MILLINOCKET, Maine — Brian Wiley has two words for ATV riders looking to cruise the Katahdin region’s first organized all-terrain-vehicle trail system: Be patient.
Trail building for the first 13-mile leg, which the town and Northern Timber Cruisers snowmobile club will build on land owned by Katahdin Forest Management, likely will begin in November, and construction of a recreational bridge over the Penobscot River will start in mid-July, said Wiley, a Millinocket Area Trails Com-mittee member.
If all goes well, the first leg of the trail may be finished by December and the bridge by September.
But in accord with the nonbinding agreement with KFM, nobody will ride ATVs on the trail until the entire trail network encompassing more than 20 miles of trail is built and plugged into the Seboeis Lake ATV trail system and everything is approved by KFM — in 2011.
“[ATV riders] have to understand that this trail will not be open immediately to ATV use. I know they will be patient with it, and in 2011 they will be able to pick up the trail to Seboeis,” Wiley said Saturday. “It will take time, but in a year and a half, it will be ready.”
Wiley is concerned that the Town Council’s unanimous vote Wednesday to ratify and reaffirm the historic agreement signed by the club and KFM the previous Friday would lead ATV riders to believe that the trail would be ready this year.
The trail work itself, at least on the first 13-mile leg, shouldn’t prove difficult — “that trail is pretty much there already, except for some clearing of land,” Wiley said — but much work remains before the region will see the prodigious economic benefits promised by ATV traffic.
Grants to pay for the trail building must be attained, the bridge must be built, networks of police and emergency service trail coverage must be coordinated, and all landowners involved must approve, Wiley said.
“We are very pleased that we have come along this far,” Wiley said. “A great deal has been accomplished.
“One of the things that I am proudest of is that the town has not put one penny into this project. We have pulled all this off with grant money and money that is in the [regional] economic development fund,” he added.
A former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president, Wiley, Town Councilor John Raymond and resident Paul Sannicandro have been working for three years as volunteers to create a 35-mile multiuse trail for ATV riders, bicyclists, bird-watchers, campers, hikers, snowmobilers and others. That trail system would connect Katahdin to the rest of the state’s ATV and multiuse trails.
Local businesspeople and sportsmen have long complained that the area’s lack of an ATV trail system has deprived the region of economic benefits similar to the millions it reaps from snowmobiling, except over three seasons, not just winter. Similar systems draw millions of dollars to other state areas annually, they say.
The region’s largest single landowner, KFM and other landowners had stoutly resisted the effort, fearing illegal dumping, vandalism, insurance liability and damage by ATVs done to sensitive lands still used by the state’s forest products industry.
The 13-mile trail probably will be available to snowmobilers starting in December, Wiley said, which is good news as it will allow sledders to avoid riding the ice of South Twin Lake, which can be hazardous.
Wiley believes that other landowners with whom the committee has met will open their lands to ATVs when they see how responsive committee members and ATV riders are to their concerns.
“I think they are waiting to see how this works out. I am hoping they are,” he said. “I feel very comfortable that when it is ready and we have met the criteria, it will be a go.”