Joanne Cole — Chandler Mill Pond, formerly known as Lily Pond, is seeing increased use this summer, thanks to improved parking and public access, a project Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife completed late last fall. With a new paved path to the water, the project is one of the first “designed from the ground up” specifically for ADA accessibility, according to Diano Circo, chief planner and director of water access at IF&W. Circo explained, “We get lots of calls asking, ‘Where can I go to get to the water to fish or kayak’” with mobility challenges. “This is one of the few places in southern Maine for access to an undeveloped pond.“
A recent weekend afternoon revealed a full parking lot and a mix of enthusiasts enjoying the pond, located between Snow Hill Road and Chandler Mill Road and bounded by the turnpike. A family of four with inflatable and sit-top kayaks paddled in leisurely circles by the far shore. Meanwhile, a solo fisherman from the lakes region pulled his Jon boat ashore, explaining that he was fleeing the crowds at Sebago. He’d heard good things about the fishing here, he said, but had seen only “the world’s smallest bass.” A New Gloucester duo emerged with keeper largemouth bass but no trout. Two more anglers were out on the water trying their luck.
According to IF&W regional biologist Jim Pellerin, rainbow trout are in there for someone to catch. Pellerin said the pond is stocked annually in spring with 300 or so 11-12” rainbow trout from the Casco hatchery. IF&W does periodic sampling to monitor stocks in the lakes and ponds it oversees, although Chandler Mill Pond hasn’t been checked recently, he said.
The elusive trout also turn out to be key players in the funding of the Chandler Mill Pond improvements. According to IF&W planner Circo, 75 percent of the $100,000 project cost came from the feds, specifically a U.S. Fish and Wildlife sport fish restoration project that uses revenue from a federal tax on angler sporting gear. The remaining 25 percent came from dedicated Maine sources, such as fees for the Maine sportsman license plate and the fraction of the gas tax attributable to watercraft.
Besides the goal of making the pond a more pleasant, accessible place, Circo said the project aimed to reduce environmental impacts by moving parking away from the water and closer to the road. Boat access is now hand-carry only, and a beefy bollard reinforces the message by blocking vehicles from the paved path. Walking trails crisscross the surrounding woods.
The Chandler Mill Pond project had its genesis in preservation work with the Royal River Conservation Trust and culminated in Chandler Brothers’ transfer of the 117-acre parcel to IF&W in 2016. With the support of the New Gloucester Select Board, RRCT sought to rename the pond to recognize the Chandler family’s extraordinary stewardship. In May 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey changed the official designation from Lily Pond to Chandler Mill Pond. For maps, the history of Chandler Mill pond and this project, and more, visit the Royal River Conservation Trust website.