The Runaround Pond landscape includes more than 350 acres of conserved land, with RRCT’s Chesley Meadows Preserve, the Town of Durham’s Runaround Pond Recreation Area, and a working farm conserved by an agricultural conservation easement held by RRCT.
Chesley Meadows Preserve. This 153 acre 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 a stream, open marsh, beaver lodges, and forested riparian zones. The trust prioritized 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, neighborhood equestrian use and snowshoeing. There are no developed or marked trails. Parking is available at the town recreation area, and also parking is available for two cars at a small turnout at the intersection of Davis Road & Chesley Hill Road; look for the blue Chesley Meadows Preserve sign at the intersection. 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.
Runaround Pond Recreation Area. This popular spot includes 133 acres managed by the Town of Durham for paddling, fishing, skating, and many other adventures. Soon after paddlers or skaters leave the boat launch, the winding pond creates a near-wilderness experience with miles of undeveloped forested shoreline. The recreation area also protects and provides limited access (downstream) to the uppermost reaches of Chandler Brook (Middle Branch of the Royal River), stocked for trout. Chandler Brook can be paddled only during spring high water or after heavy rain. The flat meandering stream between the Old Chandler Mill Dam (at Runaround Pond) and the bridge and access point on Pownal’s Poland Range Road may include one or two strainers (downed trees) that block the stream depending upon water levels. (To get to the stream, portage around the dam from the parking area.)
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 document describes the historic, community, and literary context of Runaround Pond and its conservation lands.
Old Crow Ranch. This private farm producing local hogs, chickens, and cattle 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.
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%). 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. The Royal River Conservation Trust 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.