AUGUSTA – Over the last year, nearly a dozen projects under the Land for Maine’s Future (“LMF”) program have been closed and funded. One major project in Cumberland County, however, remains up in the air despite this year’s June bond sale that included funding for LMF. On Monday, Governor LePage raised concerns over why $225,000 in state funding has yet to be utilized.
“My critics and the Maine media have slammed me repeatedly for supposedly not releasing funding,” said Governor LePage. “The Portland Press Herald and others have gone after Representative Michael Timmons personally, blaming him for delaying the project. Now the funds are available and those responsible for submitting paperwork are purposely slow rolling the process for political purposes. I demand to know why town officials and the land trusts involved with this project are dragging their feet.”
The Knights Pond and Blueberry Hill area project focuses on the purchase and preservation of a 215-acre undeveloped parcel in Cumberland and North Yarmouth. However, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which administers the LMF program, has not received the necessary documents from the towns and land trusts involved with the project. The State has had a check ready to complete this project since August 19. During the past 12 months, the Department has worked to provide funding to nearly a dozen LMF projects and is on track to close on additional projects by the end of 2016.
The Cumberland Town Council approved in February to use $300,000 in taxpayer dollars toward the Knights Pond project. North Yarmouth approved spending up to $100,000. In total, the land acquisition cost is $1.3 million. Also working with the two towns is the Trust for Public Land, the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust and the Royal River Conservation Trust.
President Penny Asherman of the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust criticized the Governor a month prior to the bonds’ release saying, “The Knight’s Pond & Blueberry Hill project is still awaiting $225,000 it was promised by the LMF Board in July 2014 and we fully expect the governor to pay off this debt to our communities.”
During the past year, for the LMF program has closed and funded at least eleven projects related to Land for Maine’s Future. Those projects include: Eagle Bluff Central Maine Sportsman’s Access Kennebec River Estuary Crooked River Miller’s Wharf Cold Stream Forest Pleasant Bay Kimball Pond Winterwood Farm Merritt Cove Knights Pond / Blueberry Hill.