2017-08-17 / News

Biddeford officials sell land off Mile Stretch Road

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge gained 1.34 acres this August. Refuge officals plan for the area to continue growing as long as funds are available and there are willing sellers. It was established in 1966 and spans 50 miles of coastline between York and Cumberland counties. (Grant McPherson photo) The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge gained 1.34 acres this August. Refuge officals plan for the area to continue growing as long as funds are available and there are willing sellers. It was established in 1966 and spans 50 miles of coastline between York and Cumberland counties. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The United States Fish and Wildlife Service will purchase two parcels of land along Mile Stretch Road in Biddeford Pool as part of its ongoing conservation efforts. The land totaled 1.34 acres and will be added to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. government will pay the city of Biddeford $23,000 once the agreement is finalized.

City council voted unanimously to approve the purchase Tuesday, Aug. 1. Biddeford Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney said the land was in a resource protection zone identified by the city and couldn’t be developed. The land was priced based on an appraisal for fair market value. The parcels are located next to a sign for the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, on the left of Mile Stretch Road heading toward the bathouse.

“The sale made sense from a practical standpoint,” Phinney said.

Six percent of land along Mile Stretch Road is owned by the city, 46 percent is privately owned and the rest is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Ward Feurt, a manager for the refuge, said the refuge will purchase land as long as there are willing sellers and funds are available.

“The refuge will continue to be interested in any property within the acquisition boundary, that’s our business,” he said. “Wildlife comes first.”

Biddeford Pool is a source of life for many different species. As the tide comes in, Feurt said it pumps a significant amount of energy into the mud flats, allowing the survival of worms, clams and other arthropods, which in turn provide a source of food for migratory shore birds.

Feurt said many shore birds have already begun migrating south for the winter. North and south of the pool however, beach nesting birds are having a more difficult time. Piping plovers in particular are considered endangered at both the state and federal level. The refuge, along with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Audubon Society monitor nesting beaches and make sure people respect signs that indicate dunes where birds nest.

“The refuge has 289 species of birds and each one is an individual species with individual needs,” Feurt said.

The refuge has 5,700 total acres across 11 different locations including, Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Biddeford, Saco, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. Feurt said the main goal of the refuge is to manage healthy habitats for species that are doing poorly. However, some species’ problems go beyond having a protected home. Feurt said northern long-eared bats are faced with a disease called white-nose syndrome. The exact cause is unknown but it’s estimated to have killed 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since 2006 and Feurt said it has the potential to wipeout 95 percent of the bat population.

“There’s not a lot we can do, we don’t know the cure,” Feurt said. “We are limited to the do-no-harm category.”

One of the more intrepid visitors to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is the red knot species of bird. They weigh about 10 ounces and migrate from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost tip of South America every year.

“When they come through (the refuge) we survey and monitor them,” Feurt said. “They have the longest migration of any bird I know of.”

The birds continue south to Delaware Bay, where horseshoe crabs lay so many eggs they turn the bay green. Here the red knots gorge on the protein supply before continuing to South America.

“I saw a red knot last week, though they’re not common here. They’re every five feet in Delaware,” Feurt said.

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is willing to work with any property owner interested in selling their land within acquisition boundaries. More information can be found at https:// www.fws.gov/refuge/rachel_ carson.

Return to top