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Urban Retreat

What's In a Picture?

Ganneston Park on Howard Hill
The tree house is long gone and much of the forest has fallen to subdivisions, but a 164-acre preserve being created by the Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) promises to revive Howard Hill as an urban wilderness retreat. Photograph courtesy of Genie Gannett.
From our March 2016 issue

Wilderness escape” is not a phrase typically associated with Augusta, Maine’s capital city of strip malls and dysfunctional roadways, but turn-of-the-20th-century Augustans didn’t have to travel far to recharge their batteries. They took to the carriage paths of Ganneston Park on Howard Hill, a 450-acre manicured forest in the State House’s backyard, created by publishing magnate William Howard Gannett. Among the park’s pleasures: this cliffside House in the Trees, with its splendid views of the copper-domed State House and the Kennebec River. Today, the tree house is long gone — Gannett removed it because it was repeatedly vandalized — and much of the forest has fallen to subdivisions, but a 164-acre preserve being created by the Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) promises to revive Howard Hill as an urban wilderness retreat. The project has not been without controversy: to help pay off its loan for the $1 million land purchase, the KLT is using $337,500 in Land for Maine’s Future funds, part of a voter-approved $11.5 million in bonds that Governor Paul LePage only recently agreed to release after a nine-month dispute with the state legislature. (Our suggestion? Allocate funds for tree house restoration!)

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