Hacker’s Hill for the holidays

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Year-end donations could give the campaign to purchase acreage on Hacker’s Hill a running start as the final five months of fundraising approach.

According to Carrie Walia, executive director of Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT), the nonprofit trying to buy the Hacker’s Hill property for public access, fundraising pledges are ideal at year’s end because they are tax deductible, and will help to achieve LELT’s goal.

“We’d be thrilled to reach the $500,000 point by Dec. 31,” Walia said on Tuesday.

As of this week, the campaign drive has raised $452,000, she said. A total of $800,000 is needed for the purchase, while one-eighth of that amount will be used for transaction costs as well as for perpetual care once the 27-acre tract is secured, she said.

Regarding the removal of religious artifacts, as requested by Land for Maine’s Future (LMF), which has promised $220,000, Walia said the latest word is “wait and see.”

A letter this month from LMF’s Sam Morris stated, “LMF is currently reviewing the recently-submitted letter (from ACLU) and intends to work with Loon Echo towards the mutual goal of protecting the hilltop from development.”

“LMF reaffirmed that they are committed to the success of the Hacker’s Hill project,” the letter said.

Walia clarified that because the religious artifact piece is being examined does not mean the project is in jeopardy, and there continues to be ardent support in the community.

In mid-December, as part of the fundraising campaign, LELT finished sending out mailings to all individuals and businesses on the Casco property tax list, Walia said.

“Already, we are seeing some of those gifts being mailed in,” she said.

Casco residents and business owners received the flyers because Casco is “the hosting home town,” Walia explained.

“We have limited resources to cover expenses for mailings. So, we haven’t reached out to neighboring towns like Raymond or Naples,” she said.

“It would be great if anyone in the region who appreciates Hacker’s Hill could send a gift of any amount,” Walia said.

Grant Plummer and Eric Dibner, two members of the Hacker’s Hill Steering Committee, agree December is a great time to give — not just putting gifts under the Christmas tree, but putting aside this green space for years to come.

Dibner said it is not uncommon to see a final push of charitable donations at the end of the year, because people can include those financial gifts when filing taxes.

Both Dibner and Plummer said they would be involved in future fundraising. They said Walia would be guiding the committee on the next plan of action for the New Year. Loon Echo does not have any wintertime events planned on the Quaker Ridge site for 2012.

However, on April 21, LELT will hold a second hawk migration watch on Hacker’s Hill.

Dick Anderson, the former director of the Maine Audubon Society, will lead the springtime hawk watch that will last most of the day, Walia said.

“People will be watching, and counting to see how many hawks they see return,” she said.

“We will also plan another event in the summertime to celebrate Loon Echo taking ownership — if we raise the necessary funds,” Walia said.

For more information about the Hacker’s Hill fund drive, go to www.loonecholandtrust.org

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