MILLINOCKET, Maine — The Katahdin region is about 1½ steps and maybe two years from having its first multipurpose recreational trail that will allow it to tap into the burgeoning multimillion-dollar ATV-riding networks of Maine, a leading trails proponent said Saturday.
The Millinocket Area Trails Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall to discuss fundraising that will help pay for construction of a multiuse recreational bridge near Green Bridge over the Penobscot River’s West Branch. Permit applications to build the $200,000 bridge will be submitted to the Land Use Regulation Commission by Friday, said Brian Wiley, a committee member.
That, the completion last month of bridge designs and the receipt of about $89,000 in grants earlier this year should allow some bridge construction to begin this fall. This will leave only the remainder of the fundraising — about $65,000 — and a key landowner’s permission as barriers to the area connecting to the state’s ATV trail networks, Wiley said.
“The most critical thing is for the committee to become a full working and planning committee to get this thing done,” Wiley said Saturday. “There is absolutely no trail there now. … It will allow major access for us to tie into the [ATV] network that lies to the west and improve our snowmobile access as well.”
Town Council members were happy Thursday at news about the grants, $39,000 from a federal recreational trails program and $50,000 from the state Department of Transportation. Councilors agreed with having the town Department of Public Works help build the bridge by digging footings for it this fall, but wanted to see cost estimates.
“It appears that the grant money is coming,” Councilor David Cyr said. “The way things are going, we should complete this by the middle of next year.”
Local businesspeople and sportsmen have long complained that the area’s lack of an ATV trail system — which draws millions of dollars and thousands of tourists to other state areas annually — has deprived the Katahdin region of economic benefits similar to what it reaps from snowmobiling. The Katahdin region is among the nation’s finest areas for snowmobilers.
To answer this, Wiley, John Raymond and Paul Sannicandro, both of Millinocket, for more than two years have been working on creating a multiuse trail for all-terrain vehicles, bicyclists, bird-watchers, campers, hikers, snowmobilers and other recreationalists that would start on land owned by Katahdin Forest Management at the Northern Timber Cruisers clubhouse in Millinocket.
The 35-mile trail would follow a power line passage to Route 11, then to Green Bridge. Avoiding nearby ski trails, the ATV course would continue south to the 5 Lakes Lodge area to Schoodic Lake and the Milo-Brownville area, effectively connecting Millinocket to a burgeoning multiuse and ATV trail network in southern Maine.
Wiley and his partners are enticed by the multibillion-dollar tourism and recreation industry such trails, particularly with ATV riders, have created in other states.
Area landowners, however, fear damage created by ATVs, especially in working forests. They complain of littering and liability issues if riders are hurt — especially where logging trucks roll — and want trails policed.
Proposed for a site near Green Bridge, the recreational bridge is the key element to the committee’s efforts, although assuaging Katahdin Forest Management’s concerns runs a close second, Wiley said.
“The key to this is that we have been working very closely with [KFM] and that we feel very comfortable that it will be a good access trail and a good opportunity for snowmobile and bicycling and walking,” Wiley said. “It’s extremely good that it has come this far.”