PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Island Trail (MIT), a coastal waterway that links more than 190 islands and mainland sites from Kittery to the Canadian border, is being recognized by Outside magazine as the Best Sea Kayaking Trail in the nation.
The MIT surpassed other premier sea kayaking routes, including Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands and Washington State’s San Juan Islands, to earn the Top Trail nod in Outside’s “America’s Best Trails” feature, which will run in the July issue.
“We are gratified that the Trail continues to receive national recognition as a one-of-a-kind boating destination,” said Doug Welch, executive cirector of the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA), which manages recreational access to sites on the Trail. “It’s a reflection of the hard work and support of our members, volunteers, and partners, who are all strive to make the Trail a world class recreational boating experience,” he said in a press release Thursday.
The award extends an extended run of national exposure for the MIT. In 2010 Down East deemed the MIT to be Maine’s “Best Trail” of any kind. In 2009, the MIT was recognized by National Geographic Adventure as one of the “50 Best American Adventures.” Appealing to recreational boaters of all types, in the past three years the Trail has also been featured in Boating, Sail, Sea Kayaker, BoatUS, and Yankee.
Earlier this year, a prize-winning Harvard University study called attention to the Trail’s economic impact on Maine’s coastal communities. Based on visitor data and a detailed survey of visitor spending patterns, the study found that more than 3,000 groups visit the Trail each year, spending an average of $655 along the way. The total impact on the state economy exceeds $2 milliion per year.
The newest accolades come even as MITA readies a host of new boating opportunities for Trail visitors. Recently, the National Park Service awarded MITA a technical assistance grant to explore expanding the Trail along the southern Maine coast. The project may lead to the addition of new sites south of Casco Bay, below which there are currently only a handful of Trail properties.
The Trail is also poised to expand eastward into Cobscook Bay, an isolated and largely undeveloped estuary just beyond the Trail’s current terminus in Machias. The inclusion of new sites there is being driven by strong interest and support from members of the Cobscook community, including businesses, local government and state officials, the Coast Guard, land trusts, and other property owners.
The Trail links island properties owned by a diverse range of coastal Maine’s private and public landowners. It also links island visitors to the care of these special places. In exchange for the privilege of access, MITA members perform a variety of voluntary stewardship activities including trash cleanups, use monitoring, and trail crew work. In this way, island owners benefit from being part of the Trail. “We promise the owners that their fragile island properties will be in better shape if they are part of the MITA community than they would be otherwise,” says Welch. “Happily, this has proven to be true for nearly 25 years now as the Trail continues to grow.”
“People increasingly see that the Trail can bring economic benefits to their communities without sacrificing the environment,” Welch added. “This positive trend will hopefully continue as the Trail becomes more firmly fixed in the national consciousness through positive media coverage. We are proud to be recognized as leaders of a model of recreation that empowers people to care for special places, and thereby ensure that they will remain special for generations to come.”