MILLINOCKET, Maine — Now that the Katahdin region has an ATV trail linked to a statewide network, town workers will create a spur extending the trail into downtown to improve the local economy.
As proposed by Town Councilor John Raymond and approved by a 7-0 council vote on Thursday, the spur will consist of signs as well as arrows painted onto the street. It would run from near Millinocket Regional Hospital on Somerset Street to Hannaford Supermarket on Central Street.
Councilors honored Raymond, the regional trails committee created to manage the 23-mile ATV trail and the spur that will run from it, and fellow town ATV trail pioneers John Sannicandro and Brian Wiley with a proclamation extolling their creation and the economic benefits it is expected to bring to the town and region.
“Motorized recreation offers the biggest bang for the buck” among recreational opportunities, Councilor Jimmy Busque said Thursday. “This is tourism. We are not anti-tourism.”
Councilor David Cyr said the 4½ years of hard work the three volunteers and committee members put into the trail reminded him of someone’s remark that an overnight success takes 10 to 12 years in Maine. This group easily beat that standard, he said.
The spur will connect to the new, approximately 23-mile multi-use recreational trail that was just finished last week. The trail starts near the Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile Club and runs to a multi-use recreational bridge near Route 11 west of town. It then follows to the South Twin trail area and into Seboeis, where it connects with a statewide ATV trail network.
Though it is referred to as a multi-use trail usable for hikers, bicyclists, bird watchers and cross-country skiers, the 23-mile trail has been primarily seen as an ATV conduit since volunteers Sannicandro, Raymond and Wiley began pursuing its creation almost five years ago.
They believe ATV riding can be a natural complement to snowmobiling, one of the Katahdin region’s economic staples and a $350 million industry statewide, except that it could be even more profitable because it happens in three seasons.
The spur would take riders from the hospital onto Poplar Street to Penobscot Avenue and the heart of downtown. From there, it would follow Birch Street to Crandall Park and Congress and Granite streets to Medway Road and Wassau Street. The spur would end at Balsam Drive and Central Street near Hannaford and McDonald’s, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.
The spur could be finished in a few days, Raymond said.
“If our first weekend of traffic is any indication, it will literally bring hundreds of new people into downtown Millinocket on a regular basis,” Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said. “That will be very good for business and for Millinocket.”
Raymond, the trails committee formed to help create the ATV trail, Conlogue and Police Chief Donald Bolduc sought to avoid traffic and pedestrian snarls while giving riders access to as many gasoline stations, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels and other retail stores as possible, Raymond said. They chose the route earlier this week.
“We tried to stay away from Central Street as much as possible” to avoid safety hazards and sought the most direct way to connect merchants with ATV riders, Raymond said.
The committee and town leaders will periodically review the spur to ensure that ATV complaints are addressed promptly. Most complaints probably would go first to police, who are being trained this week on ATV management and will patrol the spur regularly, Raymond said.
Raymond said he hoped residents would accept the trail.
“You never know. They have known this was coming for 4½, almost five years,” Raymond said of the spur. ATV trails that reach into downtowns are “working well in all communities doing them. Now, hopefully, they [ATV riders] will blend right into the traffic.”
Public Works Department workers will paint a rendering of an ATV and an arrow on the pavement and place signs Raymond designed at several spots along the trail.
The trail will have a posted speed limit of 10 mph. Complaints about ATV riders should first be directed to police, town leaders said. Officers including Bolduc are being trained this week on ATV law enforcement and will receive a patrol ATV donated by another police department.