September 23, 2019

Town historian donates mountain to land trust

GEORGETOWN – Town chronicler Carolyn “Billie” Todd says she never really felt that the 42-acre mountain she inherited from her late husband, William, belonged only to her.

So Todd, 86, donated Higgins Mountain to the Lower Kennebec Regional Land Trust, ensuring that its summit and northern portion will be protected from development.

“Now it’s where it belongs,” Todd said.

For the past 20 years Todd has edited the Georgetown Tide, a journal of town office news, articles about nature, obituaries, family genealogies and snippets of local history. People from around the world, including Gov. Angus King, who owns a summer home in Georgetown, subscribe to the Tide.

But Todd’s unofficial role as town historian pales in comparison to her gift this holiday season.

“We are grateful to Billie for giving us such a wonderful piece of land,” said Jack Witham, president of the land trust. The agreement blocks the possibility that telecommunications towers could be erected on the site, a very real threat that Todd and her husband refused offers for in the past.

For years, townspeople have picked blueberries and mushrooms on Higgins Mountain, which at 200 feet above sea level is one of the highest points in Georgetown.

A 10-minute climb to the summit offers views of Mount Washington to the northwest in New Hampshire and Monhegan Island to the east.

Land trust members Hal Bonner and Bob Lundstrom, both of Georgetown, had been in pursuit of Todd’s mountain for six years.

They realized that the mountain, just off Route 127, is near two subdivisions and well within reach of an ambitious, well-financed developer.

“You can build a house just about anywhere these days,” said Bonner, who skis cross country on the property in winter. “This [summit] could have been a million-dollar home site.”

Despite their overtures, Todd was not about to hand over her mountain to just anyone.

She had two children to consider and a legacy from her husband, who died in 1992.

The mountain had been in her husband’s family since the early 1800s.

Todd said her children thought giving the mountain to the land trust was a good idea because it has good intentions for the property. Like Todd, land trust members want the land to be used for passive recreational uses and as a natural refuge for people seeking peace and quiet.

Todd finally settled on giving the mountain and land currently assessed by the town at $46,000 to the land trust as an outright gift.

Her only request was that a rustic platform be constructed on the summit to elevate hikers above the tree line.

A hiking trail will be cut next spring, and residents will be able to use the mountain for hiking, birding, picnics, and cross country skiing.

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