This article was originally published in the Oxford Hills Sun Journal on June 11, 2014 and was written by Leslie Dixon. View the original article here.

HARRISON, MAINE — A total of 1,800 trees recently were planted in the former gravel pit known as Moon Valley off Plains Road. 

Lee Dassler of Western Foothills Land Trust said a large group of Norway-based homeschooled students, their parents, students from the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School biology class and volunteers from the Land Trust met at the site between June 6 and June 9.

They spread specialty wetlands grass seed and straw mulch and planted the trees that Dassler said were selected for their adaptation to wetland environments and high survivability.

In 2013, the Western Foothills Land Trust purchased the 14-acre pit that has frontage on the Crooked River. Restoration and management plans were created for it.

The Crooked River Watershed has been a conservation focus of the Land Trust for several years because it is a significant fishery and drinking water source.

Dassler said Ethel Wilkerson of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the Clean Water Carbon Fund, which provided funding for the tree stock, provided tree-planting knowledge to the group.

New England Organics supplied organic mill plume from a mill in Jay and R.J. Grondin and Sons completed the earth work to create a base that would retain water to support wetlands plant species already on site and to be added, Dassler said.

Searles Excavation placed boulders to protect the entrance of the conservation site and to allow recreational access to the trails along the Crooked River, Dassler said.

Dassler said a group of Norway-based homeschoolers have been involved in the Moon Valley project, including monitoring the soil conditions, for more than a year. The group has established and maintained a website at

“The site’s inherent teaching potential and the homeschoolers’ knowledge, curiosity and use of scientific methodology have proven to be a positive opportunity for the Trust and the homeschooling community,” Dassler said in a statement released this week.

Dassler said she hopes more SAD 17 classes will visit the site this fall.

Dassler said Forest Tinsley and Joseph Bergmann will build a small kiosk for the entrance to provide information about the site and the progress with wetlands enhancement. A new sign recently was installed at the site.

The site, which is home to red foxes, white-tailed deer, coyotes, raccoons and many varieties of birds, is closed to the public until the trees root, the grass stabilizes and a walking path is defined, Dassler said.

A September opening is anticipated for the public.