MILLINOCKET, Maine — When Rudy Pelletier and his crew finish building it, the Katahdin region’s first multiuse recreational trail will connect to all-terrain vehicle trails statewide. Pelletier bets that ATV riders who sample the statewide network will find that the best section will be the one that was under his feet on Wednesday.
“We’re going to do it and do it right,” Pelletier said. “This is a road that you could drive 2,000 pounds on. We’re not hauling 2,000 pounds here, but you could.”
Pelletier estimated that the job, which region ATV trail organizers hoped to have finished by Labor Day, is about 80 percent finished. He and other trail organizers hope to have the trail operational and open to ATV riders in time for Millinocket’s third annual Trails End Festival, which runs Sept. 16-18, Pelletier said.
“I assume that when we have it done, they [other committee members] will come in to look it over,” Pelletier said.
The trail’s completion and opening represents the culmination of a very long and arduous road.
As all-terrain vehicle aficionados, Town Councilor John Raymond, resident Paul Sannicandro and longtime region snowmobiling advocate Brian Wiley began the regional trail effort about four years ago in response to area business owners’ complaints that the lack of trails deprives the Katahdin region of hundreds of thousands of dollars that flow annually into ATV areas in other states.
Though it is referred to as a multiuse trail and is usable for hikers, bird watchers and cross-country skiers, the trail primarily embodies a vision shared by the three men as an ATV conduit. They saw ATV riding as a natural complement to the Katahdin region’s internationally recognized snowmobile trails, one of the area’s economic staples, except that it could be even more profitable because it happens in three seasons.
The completed trail will start at the Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile Club and run to a multiuse recreational bridge near Route 11 west of town. Phase II will go from there to the South Twin trail area and Seboeis, where it will connect with the statewide ATV trail network.
Pelletier estimates that the trail is about 23 miles.
The trail doesn’t look like a typical ATV artery. It is wide enough to comfortably fit Pelletier’s dump truck, though it won’t be open to cars or trucks. It is also very smooth as it snakes through wetlands and over hilly terrain west of Millinocket.
A combination of environmental regulations and bad weather helped the project fall off schedule, Pelletier said. State officials required 80 to 85 plastic culverts be installed along the trail, plus about 15 small bridges, to help preserve the wetlands, he said.
The use of several state grants to help fund the trail also contributed to the delays, he said.
“When it’s the state’s money,” Pelletier said, “you have to do it the state’s way. That’s OK, though.”