Runaround Pond and Chesley Meadows Preserve

Runaround Pond’s conserved landscape in Durham includes more than 350 acres of conserved land.  The conserved landscape is comprised of RRCT’s Chesley Meadows Preserve, the Town of Durham’s Runaround Pond Recreation Area, and Old Crow Ranch – a conserved working farm. There are great trails, historic observation, hunting and fishing access and paddling opportunities abound at Runaround Pond.

More Information

Trails, Trailheads, and Accessibility

Runaround Pond Recreation Area (GPS:  315 Runaround Pond Road, Durham, Maine):  The trail network at the eastern end of Runaround Pond begins and ends at the 133-acre town recreation area with an accessible bathroom, picnic tables, hand-carry boat access, fishing ledges, and good parking plowed year-round. The walking trail is wide and flat and generally suitable for baby carriages and gentle walking. Small and large loop trails allow exploration of the shoreline of the pond and the shoreline of Chandler Brook. The trails pass near historic cellar holes, the retaining walls of the old mill, the historic granite dam, and quarries. The large loop marked by blue blazes is 0.6 miles in length, looping both north and south from the parking area.

To get to the parking area at Runaround Pond Recreation Area from I-295, take Exit 22 in Freeport/Durham. Turn right onto ME-136 North and drive 6.2 miles. Turn left onto Rabbit Road and continue onto Runaround Pond Road for 1.1 miles. Look for the entrance to the parking area and boat launch on the right. The blue blazed trails leave from both ends of the recreation area’s parking lot.

Chesley Meadows Preserve

Owned and managed by RRCT and abutting the town’s recreation area, the 153 acre Chesley Meadows Preserve was created in late 2015 and expanded in March 2017. The Preserve includes more than a half mile of Runaround Pond shoreline along with an open marsh, stream, beaver lodges, and forested riparian zones. RRCT prioritized conservation of the property due to the wild shoreline, mapped deer yards, and significant wading bird and waterfowl habitat. The Preserve hosts a snowmobile trail and is popular for its pond frontage, its hunting, occasional neighborhood equestrian use and snowshoeing and skating. There are no developed or marked trails other than the snowmobile trail, which is wet even in summer.

Parking is available on Davis Road shoulders or in a small turnout at the intersection of Davis Road & Chesley Hill Road; look for the blue Chesley Meadows Preserve sign at the intersection. (For water access to the Chesley Meadows Preserve’s Runaround Pond shoreline, park and launch at the Runaround Pond Recreation Area.)

A November 2015 article in the Tri-Town Weekly describes the first acquisitions.  An April 2017 article in The Times Record describes the most recent acquisition. Funding sources included private donors and the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership.

RRCT & You:  RRCT relies heavily on volunteers and help from Preserve users like you. You may know more recent information about trail and Preserve conditions than we do. We invite you to be a thoughtful steward by acting as a respectful visitor, adhering to posted rules, and following Leave No Trace practices. RRCT’s small staff and volunteer Trail Crew is able to inspect and maintain RRCT Preserves infrequently; we ask you to report to us any issues you observe that you cannot address yourself, and especially to update us on any safety or public safety issues. Please help us on your visits with litter, pet waste, and minor trail issues. We also invite any information on needed or suggested updates to this webpage. Reach out in any way, most simply with an email to info@RRCT.org

CHESLEY MEADOWS PRESERVE RULES & REGULATIONS: 

  • The preserve is open for hiking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, skating, backcountry equestrian use, and snowmobiling on or off trail. Bikes are not allowed due to trail construction standards.
  • Dogs are welcome, but on leash or voice control, with strict attention to pet waste removal. Due to deer wintering, we ask that dogs be on leash during periods of deep snow; deer struggle to maintain energy during the winter; dogs and humans cause them to expend this precious energy.
  • Please respect various postings on private abutting land; many of these postings aim to protect nearby farm animals from dogs or hunters.
  • Safe and responsible hunting on the Preserve is encouraged. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters and deer during season, including winter deer yard season. As a courtesy, please call RRCT to inform us if you plan any trapping on the parcel. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
  • Tenting and camping is allowed, but with permission, and well-away from trailheads or neighbors. There are no good sources of water on the preserve, and no privies.  There’s no developed or dry camping spot on RRCT’s shoreline on Runaround Pond. Give us a call, and plan on strict adherence to “leave no trace” principles.
  • Smoking is prohibited at all RRCT Preserves.

Historical & Natural Interpretation & Stephen King

Runaround Pond has a rich history, including as a location for several works of the author Stephen King, who spent most of his childhood living on Runaround Pond Road. This ten-page document describes the historic, community, and literary context of Runaround Pond and its conservation lands.

RRCT created these four one-page interpretive 8.5.x11 easily printed sheets to describe the history, natural history, fisheries, and Stephen King context of Runaround Pond.   Print them out and bring them with you, or take them to school.

Bird Watching

When RRCT opened new trails at the town’s Recreation Area in 2017, birding opportunities without boats increased considerably, while paddling is still the exceptional birding experience here.  RRCT’s adjacent Chesley Meadows Preserve provides rich birding opportunities.

For more information on birding watching visit: The Best Birding in the Royal River watershed.

Old Crow Ranch

The Old Crow Ranch is a private farm that produces hogs, chickens, and cattle. It is protected by a 68 acre agricultural conservation easement held by the Royal River Conservation Trust, with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future program.

Maine Forest Yurts

This dog-friendly year-round campground with yurts on Runaround Pond encourages visitors to explore the nearby conservation land at Runaround and Bradbury Mountain.

Stewardship & Conservation Planning

When RRCT in 2015 began acquiring conservation land at Runaround Pond (now known as the Chesley Meadows Preserve), RRCT also began assisting the Town of Durham with management of its Recreation Area.  In 2017 and 2018, with support from private donors and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, RRCT volunteers and staff repaired gates, replaced gateway signage, installed kiosks, and expanded trails in the town park.  The Town of Durham simultaneously installed a privy, safety signage, road striping, and more.

Durham is on the southern edge of Androscoggin County. According to recent state recreation plans, Androscoggin County has the lowest percentage of conserved land of any county in Maine (3.60%), as compared to 18.9% statewide and 6.5% in Cumberland County. According to 2016 USFWS data, only 0.83% of Durham’s land is conserved, even while Durham’s population is growing steadily. Eight percent of Maine’s population is in Androscoggin County, but the county benefits from less than one fifth of one percent of Maine’s conservation land. Durham is thus dramatically underserved by conservation land, compared to most Maine towns.  Recent RRCT acquisitions have slightly improved that 2016 statistic, but more work is necessary; RRCT works to guarantee that the youth of Durham and Androscoggin County have more opportunities to hunt, fish, paddle, hike, skate, and explore.

Recent mapping by The Nature Conservancy has identified Runaround Pond as one of the highest priority areas for planning for habitat “resiliency” in the face of climate change, and as part of a priority focus area for riparian (stream and pond) corridors for habitat.