June 18, 2018
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Land purchase might break Lincoln recreational trail impasse

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

LINCOLN, Maine — Local snowmobile and ATV clubs hope the purchase of a small sliver of land near Penobscot Valley Avenue will end a two-year dispute with residents opposed to a recreational vehicle trail in their neighborhood, officials said Tuesday.

The Town Council agreed informally Monday to support efforts by the Lincoln Snowhounds Snowmobile and Penobscot Off Road Riders clubs to buy the land from Pan Am Railways and one of its subsidiaries, Maine Central Railway Co., for about $8,000. No vote occurred.

Kevin Steward, the Snowhounds’ trailmaster, told councilors that the purchase would help create an all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trail that would connect West Broadway to Interconnected Trail System 82, a major 25-mile east-west trail corridor that links to the north-south-running ITS 83, near Seboeis Lake, and ITS 81, near Burlington.

“This really is an answer to the Buckley Avenue and Penobscot Valley Avenue issue,” Steward said Monday. “I think the $8,000 would be well spent, or whatever the town could help us out with. Neither club is bursting at the seams with funds.”

The new trail, Steward said, would allow riders to bypass the Buckley and Penobscot Valley avenue neighborhoods where neighbors have complained that some riders on the clubs’ present trail litter, make too much noise and threaten traffic and pedestrian safety.

The new connection would also continue to give recreational riders access to West Broadway businesses, Steward said.

The residents believe ATVs and snowmobiles simply don’t fit in with the residential character of their neighborhoods. Club leaders say riders need access to West Broadway to refuel, get food and use motels and hotels on the road. Councilors have allowed a trail in the neighborhood and pledged to find a way to satisfy residents’ concerns.

Scott Ramsay, supervisor of the Off-Road Vehicle Division at the Maine Department of Conservation, has been negotiating a deal, Steward said.

The land is a strip — 12 feet by several hundred feet — that would allow a trail to run over railroad tracks that parallel West Broadway and connect to the Interconnected Trail Systems away from the neighborhoods, Steward said. Two landowners have tentatively agreed to allow trails over their land.

Councilors and members of the Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce said they would support the land purchase to end the dispute and keep Lincoln plugged into the recreational network.

Regionally, clubs and municipalities have worked to increase or maintain trail access to downtowns. In Millinocket, volunteers completed the Katahdin region’s first multi-use access trail plugging into downtown a year ago. That trail has led to ATV riders and snowmobilers frequenting businesses downtown and along Route 11.

Town officials have tried since 2010 to find a crossing that would satisfy all sides. Attempts to find a right-of-way in 2011 failed. The town also appealed to 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Millinocket for assistance.

Town Councilors said they hoped to use money generated by TIF tax breaks to buy the land. Town Economic Development Director Ruth Birtz said she believed that it could be used, but she would have to research the law.

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