Trailblazer Wiley receives honor in Millinocket

Posted Feb. 15, 2010, at 7:35 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Its formal name is the Brian Wiley Multi-Use Recreational Bridge, but you can also call it Wiley’s Crossing.

The Town Council voted 7-0 Thursday to name the Katahdin region’s first all-recreational span after Brian Wiley of East Millinocket, former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president and longtime snowmobile trail aficionado.

The honor culminates a journey that began when Wiley, Town Councilor John Raymond and resident Paul Sannicandro decided they wanted to fill a doughnut hole for ATV riding in northern Maine, as the Katahdin region lacks organized all-terrain vehicle trails that connect to other statewide trails.

This, proponents say, deprives the region of the millions in recreational tourism dollars such trails can bring.

Wiley thanked his compatriots and a host of others, saying that while the bridge across the Penobscot River just west of town along Route 11 is a success, much work remains. Phase I of the multiuse trail system is being built. Phase II, connecting it to the state ATV trail network that runs south from Seboeis Lake, is next, he said.

“It is obvious that this is a team effort. Everybody came to the front when we started this back in May of 2007,” Wiley said Thursday.

Town Manager Eugene Conlogue and councilors praised Wiley’s trailblazing. Councilor David Cyr described him as a hard worker who has selflessly dedicated himself to regional recreation since he helped create the area’s internationally recognized snowmobile trails in the 1970s.

Raymond said he was proud to read into the record the council resolve naming the bridge after Wiley.

“A lot of people who don’t know Brian don’t understand the work ethic he has,” Raymond said, calling the award “an accomplishment. I am totally amazed at the amount of work he has done.”

To Conlogue, the daunting task of overcoming landowner resistance to ATV trails — the landowners feared damage to prized working forestlands and accident liability — began as a Mission: Impossible and ended with an Academy Award.

The council resolve is part Oscar and part “Lifetime Achievement Award for your absolute devotion to this area,” Conlogue said. He called the bridge “the epitome of all the things you have worked on for many years.”

“You have made this area better, and you continue to do that,” he added.

“I would like to clone him so that he would be available for other things, but I don’t think that is possible,” Councilor Michael Madore said.

“You realize,” Chairman Scott Gonya told Wiley, “that you have to be deceased to win an award like this?”

The key to his efforts, Wiley said, was having good partners in Raymond and Sannicandro and avoiding the negativity that so often characterizes the region’s community efforts.

“Don’t be negative about it. Be positive. Don’t look back. Always look ahead,” Wiley said. “We never got anything done thinking about what was negative. Dealing with landowners, we always said that we will find what’s good about what we are doing and work with that. We won’t take the negative because it’s never worth it.”

The bridge is open to snowmobilers and other winter sports aficionados and will be open to bicyclists and hikers this spring. The area’s first ATV network trail is due to go on line in about 1½ years, once Phase II is finished. Wiley hopes to get it built this year.

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