A 40-acre parcel of land on Quigg Island, an island in Stevens Pond shaped like a large three-fingered glove, has been purchased by Georges River Land Trust with the goal of conservation and to provide public access to the unique hemlock and white pine forest found there.

In a Zoom presentation Nov.17 hosted by the Liberty Library, Annette Naegel, director of conservation at GRLT said the land was secured at the beginning of November, but the group would like to raise an additional $17,000 for long-term maintenance and care of the property.

The island, according to Naegel, was owned by Jim and Jenness Robbins and their father, all associated with Robbins Lumber Inc. in Searsmont, which managed the forest by selectively harvesting trees every 10 years.

Jim and Jenness bought the property with their father, Naegel said, when they were just out of high school. “It was their first acquisition,” she noted. Jim tells the story of deferring some of the funds he was going to put toward college to buy the property.

Eventually, the brothers bought the island from their father, and subsequently finished their education. Naegel said it was the first place they tested their forest management skills and they have owned it since 1965.

The land trust will maintain the legacy of the Robbins brothers, she said, who thoughtfully managed the island forest for the last 50 years.

The parcel will be kept as a working forest, as part of the federally funded Community Forest Program administered by the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service. According to the GRLT website, the land trust was able to fund the purchase of Quigg Island through a grant from the program.

Tree harvesting, she said, will not happen for a few years, “until we plan out the harvest.”

The large island, which divides the north basin from the south, will be accessible by water only, from the public boat launch and parking area on Route 173, where in early summer the town offers swimming lessons for children.

The issue of parking was raised by a resident who said on the busiest summer days parking can fill up quickly and can spill over to the road.

Naegel said the land trust was aware of this concern and had spoken with town selectmen. Signage is planned which will note that if the parking lot is full, people should “be respectful and come back later. We certainly don’t want to exacerbate the issue,” she added.

Getting onto the island, one resident who lives on the lake noted, is not easy. To address this point, Naegel said GRLT is considering installing a seasonal landing, to provide people with an easy point of access on the deep side of the island.

The conservation land will take up about two thirds of the island, while the remaining third is owned by multiple private landowners with two year-round homes located there. One landowner who shares the island was at the presentation and said he was “thrilled to welcome the land trust as our neighbor.”

“It’s amazing how well the Robbinses have managed the island,” he said. “It couldn’t be in better hands.”

While there is an access road that leads to the homes located on the island, this road, he said, is private for landowners and there is no public access.

“It’s not that people don’t want to allow access,” the landowner said, “it’s just that there are only three or four (landowners) that pay for the maintenance of the road, and adding vehicular traffic would be a burden.” He added there was no parking available on the private access road.

Forester Mark Vannah, who has worked with the Robbins brothers harvesting timber from the island, said it was last cut in 2008, and that it was a difficult island to harvest. In order to get across 40 to 50 feet of water, he said, they made a bridge out of cabled logs to the mainland.

“We had some wonderful timber out there,” he said. “Hemlock and pine reaching 100 feet — mature wood and a lot of regeneration happening.

“You want to improve your best trees and allow them to grow even faster and bigger, at the same time take out the weed trees. As you do that, you create cutting cycles of 10 to 15 years.

“It’s all about managing what you have and planning for the future forest,” Vannah said.

The island offers a marsh habitat on one side with an undeveloped shoreline, and deep coves on the other side. The forest is carpeted with mosses, ferns and mushrooms, with trails that crisscross the island leading to lookouts with views across Stevens Pond.

Naegel said, "We feel we have struck gold with being able to acquire this lovely parcel of land."

Jim Robbins said early on he and his brother considered developing the island into multiple cottage sites and even had plans drawn and approval from the state. “We never did do that,” he said.

“At this point in my life I’m not interested in development,” Robbins said, “I’m interested in leaving a legacy for the next generation. … It’s one of our favorite places on earth.”

For more information, visit georgesriver.org/quigg-island-project/.