History Spotlight: KELT's Most Popular Preserve
In celebration of KELT’s 30th Anniversary, we are sharing historical snippets and stories. Our spotlights will highlight moments in local environmental history to show how far we have come conserving, restoring, and appreciating the lands and waters of the Kennebec Estuary region.
19th Anniversary of Thorne Head Preserve
With a 3.5 mile trail system on 96 acres, Thorne Head is KELT’s most visited preserve. While it is not our largest preserve, it has a rich history and ecosystem. KELT bought the land in 2000, with generous help from community members and funding through the Land For Maine’s Future program and Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. At the northern end of Bath, this natural space is home to a host of interesting plants, animals, habitats, scenery, and history. In 1751, Michael Thornton moved onto the land, hence the name “Thorne” Head. Like most properties it was cut for timber and use for farming as evidenced by the remains of zig-zagging stone walls. Due to the shallow and rocky soils, it was most likely grazed by farm animals. The land even boasts a spooky past demonstrated by the presence of “Murderer’s Cave,” a hide out for ne’er-do-well sailors after killing a Bath constable during an attempted robbery downtown in 1883.
For KELT’s 30th anniversary and the 19th anniversary of the Thorne Head purchase (March 1st, 2000), it seems fitting to show our appreciation of this locally cherished piece of land. Many nature enthusiasts have often whiled away an afternoon in the quiet woods. Winter hikers can listen to the crackling of the ice floes on the Kennebec River where it meets Whiskeag Creek from the end of the Overlook Trail at the Mushroom Cap. If not for the homes on the far shore of the river, the view from this northern lookout could almost be as it was in 1600, free from the city and the landfill nearby.
KELT’s campaign to purchase Thorne Head – a first for the land trust - was spearheaded by dedicated land trust members and community volunteers. Tom Barrington, a land trust incorporator, highlights the acquisition of Thorne Head as one of KELT’s milestones that meant the most to him. When KELT started the campaign to fundraise to purchase the parcel, folks told Tom, “You’re crazy, the YMCA and Hospital are already raising funds at this time, nobody’s going to give money to save trees.”
After successfully raising $420,000 from public and private foundations and trusts, 16 institutions, 210 individuals and 21 businesses, KELT opened Thorne Head Preserve for people of all ages. This momentous achievement, completed entirely by volunteers, was recognized in April 2000. KELT, then called the Lower Kennebec Regional Land Trust, received the Maine Coast Heritage Trust Land Heritage Award (now called the Espy Land Heritage Award) for the “most significant contribution to conservation in Maine in the past year.” Thorne Head now is our most popular spot to walk in the woods, view the river, bike, ski, snowshoe, and walk dogs on leash.
What are your favorite memories at Thorne Head Preserve? Perhaps it was recent or perhaps it was before KELT owned the land?
Have a cool photo from years past of the estuary, Merrymeeting Bay, or surrounding lands? Want to share with us a story from the past?
Share photos, maps, stories, etc. with Becky at email@example.com or call 207-442-8400.