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Supporters extend Moosehead Lake Region ATV trails

BDN Photo by Brian Swartz
Posted Aug. 31, 2012, at 9:50 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 31, 2012, at 11:44 a.m.
BDN Photo by Brian Swartz

Some day patient ATVers may finally “get there from here” anywhere in the Moosehead Lake Region. Meanwhile, they are enjoying an excellent trail system that already connects many regional destinations, including Seboomook, a location long denied to four-wheelers.

Jennifer Mills remembers the first day that ATVers rumbled into the Pittston Farm yard: July 30, 2009. Their arrival on a new Seboomook trail represented a dream for Mills and her husband, Robert, who had purchased the 44-acre wilderness farm in 2005.

The ATVers “bridged a [business] gap for us, from June through about the end of October, de-pending on the weather,” Jennifer Mills said.

For ATVers, the Pittston Farm trail meant they were now so close — and yet so far from fulfilling the dream of an ATV trail encircling Moosehead Lake. State officials and local ATV clubs support the concept, said Scott Ramsay, director of the Off-Road Vehicle Unit, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

Obstacles exist to connecting Seboomook and Kokadjo, so for now state officials want “to lay out a year-round ATV-and-snowmobile trail connection” between Greenville and Kokadjo, Ramsay said.

“There’s quite a trail network there” in Kokadjo, from which ATV trails extend south to Prong Pond (more than halfway to Greenville), east to the Nahmakanta Public Reserved Unit, and west to Kineo, he said. “The next key component is connecting to the Greenville trails.”

Many Greenville business owners “and the recreation people in the area” support the proposed trail, Ramsay noted. “We’re working with Plum Creek” and other landowners to find a suitable route from Prong Pond to Greenville.

“Hopefully in the near future they will figure out a route that works for everybody,” he said.

Trails already connect Greenville with Shirley, The Forks, and Rockwood, from which other trails extend to Jackman and the 40,583-acre Seboomook Public Reserved Unit.

“It’s a beautiful place to ride,” Ramsay said, referring to the Moosehead Lake Region.

As with ATV trail creation elsewhere in the Moosehead Lake Region, building a trail to Seboomook involved negotiations with local landowners, including North Maine Woods Inc. Pittston Farm lay north of the Twenty-Mile Gate operated by the North Maine Woods, a land-management company that bans ATVs from its extensive acreage and also bans trailers on its roads “because it’s a hazard” to log trucks, said Brian Bronson, the ATV program recreational, safety, and vehicle coordinator with the Off-Road Vehicle Unit.

The ban also kept Seboomook campowners from towing boats to their property.

“North Maine Woods was very understanding” about “the recreational opportunities available in the Seboomook Unit, Bronson said. Under an agreement signed by the involved parties, North Maine Woods relocated its gate to “the old forestry building” just beyond the South Branch of the Penobscot River, he indicated.

Drawing partially upon ATV program funding, the state spent $160,000 to move the NMW gate, build a new Maine Forest Service building nearby, and build the Seboomook trail.

“Part of it was [on] existing roads,” including some abandoned logging roads, Bronson said. Crews “brushed out” some overgrown roads, replaced old culverts, and excavated the trail in places where no road existed.

The trail construction took place on state and Plum Creek land, Bronson indicated. “It’s some tough terrain up there,” he said. State employees, volunteers from the Pittston Farm Recreation Club, and a road contractor worked on the trail.

“The last seven miles is an intermediate trail, meaning it’s a little more difficult to maneuver,” Mills said. “The trail is 60 inches wide, the state-sanctioned width.”

Bronson cautioned that “the entire [Seboomook] unit is not open to ATVs. They have to stay only on the designated trail system.”

“Plum Creek” was “wonderful to work with,” Mills said. “We went directly from Plum Creek land to Maine Public Reserved land and then directly to our property.”

Before the gate’s relocation, people traveling to Pittston Farm or Seboomook paid a NMW gate fee to reach either destination. “The gate fee was a problem for our business,” Mills said. “We knew we had to have the ATV business here because of the revenues.”

She believes that while “ATVs are not as [big a business as] snowmobiling now … down the road, they’re going to be.”

“One of the fastest-growing outdoor recreation markets is ATV riding,” Ramsay said. “Most of the [Moosehead Lake Region] communities and businesses have seen the benefits of snowmobiling. They are set up for tourism.

“Now the ATVers are arriving. It extends the season for all these businesses. ATVers are spending money in those towns,” he said.

Effective July 30, 2009, recreationists started towing ATV trailers as far as Pittston Farm and boat trailers as far as Northwest Cove in the Seboomook Public Reserved Unit. Pittston Farm quickly geared up as a destination location for ATVers, who will not yet arriving “in droves,” are coming nonetheless, Mills said.

“Depending on the economy and the price of gas, we’re probably seeing … 350-400 ATVers a year right now,” she estimated. “We sell them gas, we sell them food, [and] lodging as well.” An “ATV option” offered by Pittston Farm includes fishing opportunities involving a canoe or kayak provided by the Mills.

Bronson rode an ATV to Pittston Farm “one day last year” and heard that “the numbers … were somewhere around 38 or 40 machines that had ridden in that day.”

“We’re on the ATV map,” Jennifer Mills said, referring to the Maine ATV Trail Map. “It’s a 50-mile recreation trail that we have now” that is open to ATVers, horse riders, mountain bikers, hikers, and snowmobilers.

 

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