By Christopher Crosby
GREENWOOD — The price of a mountain overlooking Lake Pennessewassee may have just gotten more expensive for a local conversation group after they missed a summer payment.
The Western Foothills Land Trust is in the process of acquiring Noyes Mountain, though it appears the Norway-based conversation group will have to find alternative financing to meet the seller’s $307,000 price-tag by October.
Though the organization is optimistic the sale will eventually go through, Executive Director Lee Dassler said a missed payment may trigger an automatic price increase.
“Who’d have thought it would be so hard to buy a mountain,” Dassler said in an interview in her Norway office on last week.
For years artists and photographers have depicted Noyes Mountain, which serves as a picturesque backdrop to Norway Lake. The land trust covets what’s less visible and may take years – and tens of thousands of dollars – to create: a trail system for hikers and bikers.
The project would set aside 295-acres from development, with future plans to carve recreation trails on the mountain. Currently, hikers accessing the mountain pull into a grassy field off Richardson Hollow Road to make a steep, 40-minute hike up old logging roads.
Dr. Carl Costanzi, who coordinates outdoor exercise programs aimed at preventing childhood obesity for Healthy Oxford Hills, said the mountain could be one step toward attracting “health tourism” to the town.
Costanzi suggested mountain bike trails could be developed on the mountain to bring in tourism dollars.
“There’s a direct connection between socioeconomic status and health,” Costanzi said. “Poverty is the big risk factor for poor health, and Oxford County’s poverty is in large part a reflection of the changing economy.”
Nestled within the property is a one-acre quarry that will have to be surveyed prior to the completion of the sale. Miners once pulled tourmaline, a gemstone popular with jewelers, though the quarry is now inactive.
To offset taxes, the land trust will harvest and sell timber under a forest management plan. Hunting will also be allowed.
In 2014 the Western Foothills Land Trust entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement for Noyes Mountain, which sits at the north end of Lake Pennessewasse and commands sweeping views of Oxford Hills.
At the time, it was thought a $90,000 grant from the Lands for Maine Future Program for a separate, stalled, project at Roberts Farm Preserve could be applied to Noyes Mountain, Dassler said. However permission to shift the funding was later denied, leaving a major gap in fundraising.
In 2015, as the deal was to expire, the land trust asked for a one-year extension in order to have time to raise more money. That extension was granted, but triggered a $7,000 price increase, Dassler said.
The mountain offers sweeping views of Oxford Hills from a scenic vantage point just below the summit. But protecting vistas is deemed less crucial from public funding sources, leaving the land trust with the option of asking private donors or securing low interest rates from a bank, Dassler said.
To date, the group has raised $142,000 in grants, loans and a crowd funding campaign, including $78,000 from the Open Space Institute – $165,000 short of the price. A request for an additional extension may trigger another price hike, Dassler said.
With a looming deadline, the land trust is asking for donations.
“Anyone who lives on or drives by Norway Lake and enjoys the view of Noyes Mountain should consider making a contribution,” Dassler said in an email.
More information on how to make donations can be found at wfltmaine.org.