The Stanton Bird Club has been actively engaged in conservation work in the Androscoggin County area for over 80 years. Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary in Lewiston, a 372 acre wildlife preserve, has been the primary focus of that activity through the years. At an elevation of 510 feet, the highest point in the city, this sanctuary sits as a green capstone, a forested oasis surrounded on three sides by urban and suburban development. The “Crag”, belonging to the family Thorne in the 1800’s, is a familiar and well loved landmark in Lewiston. The human use of this land over the decades has been as varied as the habitats and wildlife it has always protected. Uses have included: recreation and scientific research by Bates College, a sheep and dairy farm, tuberculosis sanitorium, homestead for the reclusive Elder Thorne, and facility for Highland Spring Bottled Water Company.
Today, a revitalized Thorncrag serves as the springboard for several community outreach programs, and as a significant regional site for wildlife habitat enhancement demonstrations and forestry practices. Since 1986 a dedicated corps of volunteers has been working to restore Thorncrag as a safe and educational resource for the area. Our earliest and strongest alliances were with the Cooperative Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation District. Through these agencies we reconstructed all the trails, installed erosion control devices, developed a very comprehensive Master Plan, assessed our wetlands, established an environmental education outreach program, and brought the community to a better understanding of the importance of conservation.
Thorncrag is now used as a demonstration and workshop site for groups such as University of Maine wildlife biologists, college and high school ecology classes, Boy and Girl Scout troops, professional botanical societies, garden clubs, arborists, environmental educators with programs such as Project Learning Tree and Project Wild, wetland engineers, surveyors, soil scientists, and all the K-12 schools in the Androscoggin County area.
Passive recreation at Thorncrag – birdwatching, picnicking, hiking, walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, skating, nature photography – is actively encouraged. Promotion of these activities is offered through our widely distributed brochure (at the Chamber of Commerce and Lewiston and Auburn Libraries); in entries in the AAA guidebooks and the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer; in environmental education publications and newsletters, and in the IF &W publication “On Water, On Wings, In the Woods”.