MILLINOCKET — State and local officials set as a top goal the introduction of ATV trail networks to the Katahdin region Friday after town volunteers announced they had secured a key permit from the Land Use Regulation Commission.
Early last month, LURC issued a permit for a multiuse recreational bridge across the Penobscot River, providing a key element to volunteers’ efforts to link the Katahdin region to the rest of the state’s burgeoning ATV networks and to the millions in tourism revenue they represent.
“We have tried to do this in steps, and by working with the town of Millinocket,” said Brian Wiley, a member of the ConnectME Committee said Friday during a meeting of the Katahdin Area Working Group. “That was our biggest stepping stone, and we got it.” The ME in ConnectME stands for Millinocket Everywhere.
Officials from the State Bureau of Public Lands and Department of Conservation, state representatives, private landowners, Town Council members and snowmobile and ATV club members met Friday with working group members at the Northern Plaza Events Center off Route 157.
They discussed snowmobile trail maintenance and the creation of multiuse trails that would benefit the ATV effort, which they agreed would be of great service to the Katahdin region. Such trails have created multibillion-dollar tourism and recreation industries, particularly with ATV riders, in other states, and are beginning to have a powerful effect in northern Maine, attendees said.
“I think the top priority is the ATVs. They can’t get in here and they can’t get out of here, and that’s a shame,” Councilor Jimmy Busque said.
About 30 people attended the four-hour meeting at the center.
Wiley and Councilor John Raymond have worked for more than three years on creating a 35-mile multiuse trail that would run over the bridge.
It would follow a power line passage to Route 11, then to the proposed 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.
ConnectME and working group members continue to plow through the long list of requirements needed to satisfy landowners before the trail agreements will be signed, Wiley said. Besides the LURC permit, they have secured Millinocket and East Millinocket police agreements to help maintain trail safety in the Katahdin region.
With $128,000 of the $234,000 needed for the bridge, they expect to begin building the bridge and a 4-mile stretch of multiuse trail from the bridge to Millinocket this summer, taking care to avoid the Baithole Cross Country Ski Area, Wiley said.
“We will be building a multiuse trail for snowmobile use only and gradually bringing in ATV use with landowners,” Wiley said. That use probably won’t occur until spring 2011, if all goes well, he said.
The bridge should be finished by fall, he said.