2017-09-08 / Community

Cape trail to be searched for artifacts

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Members of the conservation commission and Cape Elizabeth Land Trust are eager to replace a bridge over Pollack Brook and extend a section of the Spurwink/Town Farm Trail. Before that work can begin, however, an archeology survey has to be done on the property. (Michael Kelley photo) Members of the conservation commission and Cape Elizabeth Land Trust are eager to replace a bridge over Pollack Brook and extend a section of the Spurwink/Town Farm Trail. Before that work can begin, however, an archeology survey has to be done on the property. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – For the last year, the town has been working to reestablish public access across Pollack Brook, along Spurwink Trail/Town Farm Trail, a 1.2-mile trail on Town Farm, a 150-acre piece of property near where Spurwink Avenue meets Bowery Beach Road and is now looking for a firm to conduct a phase I archeological survey on the property to see if there are any ancient artifacts there.

The survey is a requirement of a Recreational Trail Development Grant from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands the town received last year for the trail project.

According to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, “Phase I surveys are designed to determine whether or not archaeological sites exist on a particular piece of land. Such work involves checking records of previous archaeology in the area, walking over the landscape to inspect land forms and look for surface exposures of soil and possible archaeological material, and the excavation of shovel test pits in areas of high probability.”

Archeological sites are divided into prehistoric (Native American) and historic (European-American). The Maine Historic Preservation Committee states “our predicative model for prehistoric sites (Native American pre-Columbian sites), which is based on water topography and surficial geology indicates that prehistoric sites may be present.” The nearby cemetery also triggered the need for an archeological survey.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said last week, the town is still in the midst of choosing a firm to conduct the study, which $2,000 has been budgeted for. Two proposals were received.

The project, which is estimated to cost $50,000, is aimed at replacing a bridge that existed on the property and extend the public trail. As part of the grant, Cape Elizabeth is required to match 20 percent.

The work, which O’Meara said cannot happen until the archeological survey is done, has been a priority of the conservation commission.

“This is not about adding a new bridge. It is basically to replace a bridge that was always there, which provided public access to a very important and very scenic area of town,” Conservation Commission member Mark Fleming told the town council last September prior to the council approving applying for the grant. “We feel it is a very important thing to get the public access back.”

The process to replace the bridge, O’Meara said, has been a long time coming.

“It degraded over time and had fallen into the brook and has been removed and we were looking to replace that bridge. We had concerns if we could get the permitting and funding to do the work, so we did a study. We hired our town engineer and to do that and discovered we probably could get the permitting to replace it,” she said.

Fleming said all that was needed in terms of permitting was a permit by rule from the state and a resource protection permit from the town.

The bridge was part of a trail system that connected Town Farm and Riverside Cemetery. The project will also include a trail extension to where the Spurwink River meets Route 77 by the Scarborough town line.

The 150-acre piece of property, owned by the town, but managed by the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust at one time housed the town’s Poor Farm for families in need.

According to the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, the property “offers spectacular panoramic views of the Spurwink Marsh from the open fields with wildflowers.”

The trail “passes through on old grove of apple trees and raspberry bushes and continues past a late 19th century cemetery before ending at the Spurwink Church” and “offers an exceptional opportunity to view migrating waterfowl, as well as hawks, herons and egrets.” A number of other birds, including boblinks, bluebirds and swallows can also be found. Moose, deer, coyotes and fox can sometimes be seen in the fields during the early morning or evening hours.

Cape Elizabeth Land Trust members are supportive of the bridge work and trail extension.

“We are very excited with the work of the conservation commission and town is doing there. It is an amazing trail system,” said Cape Elizabeth Land Trust Executive Director Cindy Krum.

Having the bridge back, Krum said, will connect Spurwink Trail with Runaway Farm Trail, a 0.4-mile loop trail across Bowery Beach Road that runs through 19 acres of wildflowers, ferns and forests.

Spurwink Trail also connects to the Gull Crest recreational area and trail system, a popular cross-country skiing and hiking trail as well as the 0.8 mile Town Center Trail, which passes through open fields and oak, crabapple and apple trees before connecting to the school campus on Ocean House Road.

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