LIBERTY — The Friends of Haystack Mountain hosted an event Aug. 18 to kick off fundraising efforts to complete the purchase of the mountain property owned by Allen’s Blueberry Freezer Inc. of Ellsworth.

The event was a performance of the play “Blueberries for Sal,” based on the book of the same name by Maine author Robert McCloskey.

The play was performed by Maddy’s Theatre with the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine.

Friends member Cathy Roberts said many area children and adults know the story of “Blueberries for Sal,” which tells of a young girl who goes on a mountain to pick blueberries and meets a bear.

Roberts said that while there are tales of seeing bears on Haystack Mountain, she isn’t aware if they are real or just tales.

The Friends of Haystack Mountain seeks to raise $500,000 for the purchase and other expenses relating to acquiring the Haystack Mountain property, Roberts said.  The group was able to secure enough money initially to secure a purchase and sales agreement with Allen’s for the property.

“The mountain has been harvested with blueberries for generations,” she said. “We felt it was a great opportunity because it is an icon in the community. The event is the first of the events we have planned. It was to mark the start of fundraising.”

Roberts said the group is planning a number of events to raise funds for the purchase.

Due to information spreading about the proposed purchase, there are already other groups who are interested in hosting events to help raise money, she said, adding that the Friends group is also writing grants and plans to reach out to area businesses and corporations to seek private donors.

The group is working with Midcoast Conservancy of Edgecomb, which is acting as the fiscal sponsor for the project, Roberts said. The eventual plan will be to turn the property over to the conservancy so that the land trust can help to preserve the property.

“If you want to conserve a property, a land trust has the resources and expertise to steward the property over time and monitor it every year,” Friends member Buck O’Herin said.

O’Herin said this particular blueberry property is one of six that have gone on the market in the last year. He explained that many blueberry companies are eliminating properties that are farther away from their processing plants. O’Herin said one such property sold and has already been divided into home lots. The group was concerned that something similar might happen to Haystack Mountain.

Members of the group are not sure they can raise $500,000 by their December 2022 deadline, but O’Herin said that in working with Midcoast Conservancy, they have identified potential lenders. The plan would be to take out a loan to secure the property and then continue to raise funds to cover any cost associated with the loan.

O’Herin said the local Walker School has a long history with the trail that goes to the top of the mountain, with generations of students who have trekked to the top.

Roberts said the trail starts in Liberty, but the mountain peak is technically in Montville. Along the trail, there are several private landowners who have agreed to allow continued public access to the trail.

Bond Blake, who has been the trail steward there for about 15 years, said his continued focus is on maintaining the trail.

During the event Aug. 18, several families with young children came to be part of a hike guided by members of the Friends of Haystack Mountain. Of those who came to participate in the hike, almost all had experience with the trail and the mountain.

O’Herin said one of the group’s other goals is to possibly continue local blueberry production on the mountain. The goal would be to find someone to take that project on, while ensuring that the public has access to climb the mountain to pick blueberries.

“Conserving any land is important,” O’Herin said. “We are in a climate crisis and conserved land is really important.”

According to O’Herin, the group is open to enlisting new volunteers and members.

“We will figure out some way for anyone to help,” he said.