TRENTON, Maine — An area nonprofit group that helped secure a new future home for the Island Explorer bus system has more than a bus depot in mind for the Route 3 property.
Friends of Acadia bought a 369-acre parcel by Crippens Creek in 2004 and later sold 150 acres of it to the Maine Department of Transportation for use as a transportation hub. DOT has been building a road on the 150-acre parcel, where a bus depot and maintenance garage for the propane-powered buses will be constructed next year. Eventually, DOT and Acadia officials expect the property, called Acadia Gateway Center, also to include parking for Island Explorer users and a welcome center for the park.
The Friends group retained 219 acres behind the DOT property and hopes to build trails on it. Last week, the group held a meeting at the local Grange hall for residents who wanted to learn about FOA’s preliminary plans.
“It would be a first point of contact [for Acadia] for people coming into the area,” Stephanie Clement, FOA’s conservation director, told about two dozen people who gathered Sept. 1 at the Grange hall. “It’s a beautiful piece of property.”
The parcel is not owned by Acadia and, because it is outside the park’s maximum limit that was set by Congress in 1986, the park cannot own it, but it can help run operations there. The trails would be developed by FOA, but the group might establish conservation easements on the property and then sell it, Clement said, possi-bly to the town of Trenton.
“The negotiations are not complete,” she said.
According to Burnham Martin of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, finding a suitable location on the property for a trail has not been easy.
“There are some big wetland areas,” Martin told people at the meeting. “We’re trying to find the highest and driest route.”
He said he expects FOA will build between one and two miles of trails on the property.
Clement said FOA also has looked into the possibility of constructing connecting trails between the gateway center and Trenton Elementary School, which is off Route 3 between the bus depot site and Mount Desert Island. She said that FOA would have to get permission from all the owners of land that would be crossed by the trail but that at least one of them has indicated he is not interested.
Clement said FOA is eager to get feedback from residents and landowners about traditional uses on the property and possible other types of activity that might be allowed. She said FOA would be willing to consider allowing wind power development on the site and possibly even hunting, though no decision has been made. Such uses may help determine where FOA decides to put its trails, she indicated.
Clement said FOA hopes to partner with all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile clubs to help maintain the trails, but found out that clubs tend not to operate in the area. Snowmobile and ATV use in the area seems to be limited to individuals rather than groups, she said.
One advantage of the property is that it has been known to host certain types of animals that are not often seen on Mount Desert Island, where most of Acadia National Park is located, Clement said. There have been sightings or other evidence of ruffed grouse, moose and bear on the Trenton property, she said.
“There are some charismatic megafauna back there, which is fun,” Clement said.
Clement said trail construction on the property could start sometime in 2011.