Lincoln gives OK to snowmobile trail

Posted Jan. 25, 2011, at 9:58 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — The Lincoln Snowhounds Snowmobile Club reopened a major snowmobile trail connecting Lincoln to the rest of the state’s trail network on Tuesday after the club and Town Council reached a compromise that will last until spring.

The routing of Interconnected Trail System 82, a major 25-mile east-west trail corridor that links to the north-south-running ITS 83, near Seboeis Lake, and ITS 81, near Burlington, will allow snowmobilers access to Route 6 and downtown that was lost when two landowners forbade trails on their lands in the first week of January, club President Rob Thornton said.

The rerouting came after the council voted 4-1 on Monday to allow snowmobilers extended use of Penobscot Valley Avenue from the railroad crossing halfway between U.S. Routes 6 and 155 and the southeastern leg of U-shaped Buckley Avenue. From there, the trail disappears into woods and runs near Ramsay Welding & Machine Inc. and crosses Enfield Road.

“It wasn’t a thing we wanted to do. We wished we could use the old trail,” Thornton said Tuesday. “It’s a temporary solution to a problem. We are going to make a trail away from the residential area [on Buckley], but we need time to put it all together.”

The use will end when snowmobile season ends in March or April, councilors said.

About 40 people attended the special meeting.

Councilor Marscella Ireland filed the opposing vote. Chairman Rod Carr and Councilor Shaun Drinkwater were absent.

The club initially had sought to use almost all of Buckley Avenue, citing a state law prohibiting snowmobile use of municipal roads beyond 300 yards unless a municipality grants an exception, club member David Steward said. The first councilor to speak on the matter, David Whalen, suggested the exception after several Buckley Avenue residents complained that the snowmobiles would pose a hazard.

“The best of both worlds would be not to have the people on Buckley Avenue suffer,” Whalen said. “I would rather find a solution that would allow both [sides] to prosper from this.”

The club, and most of the residents present, seemed to think the compromise Whalen offered would suffice, for now. The residents said the snowmobiles would create a noise nuisance, threaten motorist and pedestrian safety — especially if the sleds traveled fast — and not fit with the residential character of their neighborhood.

“It is so dangerous to have snowmobiles go on a residential street without lights,” resident Rose White said. “Just coming out of our driveways we can be hit [by snowmobiles]. We have to consider safety more than anything else.”

Maine Warden Service Sgt. Ron Dunham and some downtown merchants said the council should allow the snowmobiles on Buckley, citing the financial impact the lack of snowmobilers has had on town restaurants, hotels and convenience stores.

Groomed regularly by snowmobile club members, ITS 82 is the only artery that connects Lincoln and its snowmobile trails directly to the state’s snowmobile network. The club and the area’s snowmobiling draw hundreds of out-of-staters and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Lincoln Lakes region annually, officials have said, a revenue stream threatened when trail access was cut.

Residents closest to the new trail link complained that the snowmobiles still would be riding within yards of their homes. After the meeting, Police Chief Scott Minckler said he was concerned about the safety of the new arrangement, as Penobscot Valley Avenue lacks designated crossing points and snowmobilers probably would cross the road at will.

State officials likely would route the trail away from Lincoln permanently if the temporary connection wasn’t found, former club President Alan Smith told the council. Club members hope to have a new trail, away from Buckley Avenue and other residential areas, in place by next winter.

“We will have to come up with something. We can’t go through this again,” Thornton said.

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