Friday, December 22, 2023

Preliminary work proceeding for new Windham/Raymond Middle School

By Ed Pierce

RSU 14 in in the final stages of real estate closings for three parcels of land that will make up the new Windham/Raymond Middle School site and while that is taking place, work is ongoing to finalize site layout work and obtain permits prior to the building’s construction.

RSU 14 has entered the final stages of real estate closing on
three pieces of land making up the site of the new
Windham/Raymond Middle School. 
In November, a plurality of voters in the school district, which encompasses Windham and Raymond, approved a referendum to build the new school with about 77 percent of construction costs paid by the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program. In Windham, voters supported the middle school construction referendum voters with 3,769 voting yes and 2,257 voting no. Raymond residents opposed the referendum with 975 voters to voting no and 739 voting for the referendum.

The new school will use a team-teaching concept where students will be divided into 12 teams to provide personal connection and then broken up into smaller instructional teams. Incorporating Integrative Project Based Learning, Team Teaching is a method of instruction where a group of teachers work together to plan, conduct, and evaluate learning activities for the same group of students and the school’s design takes all of that into account with the team areas of the building allowing for a science teacher, math teacher, social studies teacher, and an English teacher to be in the same teaming area. Research has shown the delivery of content through integrated units and projects increases student engagement and ultimately student achievement.

Christopher Howell, RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools, said plenty of work has been done since the referendum was approved last month.

“Within the next few weeks, we will have closed on the property at 61 Windham Center Road, 77 Windham Center Road, and a one-acre parcel on River Road,” said Christopher Howell, RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools. “We are underway with the financing of the project. This process has included the selection of a bond broker and an initial credit rating for the district. We are pleased to announce that the district received the highest possible initial rating that an organization can receive for a first rating.”

Howell said that the first bond anticipation note for initial project costs was acquired last week. The proceeds from the sale will pay for the land, initial Department of Environmental Protection permit fees, architectural fees, as well as other expenses that the district has incurred to date.”

The civil engineering firm for the project, Stantec, has been working to finalize the site layout for the project and have been working to finalize our permit for the Department of Environmental Protection,” Howell said.

“We are anticipating that we will be able to submit the permit to the DEP on Dec. 22,” he said. “The DEP permit takes roughly 180 days to process. We are hoping to have the site development portion of the project out to bid in April.”

Along with that, Howell said that the architectural team from Lavallee Brensinger Architects has been holding stakeholder meetings with administrators, teachers and support staff who will be staffing the new buildings.

“The meetings are feedback sessions on previous concept layouts to ensure that we have the best possible design layouts prior to the development of construction drawings for the project,” he said.

According to Howell, Bill Hansen, the district’s Director of Facilities, Property Services and Special Projects, has been working with the HVAC engineers and electrical engineers as they work to design a building that operates efficiently and economically for years to come.

The original Windham Middle School was built in 1977 and intended for a capacity of 483 students. That number has grown in the last year to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949. Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond was built in 1960.

RSU 14 first applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before eventually gaining approval in March 2021. Once a district applies for funding, Maine Department of Education reviews and rates the projects based upon need. The State Board of Education then funds as many projects from the list as available debt limit funds allow. Working with the State Board of Education, Maine DOE establishes both size and financial limits on projects.

Local school districts may exceed these limits at local expense through municipal bonds, but the state bears the major financial burden of capital costs for approved school construction projects. As such, Maine DOE first looks at the possibility of renovations or renovations with additions and new school construction projects are only considered in instances in which renovation projects are not economically or educationally feasible, which was the case with Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond.

More than 132 potential 35-plus acre sites were originally identified for review by the RSU 14 WMS Building Committee and then ranked according to transportation accessibility, utility availability, environmental impact, and a range of other factors. RSU 14’s Board of Directors entered into an option-to-purchase agreement with the owner of 61 Windham Center Road in Windham and the owner agreed to take the property off the market for a period of up to two years in 2021.

Under the project plans for the new middle school, the school would educate Windham and Raymond students in Grades 5 to 8, meaning Jordan-Small School would close. Windham fifth graders currently attending Manchester School would attend the new school, as would Jordan-Small Middle School students from Raymond. The new school is being designed for a capacity of 1,200 students.

Howell said that it is anticipated construction on the new Windham/Raymond Middle School building would be completed by the fall of 2027. Windham and Raymond students who will be entering grades 1 to 4 this fall will be the first classes to occupy the building. <

Windham author publishes first detective thriller

By Kaysa Jalbert

Imagine if the well-known and beloved city of Portland, Maine was suddenly struck with a series of murders left for the local detective, his associates and an underaged bartender at Sully’s Tap to solve. Newly published author Philip C. Baker of Windham paints this macabre imagery in his first Maine-based thriller called “Hunger Hill.”

Windham resident Philip C. Baker has written
and published his first novel, a detective thriller
set in Maine called 'Hunger Hill." It is
available for purchase on Amazon and through
the Maine Authors Publishing Cooperative.
The novel’s setting is Munjoy Hill, an east end area in Portland popular for walks and panoramic views for real-life Mainers, but it is no place for relaxing and unwinding if you are a character in Baker’s crime thriller novel.

“The idea for a book in my experience is a collection of a million ideas,” Baker said. “They don’t all come at once. They start to seep into the imagination; before you know it, they are the inspiration for a story or your novel.”

Baker is one of many individuals who have become writers by creating novels out of the inspiration of their hometowns or states. The dear state of Maine can be thanked for its abundance of hypnotic landscapes and panoramas that animates one’s imagination, including that of Stephen King.

“I start writing in the morning and on an inspired day, I forget about lunch and work until the sun blinds me through my west-facing window in my office,” said Baker. “I carry a notebook to harvest ideas and inspirations, as they come to me during my non-writing times, so in essence, I’m always working on the book.”

The novel took two-plus years to complete, as Baker was limited to writing on weekends and around his customary life consisting of his profession as a sales manager, traveling with family, and caring for their rescued dogs.

“Now that I have Hunger Hill to sell, I find myself at events and on Facebook spending less time writing and more time running the business of peddling the book, a necessary evil.”

The new author says he didn’t have many expectations for this book, just hopes and dreams.

“I dreamed I’d finish Hunger Hill in a publishable format and therefore be able to share my ideas with people,” he said. “I’ve hoped I would leave something behind, a legacy of sorts. The expectation that I did not have was that I’d make money doing this. It’s a hobby that I plan to continue.”

Bill Bushnell of “Bushnell on Books” in the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel said about Hunger Hill, "This is a well-crafted crime thriller with loads of action, police procedures, plot surprises and a dramatic conclusion."

Baker says his family and friends are all very supportive of his writing, but not as ardent as his wife, Cynthia, who he says, has read the book more than any one person should be expected to. In addition, he has received support and help navigating social media from other fellow authors.

“Not only that, but I have fans,” said Baker. “A bartender at a restaurant I frequent grabbed her phone when she saw me. She had taken a picture of a page she loved and read back to me things that I had written. It was pretty cool.”

The front cover of “Hunger Hill” is a painting of a white car turning down a lit-up city street, the details may be familiar to Portland residents. The illustration was done by the authors niece, Elisie Bolduc.

Hunger Hill is the start of a series consisting of four books that Baker is progressively bringing to life, maintaining the same characters in each but dragging them to new settings such as Western Maine, Down East and “The County.”

Baker says his method for writing is unconventional.

“I get many questions about how I prepare; Do I outline? Do I write linearly? I do neither. I jump around and might even write the ending before much of the rest,” he said. “In all this jumping around, I have to keep track by outlining as I write, not as a predecessor to the writing process. It’s more like a Table of Contents and I’ll highlight it with colors to track changes to a specific thread for example.”

Philip Baker grew up in Falmouth, as the youngest brother of two older sisters on 14 acres of woods and fields. The Baker family owned a sailboat and went on vacation leaving little room for dull moments.

By the age of 10, Philip would ride his bike to the Portland Country Club where he would caddy for the members or “swells” as his father would say.

As an author, Baker is also a busy reader from a Dennis LeHane mystery to an Elmore Leonard psychological thriller. If it came down to being stuck on an island with just one book, Baker says he would choose “Catch 22.”

His first novel “Hunger Hill” is now available on Amazon and through the Maine Authors Publishing Cooperative. <


Friday, December 15, 2023

Backpack program tackles food insecurity in community

By Ed Pierce

The lyrics of an old Christian hymn proclaim simply “we rise by lifting others” and that’s precisely what the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program strives to do.

Volunteers gathered in the Windham Middle School 
cafeteria on Tuesday, Dec. 12 after packing student 
backpacks with food for them over the Christmas
break from school. The program is seeking donations
to help RSU 14 children overcome food insecurity
and go on to success in their lives.
The initiative was launched during the 2011-2012 school year to assist school children in RSU 14 to overcome food insecurity so they can grow up healthy, do their best work in school, and become successful adults. With Maine passing the “School Meals For All” legislation in 2021, all students across the state are given access to school meals, but some struggling families in the community still face the daunting challenge of feeding children on weekends and over vacations when school is not in session.

This is where the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program comes in. It provides food to supplement children in need over weekends and school breaks during the school year. Each “Backpack” contains breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as snacks. The backpacks are discreetly distributed to the students by teachers or staff at each RSU 14 school and are packed every Tuesday by a team of volunteers at Windham Middle School.

Volunteer Marge Govoni of Windham says that research indicates that children who grow up in food insecure households sometimes trail their peers in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development and this program is designed to help those students succeed.

“When the program began 12 years ago, it provided meals for approximately 50 students. It has since increased in number to 120 students from both Windham and Raymond schools being served,” Govoni said. “The increase in participation paired with rising food cost has made it more important than ever that we keep this program open and available to as many children as we can.”

In data collected in 2022 by the National Health Interview Study, a direct correlation was shown between household food insecurity and significantly worse general health in American children, including some acute and chronic health problems, and heightened emergency room hospital visits.

The Windham/Raymond Backpack Program only accepts monetary donations to ensure the nutritional items and menu are similarly based and meet the needs of the child.

“In order to continue to serve up to 120 children each weekend during the school year, we need more members of the community to support our program,” Govoni said. “We are reaching out to local businesses asking for additional sponsors to this program. Our biggest and most consistent contributor over the past several years has been Windham Weaponry and their generous staff, who unfortunately recently announced they will be closing down.”

If you are considering donating, Govoni said that donation benchmarks are one bag for one child at $10, and one child for the school year at $300.

“Of course, any amount is helpful, and 100 percent of the donations go toward buying food and supplies with no administrative cost or fees applied,” she said. “Using this program to give students food for the weekend ensures that come Monday morning when they return to school, they will not be hungry and ready to learn. I am passionate about this program and making sure that students have access to food over the weekend and it is run totally on donations and the work of some wonderful and caring volunteers.”

RSU 14 Chef Ryan Roderick said that the Backpack Program is so valuable because it helps to fill the gaps.

“It is not uncommon to think that because school meals are free that these kids should already have everything they need. The unfortunate truth is that even though breakfasts and lunches are available to all students, there are still hundreds of children who leave school on Friday afternoon and have no certainty that they will be fed a complete meal until Monday morning when they return to school,” Roderick said. “If that is the case, you can bet those students are going to be the ones struggling to stay focused, stay awake and to be the best version of themselves when they are in attendance. The backpack program helps those children sustain over the weekend, to feel a sense of comfort and normalcy and to be confident knowing they will not have to feel hungry, tired, or irritable by the time they get back to school. Every child deserves to feel happy and energized and to be given the best possible chance to succeed and the Backpack Program is our way to ensure that chance is given.”

Govoni said that making a donation can help transform the lives of the RSU 14 students whose lives can be made a little easier with a nutritional meal that is not always available to them.

“We cannot make this program work without the help of our very generous businesses, organizations and residents of Windham and Raymond,” she said. “We are very grateful and cannot thank those who have contributed monetary donations or volunteer their time to help make this program successful.”

To make a donation helping ensure that the food insecure children of the Windham and Raymond communities are nourished and well fed, mail a check or money order to: School Nutrition Program, Attn: Ryan Roderick, 228 Windham Center Road Windham, ME 04062 Note: Backpack Program.

Online donations can also be made at - Select “all other student activities,” fill in your information, for a specific school, select “School Nutrition.” For *Payment Description* write “Backpack Program.”

For more details about the Windham/Raymond Backpack Program, call 207-892-1800, Ext. 2012 or send an email to or <

Blind date leads to 65 years of marriage for local couple

By Ed Pierce

A blind date isn’t always terrible and for one local couple, it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime, as they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

Ronald and Alice Walker married on Dec. 6, 1958 in South
Portland and to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary,
they were treated to a special lunch and party by the staff
at Ledgewood Manor in Windham, where they now reside.
Ronald and Alice Walker were married on Dec. 6, 1958 in South Portland, and they were treated to a special lunch on their anniversary by the staff at Ledgewood Manor in Windham where they now reside.

Alice is originally from Rumford and moved to Portland as a girl. She was working for a bank when friends set her up on a blind date in 1958.

“I had heard about this place called the Log Cabin Restaurant on Ocean Street in South Portland near the old Dyer &McLaughlin Grocery and we agreed to meet there for dinner,” she said. “Little did I know what would come of it.”

Growing up in Westbrook, Ronald was always mechanically inclined and had started a job working in piping and welding when he first was approached to meet Alice for a blind date at the restaurant in South Portland.

“I first thought that she was stuck up,” he said. “But then as I got to know her, she kind of grew on me.”

The couple started dating and eventually fell in love, got engaged and after their marriage then settled into life at their own home in South Portland. Soon two children came along, including a daughter, Lori, who now lives in Gray, and a son, Craig, who lives in Gorham.

Both Ronald and Alice continued to work and raise their family and by the time Alice’s career was finished, she had accumulated more than 46 years of service while working in the banking industry.

Like many other young parenting couples in Maine at the time, the Walkers devoted their free time to their children and their life together as a family.

“Ronald liked bowling and so did I, so we bowled a lot and we bowled together or on the same team,” Alice said.

The entire family were avid bowlers and Ronald’s twin brother, Roland, once served as president of the Greater Portland Bowling Association.

“We spent a lot of time at the bowling alley when the kids were little and as a family, we attended many ball games all over the place too,” Alice said.

The Walker family also spent many carefree summers swimming, camping, boating, and fishing on Crescent Lake at Kokatosi Campground in Raymond.

“Those sure were good times and truly unforgettable,” Ronald said. “It’s a beautiful spot for families.”

After a lifetime of eating Alice’s cooking, Ronald says one of her meals that she cooked for the family stands out above all the rest.

“Her meatloaf was really something to look forward to after a hard day at work,” he said. “It was very good and very tasty. It became my favorite of everything that she cooked for us.”

According to Alice, her husband has always been a typical man and although he’s rather rough around the edges, she learned to adapt to his cantankerous ways through the years.

“I’ve learned just to ignore him and to agree with everything he says and then do exactly the opposite,” she said. “It’s something that’s helped me over the years. He does have a heart of gold though.”

As time passed, the Walker family has grown to now include four grandchildren, including triplets.

Now in their 80s, Ronald and Alice Walker look back fondly at their life together and say that as their health declined, they are grateful to be able to be together at Ledgewood Manor in Windham.

They say they are blessed to have found each other back in 1958 and that their marriage has lasted so long.

For their anniversary lunch, the couple dined on macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, and sparkling juice at a table adorned with flower petals. Alice was presented with a beautiful assortment of roses to commemorate the special occasion and everyone attending the celebration was treated to a piece of chocolate cake.

Both Ronald and Alice say they are grateful that others have remembered their wedding anniversary and made such a fuss about it.

Their advice for couples contemplating getting married is simple.

“Save your money for retirement,” Ronald said. “You’ll really need it.” <

Friday, December 8, 2023

Windham High students practice real-world science through salmon spawning

By Lorraine Glowczak

The fishery on Mill Street in Raymond was swimming with hands-on science in late November as ecology and recently arrived immigrant students from Windham High School helped Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) scientists weigh, measure, and spawn Sebago Lake land-locked salmon from Panther Run.

Students from WHS experienced science at
work while helping Maine IFW spawn
salmon late last month. Here student Riley
Mobley presses eggs from a salmon while an
IFW field biologist looks on. 
The students assisted IFW field biologists extract eggs from female salmon that were immediately fertilized by the male salmon. They helped to weigh, measure, and return the fish into the Sebago Lake watershed.

The aim of salmon spawning along the shores of Sebago Lake is to support Maine ecology and replenish healthy salmon numbers for fishing purposes. The late chilly November morning provided the students with an essential hands-on adventure, giving them a chance to see ecological purposes and science at work.

“When students graduate from WHS, we hope they are leaving with skills and practices of science that they can carry into any field they enter,” WHS science and ecology teacher Lindsay Hanson said. “The experience highlighted the importance of asking good scientific questions, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations in science.”

According to Hanson, the participating students observed these skills being used in a real way.

“We were able to listen to the IFW biologists discussing new trends they were seeing in this salmon population and posing new questions they would later investigate using the data they were gathering,” she said. “Scientific curiosity at work.”

It was also a special treat for the new Maine students from Angola, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and France, who all had a chance to connect their learning about Maine outside of the classroom setting.

“It provided the opportunity to see how academic language and the content and skills they learn in school are used professionally,” Elizabeth Moran, RSU 14’s Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) said.

Moran also said that her students were excited to hold the fish, strip the salmon for fertilization, and help collect data.

“They enjoyed being a part of the actual process of helping to produce the next generation of salmon in Maine,” she said. “This kind of work is authentic and contagious, and it inspires students to learn in a creative and fun way.”

The spawning of salmon from Sebago Lake has been happening for many years and occurs every fall in conjunction with the fish’s natural cycle to swim upstream. In this case, into Panther Pond from Sebago Lake.

“During the second week of November, we open up the dam on Panther Pond to draw the fish up the river from Sebago Lake,” Stephen Twemblay, IFW Fish Culturalist supervisor said. “Since they can’t get through the dam, the salmon swim up a fish ladder into the fish hatchery. We then separate the male and female fish. Both are differentiated by fin clip class or fins clipped in different areas depending upon the year, denoting the age of salmon. We do this so we always know how old that fish is to provide the best genetic variable.”

After the eggs are spawned and counted, they are transported to the fish hatchery in Casco where they are incubated through the winter. In the spring, most of the salmon are returned to Sebago Lake to keep up with the demand for fishing. The rest of the eggs are sent to other hatcheries around the state and to other state agencies in the U.S. and Canada as needed.

This real-world experience was intended to show students the various ways that science plays a role in our lives.

“I always tell my students that loving science doesn't mean you need to be a scientist,” Hanson said. “There are environmental lawyers, policymakers, and computer engineers working in science-based companies, etc. Pairing an interest in science with a focus on another sector can be an avenue to explore. It is difficult for students to see how science incorporates into real-life situations or see what careers related to science might look like. Most scientists don't wear lab coats and it was great to see that scientists also wear Muck boots and go fish.” <

American Legion Color Guard visits Raymond Elementary students

By Ed Pierce

Patriotism is a feeling of pride in what this nation stands for, what it has accomplished through the years, and what it is still hoping to do, both as a beacon of liberty for all American citizens and a shining example for the rest of the world.

American Legion Field-Allen Post
148 Americanism Officer John 
Facella presents a Certificate of
Appreciation to Raymond
Elementary School teacher Susan
Brackett as part of the school's
Veteran's Remembrance 
Celebration on Nov. 29.
Every day, members of the military show their loyalty to the United States by sacrificing for its ideals at home and on duty around the world.

Those ideals include what our nation’s founding fathers wrote and signed to in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

To that end, Windham’s Field-Allen Post 148 strives to teach and lead children through its Americanism Program what it means to be an American and to serve our nation with distinction. Such was the case on Nov. 29, when a contingent of veterans from the post under the direction of Post 148 Americanism Officer John Facella of Raymond visited Raymond Elementary School.

In a special remembrance celebration at the school, the veterans posted the colors in the school gymnasium. Students sang patriotic songs and performed skits related to military service.

During the ceremony, Facella presented American Legion Certificates of Appreciation to several school staff members who helped coordinate the event.

Those receiving certificates included Beth Peavey, Raymond Elementary School Principal, and RES Fourth Grade teachers Susan Brackett and Tracy Doyle. Also recognized for her years of support for veterans in her classroom was RES Second Grade Teacher Aileen Pelletier, who is a member of the Post 148 Auxiliary and whose son serves in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the ceremony in the gymnasium, the Post 148 Honor Guard members spent time with the second and fourth grade students for a Question-and- Answer session in the classroom and they discussed what it is like to be a U.S. military veteran.

Members of the American Legion Post 148 Color Guard who were part of the event were Officer in Charge Arn Heggers, Dick Graves, John Facella, and Craig Pride.

The purpose of the event was to show students that to be patriotic, they must learn as much as they can about our nation and to read and speak to others, especially veterans, about what American means to them.

Above all else, the Americanism Program encourages students to think about their own feelings for their country and to respect the history and ideals that make our nation strong. <

Friday, December 1, 2023

East Windham Conservation Area officially opens Saturday

By Ed Pierce

A dream more than three decades in the making is about to be realized when the East Windham Conservation Area officially opens to the public at noon on Saturday.

Ceremonies for the long anticipated opening of the East 
Windham Conservation Area will be at noon Saturday,
Dec. 2 at the Lowell Preserve Trailhead in Windham. The
site includes 661 acres of forested land and undeveloped
water frontage on Little Duck Pond as shown in this photo.
It also features the 150-acre Deer Wintering Area and the
580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest hill in Windham.
Land at the site is 99 percent forested and includes 661 acres with 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, some 38 acres of wetlands and numerous headwater streams. Through its conservation the area will directly help protect the water quality for Little Duck Pond, Highland Lake, Forest Lake, and the Pleasant River.

Creating the conserved area has been accomplished as a partnership between the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the Town of Windham and a special dedication ceremony will be held at noon Saturday at the Lowell Preserve Trailhead in Windham featuring several guest speakers.

About 10 miles of new multi-use trails have been built at the site by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the land also includes a 150-acre Deer Wintering Area, a traditional site for hunting by permission, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest spot in Windham.

With its completion, the East Windham Conservation Area will directly abut more than 1,000 acres of other conserved land in Windham and Falmouth, including Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve, providing 20 miles of interconnected trails and five trailheads for public access. It will become part of the largest wildlife habitat and trail access corridor in the Greater Portland area, providing 2,000 acres of conserved land and a 30-mile trail network connecting Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve.

Funding to create the area was about $3.7 million and included a $1 million grant from the Land for Maine’s Future initiative. In 2021, voters from Windham approved a $1.8 million conservation bond using open space impact fees and another $400,000 raised privately from public donations. A Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant for $500,000 was obtained to pay for the infrastructure improvements at the site.

A town-wide survey in Windham conducted over a six-month period in 2021 and 2022 concluded that conserving the land to remain undeveloped for wildlife habitat, water quality protection and rural character was the top benefit to be derived from the project. The second-highest ranked community benefit was to provide multiple-use outdoor recreation and create access for the whole community.

Rachelle Curran Apse, executive director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust says that the outdoor experience offered by the East Windham Conservation Area will make it a destination for walking, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird and wildlife watching.

“This regional scale project, which is both a destination for outdoor recreation and critical for wildlife habitat, has only been possible due to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Town of Windham’s conservation bond, lead business partner Gorham Savings Bank, numerous private foundations, and over 400 local individuals and families donating to make this project a reality.”

Land for Maine’s Future officials say it was exciting to be part of such as expansive and significant conservation project which will provide recreational opportunities for future generations of Mainers.

“We have been excited about this project since the Town of Windham and Presumpscot Regional Land Trust first brought it to our attention in its exploratory phase,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Land for Maine’s Future. “This project embodies the best of public and private partnerships working together to protect the places that support our wildlife, our quality of life, and our economy.”

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the town is grateful to the Lands for Maine’s Future organization for helping to fund this project.

“The timing of this land being available to be conserved for the future with recreational usage combined with the state’s renewed commitment to funding with the Land for Maine’s Future program has been ideal,” Tibbetts said. “The LMF Board’s award to grant the town nearly $1 million for the acquisition of this property is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.”

Windham’s Open Space Plan identifies developing and maintaining open space partnerships and relationships as key mechanisms to grow conservation efforts in the town. When the Windham Town Council formally adopted the Open Space Plan, Windham reached out to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust in 2021 to be an open space partner by holding a conservation easement and sharing responsibility for the trail management on the adjacent 308-acre Lowell Preserve.

During a Windham Town Council meeting in 2022, Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation Director, said that the creation of the East Windham Conservation Area would expand the town’s growing tourist economy by creating a new outdoor destination with miles of accessible forested trails and a spectacular 360-degree view from which will be the only observation tower from on top of one of the highest points in the Greater Portland area.

"Four season recreational opportunities will help local business realize benefits from tourists throughout the year,” said Brooks. “Acquisition of this property will protect resources for hiking, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing, mountain biking, picnicking and other recreational activities. In addition to all the recreational benefits for all ages, there are educational benefits to be considered as well. We do have members from RSU 14 who will serve on the steering committee to help us with educational development. The East Windham Conservation Project offers a unique opportunity for K to 12 educational activities in a large and diverse outdoor classroom setting.”

The project will dramatically expand and diversify recreational opportunities in Windham with the purchase and conservation of 661 acres of land. Currently less than 4 percent of Windham is conserved with recreational access.

In addition to holding the conservation easement, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust will have a shared management agreement for the project land with Windham.

The East Windham Conservation Area’s Phase Two opening will take place in the fall of 2024 once the remaining five miles of trails are built, including a universal access trail, which can be navigated by those with limited mobility and will lead to the scenic overlook and pond views. A third phase of the project is planned for future years and will include an observation tower.

Since the 1990s, Windham residents have identified the East Windham Conservation Area as an important area site to conserve during increasing concerns about local development. It features large undeveloped habitat blocks and superior water quality protection.

Tibbetts said conserving the land ensures that it remains undeveloped as future wildlife habitats and to preserve the town’s rural character while providing a multiple-use outdoor recreation site. <

Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital benefits from WMS Altitude Program book donation

By Matt Pascarella

Windham Middle School’s Altitude Program strives to have students become significant community members with a goal to create hands-on learning opportunities, which aim toward students reaching their highest potential. Last year, the program donated books to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland and this year the group, composed of seventh and eighth graders, decided to do it again.

Windham Middle School eighth graders make a book donation
to Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center
in Portland on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Back row, from left, are
Marcus Farinella, Jo Ricker, Mallory Clement, Jovie 
Jauregui, Sophia McGovern, Mr. Sean Mains, Gloria
Veilluex and Melonie Blackey-Marsh. Front, from left, are
Mrs. Lisa Anderson, Matt Denslow, Sam Day, Mrs. Autumn
Carlsen-Cook, and Miss Bry Warren.
Seventh and eighth graders from the program dropped off a large box filled to the top with books on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

“It really is so important to have gotten all of these incredible books,” said Dana Fadel, Hospital Teacher and School Liaison for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. “They will go into the hands of every patient that we have; and all the patients that we see always ask for books, so this is really critical. It’s much appreciated and will go a long way.”

The patients at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital get to keep the books which are used sometimes in an educational setting or to just pass the time. Fadel asks every student she sees if they’re interested in reading and what they’re interested in - many times, it’s books about subjects she received in the box from Windham Middle School, like Bluey, Taylor Swift, Hardy Boys, or graphic novels.

WMS eighth grader Otis Jordan said donating these books made him feel like he was making a difference.

“I’m helping out kids,” said Windham eighth grader Marcus Farinella. “It feels great.”

The Altitude Program heard that Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital needed books, so they put up posters around Windham Middle School and had boxes where students and staff could donate books. They also made announcements stating there were boxes around the school where books could be donated. Some of the books were donated from members of the Altitude Program, but some also came from a book fair at Windham Middle School where individuals could buy a book and donate a book.

“I wanted to help because I want the kids to be happy and if it means bringing in a few books then I will do it,” said Windham seventh grader Khloe Hardy who helped with the book drive by putting up posters and boxes around the school. “I felt really happy when I helped the kids and that I made a difference.”

According to Farinella, the goal of the Altitude program is to try to bring out the best in every kid in the program and do fun activities, raising their spirits while raising their outlook on life.

“It felt great because you got to give people stuff who might not get stuff all the time,” said Windham eighth grader Julez Jeasey.

WMS eighth grader Jo Ricker agreed.

“When you give, you feel a lot better,” Ricker said. “I like taking time out of my day to help people.”

The goal of the Altitude Program is to try to bring out the best in every kid in the program by performing community building activities, like going shopping or going to the Windham Food Pantry, ice skating or to the Windham skate park. The program teaches life skills and helps them accomplish as much as possible.

“This year we partnered with Ripple Effect ... a kind of outdoor adventure leadership program,” said Altitude Program science teacher Autumn Carlsen-Cook, who is in her second year of the Altitude Program. “We took the seventh and eighth graders to Cow Island last year and they did different outdoor leadership activities where they would challenge themselves to a level of their comfort, so climbing wall, zip line, different games to show working together.”

In partnering with Ripple Effect, the Altitude Program will do monthly excursions during this school year. They take grades outside of the classroom for a full day of community building activities, but also learn applications from these activities.

Every student involved with the Altitude Program say they should continue donating to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital because it feels nice getting a gift from someone your age who knows what you might like to read.

“We came here to help these kids ... they should benefit from our kindness,” said Ricker. “It makes me feel wonderful. If we give them a book, it keeps their mind occupied, it keeps them happy. It would cheer me up if I was in the hospital and I read a book I really enjoyed.” <