It's Not Only About the Land

 Millie's Woods, Tatnic Ledges and 70 acres on Cheney Woods Road

Three parcels (125 total acres) in the Tatnic region of Wells and South Berwick have been added to lands that will remain as forest, wetlands, vernal pools, rock outcrops, and flowing streams and will forever provide for views, hiking, hunting, firewood, timber, home for wildlife, and clean water. Each parcel has a different story reminding us that it is not the land but what occurs on the land – past, present, and future – that is really being protected.

In September, The Nature Conservancy purchased a 70-acre wooded tract along Cheney Woods Road in Wells that includes 2,500 feet of road frontage. The property was acquired from Barbara D. Stevens and her daughters, Dawn D. Baston and Sandra Batchelder. The late Lester Stevens owned his own sawmill and managed the property for many years as a productive woodlot and that use will continue under conservation ownership. The tract is home to vernal pools and significant habitat for rare turtles and amphibians as well as several trails. Purchase of the tract was made possible by a generous grant from Lowe’s stores for the purpose of preserving working woodlots in Southern Maine.  


In October, Great Works Regional Land Trust purchased a 15-acre parcel that will connect two existing protected properties: Orris Falls and Balancing Rock, expanding Orris Falls Conservation Area. Known as Tatnic Ledges, this acquisition restores public use to some of the traditional hiking trails on the existing protected properties, and provides access to a road that dates back to the Colonial Period, which local author Sarah Orne Jewett features in her 1889 essay The White Rose Road. The woods road, now mostly a forested path, climbs up the ridge and along the rock ledges before dipping down to Orris Falls and the foundation remains of a Joy family homestead, barn, and cemetery.

Tatnic Ledges includes a portion of the expansive wetlands maintained by beavers and the last unprotected portions of the Spring Hill Cliffs with views to south of Mt. Agamenticus and over to Powderhouse Hill. The property had been posted against public access for many years before being purchased by Richard Segal and then sold to the Trust. “I sold the land to the Trust because it was important to me that people always have the right to go on it,” said Segal. 


In January, Great Works acquired Millie’s Woods, on the southeast side of Tatnic Hill in Wells, from Dorothy Bragdon of Bath. The forty acres, known simply as the family wood lot, had been in the Bragdon family since it was purchased by Millie K. Bragdon in 1901. The wood lot was carefully nurtured and harvested each year to provide a steady and renewable resource for heating and cooking fuel for the entire family in the Bragdon homestead – a center chimney cape and farm situated up the highway towards Wells Center – for almost 50 years.

Millie owned numerous parcels and occasionally purchased and sold them, uncommon for farm wives of the time. In 1949 near the end of her life, she conveyed the wood lot to her son, Judge Lester M. Bragdon, on the condition that he provide for her comfortable support, food, clothing and medical attention.

This was the last remaining parcel from the farm still in the Bragdon family. Roger Bragdon, Millie’s grandson, had it marked for a timber harvest a year ago but died in June before the harvest could take place. His wife, Dorothy, contacted the Trust about conserving the property as a woodlot in recognition of what it provided the family for over 100 years.  

All three of these purchases were made possible by the Mt. Agamenticus to the Sea Initiative, a collaboration of 10 organizations and agencies working to conserve land from the Tatnic Hills over Mt. Agamenticus and down the York River to Brave Boat Harbor and Gerrish Island, along with contributions to the purchase of Tatnic Ledges from members of the Great Works Regional Land Trust. These three acquisitions bring the total amount of protected land in the Tatnic region to 1,255 acres.
                                                                                                                 - Tin Smith