Millinocket festival honors its end of the Appalachian Trail

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 7:48 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — All trails lead to downtown Millinocket, Jaime Renaud says, and if you don’t believe it, just ask her.

An organizer of the Trails End Festival, which runs Friday to Sunday, the co-owner of the Appalachian Trail Cafe and AT Lodge said festival backers are emphasizing how the Katahdin region has so much more than the Appalachian Trail. She can tick off like clockwork the varied kinds of recreational trails that run through the region and into downtown.

“We have hiker trails, kayak, canoe, and cross-country ski trails, and snowmobile trails, and soon there will be a major ATV trail,” Renaud said Wednesday. “And then we have the scenic byway, which has its own biking trail.”

A multiuse walking and biking trail along Millinocket Stream was just finished this year, and efforts to build a multiuse recreational trail that will connect to statewide ATV trails are almost complete.

The point of it all, Renaud said, is that “the outdoor recreational opportunities in the Katahdin region are abundant. There is something here for everybody to do. Whatever your interest is in outdoor recreation, you can do it here. Everybody enjoys different things. Some people enjoy the quiet and some people enjoy the distance and speed that they can go. There is enough area here for all of us to do what we enjoy.”

Begun in 2008 to celebrate the town’s connection to the Appalachian Trail terminus atop Mount Katahdin within nearby Baxter State Park, the downtown event continues to grow beyond its original focus, Renaud said. Last year’s festival drew more than 1,000 people.

This year it has at least 42 sponsors, up from 15 a year ago, who contributed cash, raffle prizes and in-kind services.

On Saturday the festival will feature a parade, musical acts, a kayak ride on Millinocket Stream via Congress Street and a kayak tour on Millinocket Stream from Crandall Park to Shad Pond with a hike to Grand Pitch Falls. An auto show, pie contest and more musical acts will round out Sunday.

On Friday, volunteers will spend the day performing maintenance on the Millinocket portion of the Appalachian Trail, according to the event’s website, trailsendfestival.org. Volunteers can sign up in Monson at Shaw’s Lodging or the Lakeshore House or by calling the AT Lodge at 723-4321.

Transportation will be provided from Millinocket, Monson, Jo-Mary Road and Abol Bridge. Lunch will be provided by the Appalachian Trail Cafe. A hiker barbecue will follow the project at the AT Lodge and volunteers can stay for free at Katahdin Cabins.

The organizers hope that the event will kick off Friday with great news: the sale of the region’s two paper mills, Renaud said. Yet the festival also underscores the region’s need for ecotourism and for a continuation of efforts to diversify the economy, an effort that includes Roxanne Quimby’s controversial proposal to donate about 70,000 acres she owns outside town to the National Park Service by 2016.

“I think that as this downtown redefines itself with the closing of the [Millinocket mill in September 2008] and the reopening, we still need to allow for some of the diversification that we need,” Renaud said. “If people can accept a certain amount of ecotourism in this area, I think we will all benefit from that.”

Ecotourism, the mingling of tourism and environmental appreciation and preservation, can only enhance the region’s economy, she said.

“There is room for everybody,” Renaud said. “There is room for all kinds of trails and all kinds of jobs.”

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