as many private donations and even a donation from a national hunting and fishing advocacy group called Meat Eaters.
Cook says land ownership patterns have been changing, so protecting access matters.
“Some of this land we’ve loved and families have used for decades or even centuries are being closed off. So a place like Shiloh is one of the most important places to protect,” Cook says.
And for locals, like Walter Kilbreth, preserving access to Shiloh Pond matters. Like Cook, he called it “a gem."
“The woods (are) a cathedral of sorts, a place you can go find yourself,” Kilbreth says. “And you look at negative things a lot more positive in a trip to the woods, and everyone should be able to do that, especially when it's in our backyard.”
Assuming townspeople vote next month to accept the gift, Kingfield residents and their neighbors will be able to share that backyard experience for generations to come.