Orono Land Trust: Piney Knoll Conservation Area
Piney Knoll Conservation Area (PKCA) is located in the northeast corner of Orono on Marsh Island. It can be reached by taking Park Street towards Old Town and turning right onto Colburn Drive and going to the cul de sac at the end which is the main entrance to PKCA.
PKCA contains 76 acres made up of three parcels obtained over the years. It is composed of a mixture of forested upland, wetlands, a small stream (Vinal Stream) and a two acre field. The uplands range from mixed hardwood and softwood stands to a hemlock stand to a mature white pine/hemlock area. A light harvest of primarily big-tooth aspen was conducted several years ago to provide funds to upgrade the trail system. The harvest created several small openings to stimulate regeneration while other areas were lightly thinned to maintain the mature pine/hemlock stands.
A visitor to PKCA should start at the Colburn Drive cul-de-sac and follow the signs to the Sally Jacobs Memorial located on a small hummock to the right. Sally was the founder of the Orono Land Trust and its first president. She was instrumental in putting together the real estate transfers and acquisitions that allowed the creation of the present PKCA. The trail entrance is thru the gate and up the hill.
A second entrance is located at the end of Penobscot Street. The trail soon divides with trails to the left leading to the Colburn entrance and another up the hill to “Piney Knoll”, a popular destination on PKCA. A third entrance starts at Hillside Drive and across land owned by Orchard Trails and The Avenue to enter PKCA near Sally’s Memorial. The last entrance is on the right side of Marsh Lane. It runs through the woods parallel to a student housing complex and enters PKCA at the ridge trail which leads to Piney Knoll. PKCA has a number of multi-use non-motorized trails. Three of them have color coded blazes on trees marking them. The blue trail runs from Hillside round to Piney Knoll and onto Peter’s Field. There is a white trail that starts at Park Street and crosses Marsh Lane which serves as the trail entrance and has a small parking area. It ends at Penobscot Street. The last blazed trail is the yellow trail which connects to Trail Eleven on University of Maine Land. It is evident from the preceding description of the entrance trails that there are a number of excellent trails in PKCA which the Steward continues to maintain and improve. They are used by hikers, bikers, skiers, dog walkers, etc. throughout the year. PKCA projects for this year include establishing a kiosk at each entrance and erecting several informational signs throughout the property.
On the east side near the Penobscot entrance is a cellar hole believed to be the location of one of Marsh Island’s early residents. Much of the area around the cellar hole had been infested with invasive species – mainly honeysuckle (Japanese) and buckthorn. Several acres of these invasive plants have been removed by the steward and his volunteers.
In summary, PKCA is one example of trails for public use interspersed with areas of habitat for wildlife which was enhanced as a result of the recent harvest. The harvest provided openings for young trees and shrubs to become established which helps create an uneven aged forest of many plant species which provides good habitat. This in turn allows the recreation users to see and enjoy the many birds and animals that inhabit PKCA.
Trail maps can be downloaded at: www.oronolandtrust.org. OLT is an All-Volunteer Accredited organization. Membership dues help OLT maintain trails. Please become a member online.