David Willard “D.W.” Leavitt (1880-1948) was born in Parsonsfield, the first son of Albert R. (1845-1924) and Nellie M. Leavitt. Albert was active in Parsonsfield town affairs as were several others of the Leavitt family, although it seems that the many Leavitts in Parsonsfield were not all closely related. The Albert Leavitt farm where David was born is still located on Middle Rd. north west of the village. D. W.’s brother, Forest Parks Leavitt and sister, Deborah (Leavitt) Kimball also lived nearby. It appears that they eventually lived in Florida in the winter and came to Parsonsfield in the summer.
The Albert R. Leavitt farm on Middle Road where D. W. Leavitt was born.
It was later used as a summer home.
D.W., as he was commonly called, married Bessie Gaylord Leavitt of Boston. She had spent summers at the Josiah Colcord place near the Leavitt farm. They had 3 children, Albert Willard (1903-1957), Helen (Leavitt) Mason and Dorothy (Leavitt) Chilton. D.W. and Bessie divorced later in life and each remarried. D.W. had another child, Bobbie Rosalind Leavitt, by his second wife.
D.W. Leavitt became known for assembling what is referred to as the Leavitt Plantation which he started in 1932. He had been interested in development of woodland and in modern forestry practices since the early 1920’s. He gradually expanded his woodland holdings over the years, buying some 30 abandoned farms to add to the Leavitt property. He planted trees in all the open spaces, which became the plantation, and he had a dream of eventually planting the entire area.
After Leavitt’s death in 1948, his son, Albert W. Leavitt, took over management of the enterprise. Fred N. Leavitt of North Parsonsfield, a distant relative, was superintendent from 1938 to 1957 and became manager in 1957 after Albert Leavitt’s death, serving in that capacity until the sale of the property.
In 1960 7,500 acres of timberland from the plantation was sold to S.D. Warren Co. who continued to manage the land as a demonstration forest.
Documentation in the file at Parsonsfield Town office provides the following information:
The next owner was UBS Brinson, a timber investment management organization. In 2000 it was learned that Brinson was considering subdividing the entire plantation into 13 parcels to be sold at auction. At that time a movement began to seek a way to protect the Plantation from being split up and developed. About 2001 Renewable Resources, LLC, a similar timber investment management organization, purchased the land and negotiations were started to form a conservation easement agreement with them and any future owner to preserve the land forever.
A long period of negotiation and a huge fundraising effort finally brought about the final agreement on April 9, 2003 at a cost of $2,600,000. The final conservation easement agreement with Renewable Resources, LLC was for an 8,600 acre tract (not all contiguous) making up about 22% of Parsonsfield’s land area. An additional 1,100 acres had been added to the original plantation of 7,500 acres.
The “Maine Department of Conservation – Nature Conservancy” coordinated and raised funds for the project with the help of several other sources: “Land for Maine’s Future Program”, “Federal Forest Legacy Program”, “Maine Dept. of Conservation”, the Town of Parsonsfield with donations from residents and friends, a grant from “North American Wetlands Conservation Act”, and “Maine’s Outdoor Heritage Fund”.
This Federal & State partnership allows the landowner to keep their land private while ensuring it remains forest forever through the use of the conservation easement.
Following are some of what the conservation easement provides:
Even if the land is sold in the future, this easement will permanently guarantee it cannot be developed, thereby ensuring it will continue to provide the natural resource values that exist (e.g. timber production, wildlife habitat protection, etc.).
There can be no residential and commercial development on the property, ensuring that it remains as an unfragmented forest parcel. The large 8,300 acre parcel can be divided into no more than 2 parcels. The Pendexter Brook parcel (300 acres) will remain its current size.
The landowner has the right to manage the property for forest products under a forest management plan that will be reviewed and approved by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
The public is still allowed to use the property for non-motorized recreation activities including hunting, fishing & hiking and appropriate motorized recreational use will be allowed on designated snowmobile trails and town rights of way.
The Town can still utilize a limited amount of gravel on an annual basis for maintaining town roads.
The landowner will still pay taxes to the Town of Parsonsfield under the Tree Growth Tax Program.
The Bureau of Parks and Lands was to establish a stewardship fund to provide the resources to ensure that the easement is monitored periodically and enforced and to meet annually to review the previous year’s activity.
In 2006 ownership of the Plantation changed hands to Heartwood Forestland Fund V Limited Partnership from Chapel Hill, No. Carolina. Two smaller lots were sold to individuals. Of course the Conservation Easement still applies.
Leavitt Plantation today – shaded areas.
It is claimed that this is still the largest contiguous block of sustainably managed forest in single ownership in southern Maine and provides high-value forest products that support the regional economy.