Intervale Preserve

The 328-acre Intervale Preserve in New Gloucester, owned and managed by the Royal River Conservation Trust, is formed by multiple parcels of land in the historic Lower Village and along the Royal River and its marshes. The Preserve is popular for its loop trails, Interurban rail trail segment, rich ecology & habitat, iconic historic village context, Royal River access, and access for snowmobile trails and hunting.

The Intervale (the river valley between hills) provides some of the Royal River watershed’s most valuable habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and game birds. The 328-acre preserve is part of the Intervale’s larger system of floodplain wetlands and marshes covering 1215 acres, surrounded by scenic conserved farms and working forests.

More Information

Maps and Video

Trails, Trailheads and Accessibility

Lower Village and Interurban: Acquired in July 2021, trails and access in the Lower Village have limited signage or improvement. A primary legal point of access is a trail that heads downhill from the intersection of Church Road and Gloucester Hill Road, with legal parking on Church Road road shoulders. Please do not crowd the intersection; please do not park in church parking lots. A secondary legal point of access is the Interurban trail (snowmobile trail) where it crosses Route 231 (Intervale Road) at 419 Intervale Road near Grange Hall Road, just downhill from the Intervale Store (Pizza). While there is legal parking on the shoulders of Grange Hall Road, we have not yet improved the crossing of Route 231 sufficiently to encourage pedestrians to cross at this location.

568 Intervale Road: Marked by a welcoming kiosk, this flat half-mile loop trail starts at a safe parking area on a wide road shoulder; parking is often plowed in the winter. The trail provides gentle walking with short plank bridges avoiding wet areas. The plank bridges do not accommodate even adventuresome wheelchairs. The forested trail provides views onto the river’s fresh water flood plain marsh and vernal pools, a popular destination for birders and sports. The marsh is a vantage point for observing migrating birds especially in May of each year. The trail includes one bench for resting midway and a picnic table near the trailhead. Nearby is a primitive hand-carry boat access point.

To find the 568 Intervale Road trailhead:
– From the South: From Pineland Farms, follow Route 231 North/Intervale Road for 4.4 miles. The parking lot and trailhead will be on your right, 1/4 mile past the intersection with Woodman Road.
– From the North/West: From Cobb’s Bridge Road or New Gloucester Village, take Route 231 South/Intervale Road for 1 mile. The trailhead will be on your left. Ample parking is available on the wide grassy shoulder of the road. The hiking trail begins at kiosk with blue signage on the side of the road near the railroad tracks.
– Address for GPS : 568 Intervale Road, New Gloucester

Parking at Little League Field (541 Intervale Road): Foragers, hunters, and explorers are invited to park at the Little League field at 541 Intervale Road to explore segments of RRCT property that are currently trail-free. Please respect all postings and signs you might encounter as you park and as you explore.

490 Penney Road: The 490 Penney Road trailhead primarily serves as a primitive boat access point, a snowmobile trail, and hunting access. Parking is on the road shoulder or on the neck of the steep rutted woods road (snowmobile trail.) CMP has the rights to rebuild this woods road in the future to facilitate powerline rehabilitation.
– From New Gloucester Village: Head Southeast on Route 231 South for 3.9 miles. Take a right onto Penney Road and continue 0.8 mile. The parking area will be on your right.
– From North Yarmouth Village: Head North on Route 231 N for 5.6 miles. Take a left onto Penney Road and continue 0.8 mile. The parking area will be on your right.
– Address for GPS: 490 Penney Rd, New Gloucester, ME

Water Access Parcels: Some parcels of the Intervale Preserve are accessible only by canoe. Please refer to maps. Downriver access from Penney Road (paddle upriver and back) is best.  For details see the Royal River Water Trail description of this section of river.

Rules and Regulations and Hunting

  • The preserve is open for hiking, hunting and snowmobiling. Bikes are not allowed at the 642 Intervale Road loop trail due to trail construction standards. Bikes and equestrians are allowed on the new trails in the Lower Village, though trail construction standards (ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS BRIDGES) do not meet the expectations of most bicyclists nor most equestrians.
  • Public use of rail lines (Maine Central/Pan Am/CSX) is always illegal and always dangerous.
  • The Intervale Road, Penney Road, and Lower Village parcels support snowmobile connector trails.
  • Dogs are welcome, but on leash or voice control, with strict attention to pet waste removal. Please especially plan to leash your dog near private residences and near roads or parking areas, especially in the densely populated village.
  • Please respect various postings on private abutting land.
  • Safe and responsible hunting on the preserve is encouraged. We plan — but have not yet posted — hunting safety zones near ballfields and village residences. We promote safe hunting experiences and protect deer by educating users of the hiking trail and their dogs to be respectful of hunters. 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 are not permitted on this property.
  • Fires are prohibited.
  • Smoking is prohibited at all RRCT preserves.

RRCT & You: Updates, Alerts, & Cautions

  • RRCT & You: RRCT relies heavily on volunteers and help from trail users like you. You may know more recent information about trail and Preserve conditions than we do – Please consider filling out a Conditions Report. 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.
  • RAILROAD TRESPASS PROHIBITED: Public use of rail lines is always illegal and always dangerous (Maine Central-PanAm-CSX).
  • POISON IVY: There is a lot of poison ivy at Penney Road. Be advised.
  • SAFE HUNTING: Safe and responsible hunting  on the preserve is encouraged. We plan — but have not yet posted — hunting safety zones near ballfields and village residences. 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. Hikers should always wear orange during all hunting seasons, on all hikes.
  • RESPONSIBLE PET OWNERSHIP: Our preserves provide valuable access for pets and pet owners. We are always concerned by pet waste left behind, and by dogs not controlled by their owners. Please help us create a culture of respect and responsibility. Please especially control your dogs by leash near private residences, and near parking areas or roads, especially in the densely developed Lower Village.
  • NEIGHBORS’ POSTINGS: Please respect various postings on private abutting land; many of these postings aim to protect nearby farm animals from dogs or hunters.

Bird Watching

The bird-rich area of New Gloucester’s Intervale is known for migrant shorebirds, occasional Sandhill Cranes (not recently), and more. For more information on birding in the Intervale visit: Best Birding in the Royal River watershed.

Water Access and Royal River Water Trail

  • The Intervale Preserve provides boat access at two locations, at 568 Intervale Road (upriver northwest corner of the bridge), and also at 490 Penney Road’s Royal River crossing on the (upriver northeast corner of bridge). These access points allow for bank fishing and boat launching for paddling, fishing, and hunting by boat. The two boat access points create a short trip on their own, or starting points for longer trips; the stretch of river from Penney Road downstream to Wescustogo Park is a wonderful 8.1 mile high-water paddling trip. Landowner courtesies or steep scrambles are required for earlier take-out.  More information on the Royal River Water Trail.
  • This section of the river may be only be suitable for informed boaters due to variable water levels and frequent trees or beaver dams blocking passage. Boat access points are steep muddy banks.  When paddling, please respect private landowner signage along the river often prohibiting fiddlehead harvest and hunting on private land.

Stewardship and Conservation History

Habitat
Roughly 328 acres of land under RRCT conservation ownership along with additional acreage of RRCT conservation easements protect 2 shoreline miles of the mainstem of the Royal River in the Intervale. Nearby conservation efforts of state agencies mean that more than 400 acres and 3 shoreline miles of the Royal River are now protected in the Intervale. Agricultural conservation easements protect even more land. Comprised largely of lush meandering oxbows, the Intervale provides some of the Royal River watershed’s most valuable habitat supporting migratory birds, waterfowl, and game birds. In total, the Intervale comprises roughly 1215 acres of high value wetlands surrounded by scenic and productive farms and forests.

Conservation history

Owned by the Royal River Conservation Trust, the initial parcel of the Preserve (now 568 Intervale Road) was donated for conservation by Jan Erikson and Nan Butterfield in 1991. Scroll to tabs below for the Abenaki history of conservation and stewardship of this property.

Multiple transactions between 2017 and 2022 were funded by private funders, landowner donations, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and RRCT’s Land Acquisition Fund. The transactions involved acquisition, donation of land, and partnerships with the Town of New Gloucester selectmen and Central Maine Power (2017 and 2022). The town transferred seven tax-acquired lots to RRCT, expanding the Intervale Preserve and consolidating ownership and management of valuable habitat, following unanimous votes of the Selectmen.

Nearby farmland conservation projects in 2017 and 2018 (Waterhouse Farm and Merribrook Farm) also provide important conservation landscape context, along with the creation of the Big Falls Preserve upstream on Meadow Brook in 2018.

In July 2021, RRCT acquired 174.3 acres in the Lower Village and along the Interurban, doubling the size of the preserve. Central Maine Power (on the Interurban including at Grange Hall Road) donated two key deeds to RRCT and the Town, respectively, in 2022. We continue to work with various abutters to explore additional transactions.

Overview: Interpretation & Experiential Education

In the spring of 2022, RRCT began a formal partnership with Fiddlehead School of Arts & Sciences at the Intervale Preserve. Middle school students guided by experienced teachers completed “capstone” projects on the Lower Village parcel of the Intervale Preserve, beginning the process of opening this then-new conservation parcel to the community. This partnership will continue each year, continuing the process of interpreting the preserve through the eyes of students, with the voices of students. Much of the educational content of this web page is drafted by or influenced by these student voices.

The students collaborated with the New Gloucester Historical Society to produce interpretive plaques mounted onsite focusing on three areas: the Interurban, Agriculture and the Blockhouse. Other projects completed by Fiddlehead students are benches, a stargazing platform, an edible garden, and a sensory walk with descriptive placards designating certain sections of the walk to “Smell, Taste, Sound, Sight, Touch, and Insight.”

Interpretation: Sensory Walk, Native Garden, Star Gazing Platform

This section is under construction. Return soon!

Interpretation: Interurban rail line

With access from the center of the historic village, the expanded Intervale Preserve abuts historic homes and churches, the library, and the town hall, all connected by a portion of the historic Portland-Lewiston Interurban rail bed (now a pedestrian, snowmobile, and equestrian trail, only partially open to the public).

Downhill, the preserve includes land near the historic train station on the Maine Central (now Pan Am, soon CSX) Railroad.

For two centuries (1740 to 1940) transportation on the river and the railroads (the Maine Central and the Interurban) defined the economy of New Gloucester. Straw and hay from what is now the Intervale Preserve were shipped to Portland and Boston for horses and packing. Barns and warehouses were built on what is now the Preserve.

The Portland – Lewiston Interurban Historic Electric Railroad

The Portland-Lewiston Interurban historic electric railroad ran through the Intervale Preserve (Lower Village) from 1914 to 1933, stopping in New Gloucester at three different platforms. The Interurban was considered one of Maine’s finest railways. A freight shed (passenger station) was situated “the top of the hill after the Penney Road platform”, today part of the Intervale Preserve near Route 231. The freight shed (passenger station) pictured above is the restored Morrison Freight Shed that was located in West Falmouth. The shed on the Intervale Preserve probably looked quite similar.

The Interurban ran successfully until the increase of motor vehicles and the construction of a highway connecting Portland and Lewiston. Today, a trail remains where the Interurban railway through the Lower Village. It is currently a snowmobile, pedestrian, and equestrian trail. We plan to restore bridges that run over brooks and envision a trail that can help to preserve the rich history of the railway while being used throughout the year by walkers, runners, skiers, and snowmobilers.

Interpretation: Natural Resources, Wabanaki History, Agriculture

Self Guided Historical and Natural Resource Interpretation (not yet updated for 2021 expansions) – Downloadable PDF

History of the Land

The Lower Village expansion of the Intervale Preserve presents opportunities for historic interpretation and preservation. The expansion also causes us to reflect on our role as steward of land with a history of war and colonialism. Our commitment is to ensure that the property provides a respite to all, an opportunity for healing, and an opportunity for education. Inclusion and accessibility are key tools toward respite for all.

RRCT’s acknowledgment of the Abenaki history of portions of the preserve comes in part through a conservation deed filed in 2022. Excerpts of that deed are here:

WHEREAS, for centuries prior to colonization of the North American continent by the British and the French, the land area currently known as the State of Maine, including that area of Town of New Gloucester that extends from Gloucester Hill to the Royal River, was part of the ancestral territory occupied and stewarded by the Wabanaki Confederacy that includes the Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Maliseet tribes and the Mi’kmaq; and

WHEREAS for approximately six decades preceding the first colonial settlement in New Gloucester, the so-called French and Indian Wars raged across the east coast as native Wabanaki warriors sided with the French in efforts to halt the British expansion into Wabanaki lands; and

WHEREAS the Town’s first colonial inhabitants settled on Gloucester Hill in 1737 building nineteen wood frame homes and a sawmill on Stevens Brook, but after less than five years they abandoned their settlement in light of the local Wabanaki tribe’s resistance to takeover of their ancestral lands by the British; and

WHEREAS the French and Indian Wars continued for three more decades resulting in violence, retribution and atrocities by parties fighting for survival or dominion over the territory and natural resources of what are now known as the New England states and Canadian maritime provinces; and

WHEREAS some of the colonial settlers returned to New Gloucester in 1753, this time building a 50’ x 50’ two-story Blockhouse defended by two swivel guns and surrounded by 110’ long palisade stockade where 12 families and a garrison of six soldiers lived together for about six years during a period of violence, before hostilities subsided after the local Wabanaki retreated north; and

The Chandler family acquired much of what is now RRCT’s Intervale Preserve (Lower Village parcels) in 1850. They had settled across the street in 1762 and remained through the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Chandler family, descended from the Pilgrims of Plymouth and early settlers of old North Yarmouth, included Revolutionary War tavern owners, patriots, and soldiers. The expanded Intervale Preserve includes portions of the lot that was cleared in the 1750’s for the New Gloucester Blockhouse, a battleground during the French and Indian Wars. 

With access from the center of the historic village, the expanded Intervale Preserve abuts historic homes and churches, the library, and the town hall, all connected by a portion of the historic Portland-Lewiston Interurban rail bed (now a pedestrian, snowmobile, and equestrian trail, only partially open to the public).

Downhill, the preserve includes land near the historic train station on the Maine Central (now Pan Am) Railroad. Stevens Brook which runs through the parcel, was the site of the first sawmill of the initial Anglo settlers. The open meadows and marshes on the parcel were first a town common (Proprietry) that produced a communal harvest of hay and straw, and later divided into small agricultural lots in the Proprietor’s First Division.

Producing natural hay for oxen and more, the Intervale Preserve’s grassy marshes with a view of Gloucester Hill are the reason that the Propriety (Massachusetts land speculators) chose Gloucester Hill in the 1740s as the first English-settled foothold in the Wabanaki’s upper Wescustogo landscape. In the earliest years the Propriety gave common proportions of the marshes’ hay and straw to each settler as a form of Town Common. Later, each settler in the First Division was given a few acres of private ownership in the meadows and marshes for private harvest. European ownership claims continued following various wars with the Wabanaki, including deaths on both sides on Gloucester Hill, and land claims settlements in 1980. For two centuries (1740 to 1940) the proximity of the agricultural parcels to transportation (the Royal and then the Maine Central) gave the parcels great value. Straw and hay were shipped to Portland and Boston for horses and packing. Today RRCT is re-assembling those small wet fragmented parcels of ownership as part of the growing Intervale Preserve, while beavers continue to convert drained marshes to lush habitat. The meadows provide hunting ground, flood control, and clean water for the region.

May 5, 2020 Intervale Wild Fire

On May 5, 2020 a wildfire burned through the marshes and part of the trail at RRCT’s Intervale Preserve. To learn more about the fire and to see photos as nature rejuvenates visit: Intervale Wildfire

Planning for future parking, future trails

In 2022, RRCT is working with a working group including town staff and neighbors to scope village parking a new trails on the property. Click here for a pre-consultation trail planning map. Click here for December 2021 meeting notes and more.