VIRGIL PARRIS FOREST
LOCATION: Sodom Road, Buckfield
DISTANCE: Two 2-mile loop trails
FUN FACT: Trails feature views of South Pond, small waterfalls along two streams, and geological features such as whalebacks, talus slopes, and glacial erratics.
Virgil Parris Forest
Packard Trail, a two-mile loop designed to support year-round activities. The gentle trail is punctuated by views of South Pond, small waterfalls along two prominent streams, and geological features such as whalebacks, talus slopes, and glacial erratics.
The trail is named for the Packard family, who settled here in the mid-1800s. The farmstead’s foundations and family cemetery are on site. Daniel Packard was given this land in Buckfield as compensation for his service in the Revolution. Daniel was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1749 and married Elizabeth Connelly of Cork, Ireland during the war. Daniel died in Woodstock, Maine in 1836, and is buried there. It is said that Daniel and Elizabeth were the prototypes for James Fennimore Cooper’s Sergeant Hollister and Betty Flannigan in Cooper’s novel The Spy. Please respect the family’s history and archaeological traces for others to learn from and enjoy.
The 1,250-acre Virgil Parris Forest was established in 2008 by the Trust via a generous private donation. Portions of the Forest were protected by grants from the Land for Maine’s Future program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to enhance the natural resources and wildlife habitat surrounding South Pond. Funding for the Packard Trail design and construction were provided by the Land for Maine’s Future program, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Recreational Trails Program, and generous private donations. Along with technical support from the River and Trails Conservation Assistance Program, hundreds of hours of volunteer trail building time have been invested to create these trails for your enjoyment.
The Forest was named after Virgil Parris honoring his service to Buckfield in the Maine Senate and House of Representatives.
The Lowell Trail, named after the Lowell family of Buckfield, is another non-motorized trail in the early stages of development, shown to the east of the pond on the map. If you are interested in helping with trail work, please contact us.
Trail use is free. We welcome donations to support trail maintenance. The Trust is a nonprofit that relies upon membership contributions. If you would like to support our land conservation efforts, or our preserves, trails, and active outdoor programs, please make a donation or become a member online.
Be safety conscious; use trails at your own risk.
No unauthorized motorized vehicles.
Stay on trails, avoid short cuts.
Dogs should be on voice command at all times.
Please, no horses.
Preserve closes at dusk.
Carry out what you have carried in.
Preserve the past: please respect the Packard cemetery and homestead foundation. Leave cultural artifacts where you find them.
No campfires, no camping.
Respect wildlife, observe quietly from a distance.
Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
TRAILS & PRESERVES
This project was initiated in 2001 when the V.D. Parris Preservation Corporation, Inc. (VDPPC) purchased 1236 acres (Parcel C) from a timber company after the land had been harvested. Dedicated to conserving the varied wildlife habitat and natural resources on the parcel, the VDPPC contacted WFLT in 2005 about accepting the donated fee ownership of the parcel by 2009. The goal of protecting the entire shoreline of South Pond in perpetuity was established at that time. In 2006, WFLT began negotiations with the owner of the Parcels A and B (the 14 acre parcel B was to be developed into cottage lots.) The result of the negotiations was a two stage process of acquisition. In March 2008, WFLT purchased an easement protecting the 44 acre Parcel A which includes 18.5 acres of wetlands, 1,936’ of shoreline, and 3,100’ of stream buffer. Linked to that sale via a signed purchase and sales agreement was the acquisition by WFLT of Parcel B. That purchase protects 14 acres of wooded slopes from development and an additional 524’ of shoreline. In 2009, the fee ownership of the 1,236 acre Parcel C was be donated to WFLT by the V.D. Parris Preservation Corporation. WFLT has granted a 1 acre water access easement on the east shore of South Pond to the State.
The Virgil Parris Forest is recognized for its high value plant and animal habitat by Maine’s Beginning with Habitat program which was developed by the University of Maine's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit under the direction of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW), the Maine Natural Areas Program, (MNAP) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Virgil Parris Forest exhibits areas of High Value Plant and Animal Habitats, Exemplary Natural Communities; and Significant Wildlife Habitat (for deer, waterfowl and wading birds), and provides habitat for a rare plant species ranked imperiled in Maine, S2, Asplenium playneuron, the Ebony Spleenwort.
A recent GIS analysis completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Gulf of Maine Coastal Program for the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Maine watershed indicates that the South Pond parcels include highest value (top 25%)freshwater wetland, forested and grassland habitat. More specifically, the GIS analysis predicts that the South Pond parcel, located in Buckfield, Maine provides high value habitat for 38 of 91 priority trust species of the USFWS. The South Pond parcels provides particularly high value habitat, in comparison with the rest of the Gulf of Maine watershed, for 19 of the 91 species.
The Comprehensive Plan for Buckfield, Maine (proposed 2006) states that the town should “manage development in the watersheds of North, South, and Mud ponds, and to ensure that water quality will not be degraded, and to minimize long term cumulative increases in phosphorus”, and to “assure that activities and development do not degrade the water quality of those portions of the Nezinscot River and its tributaries that flow within its borders.” South Pond drains north to the Nezinscot, which drains into the Androscoggin River, which in turn flows into the Gulf of Maine.
Offering management challenges and opportunities for the Virgil Parris Forest is the ITS89, a multi-use trail owned and managed by the towns of Buckfield and Hebron that follows an historic railroad bed.
Funding for this project has been provided by the Land For Maine’s Future Fund, The North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Town of Buckfield, Healthy Oxford Hills, the Oxford ATV and Snowmobile Clubs, and the Buckfield Historical Society, Bates College, and SAD17 school are all active stakeholders in this project.
Trail Design by Caribou Recreation, LLC
The Western Foothills Land Trust property surrounding South Pond in Buckfield, Maine offers a two mile trail network designed to support year round activities such as hiking, running, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and wildlife observation. The trail loop rests within approximately 150 acres of the 1,236-acre property, and uses a forested area situated along and above the western shore of South Pond. The route is punctuated by innumerable scenic features including views of the pond, several marshes, and North Hill, as well as a dozen or so significant glacial erratics, and small waterfalls along two prominent streams. The trail network offers five short side trails to various scenic points including an historic family cemetery.
The trailhead and parking area located in a quiet area off Sodom Road in Buckfield adds to the remote feel of the property. The two mile loop trail has a mechanically prepared tread surface with a width of about four feet, which allows two people to walk abreast. The overall grades of the trail are kept to a minimum, offering gently rolling hills that are suitable for the very young as well as the elderly. The trail begins at the parking area, and after 100 feet, forks to the North and South. Following the trail to the North, it winds past several stone foundations, and a short side trail to the right leads to Packard Cemetery. The loop trail continues by skirting below the cemetery and in about a quarter of a mile, a very short spur trail will lead to view the first of two significant streams.
The main trail turns away from the stream, and passes over the top of a rocky knoll to begin a series of switchback turns. At the bottom of the hill, another spur trail on the left leads to a scenic waterfall bordered by low cliff bands. The trail continues along the stream, and as the land begins to gradually form into a small esker, red and white pines become the predominant forest. The ridge ends on a prominent point on South Pond and offers clear views of the pond and North Hill. The trail works along and above the shore, but turns back from the pond to maintain moderate grades in descending and climbing a second esker. Here more scenic views of the pond are had. The trail again turns away from the pond, passing over a bridge on a small stream, then climbing to the largest of the three eskers. Here the red and white pine forest is open and the views of the pond are expansive. The trail dips down to follow the shoreline for a short stretch before turning and heading uphill away from the pond, over the tops of two smaller eskers. A spur trail leads left to the marsh and offers beautiful views and birding opportunities. The loop trail crosses a small stream and starts a gradual climb. It winds through hardwood forests dominated by red oaks and is dotted with numerous hefty boulders. Near the high point, a spur trail heads left to a significant waterfall on a stream bordered by impressive glacial erratics, in a hemlock stand. The main trail at this junction continues gradually climbing, taking the trail user past more large boulders while winding through a maple and oak forest. The route passes over two streams and then rejoins the access trail near the parking area.
Due to the varied and often dramatic nature of the property, the trail can draw and entertain use by a wide population. The South Pond trail system is unique as it offers numerous impressive scenic features. The trail allows for a multitude of outdoor activities, including, but not limited to, snowshoeing in the winter, and running, walking, cycling and birding during the remainder of the year. The trail’s gentle grades invite novices, the elderly, and the very young to experience the multitude of unique natural features often only found in more arduous landscapes. Residents and visitors of the Oxford Hills Region are fortunate to have access to the historic property, and it will be enjoyed for generations to come.