Kennebec Messalonskee Trails recently received a donation of a long-awaited 45 acres of land from UPM Madison paper mill, and they plan to use the land build a trail along the east shoreline of the Kennebec River, linking the towns of Benton and Winslow.
“We have been hoping to include this trail route in our network for several years,” Peter Garrett, president of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, said in a news release. “We couldn’t be more pleased to receive this generous gift from UPM Madison. It will enable us to provide access to the Kennebec River for many residents who have never seen, let alone walked along, this section.”
The donated land, referred to as The Winslow Evergreen Sanctuaries, will link an 8-mile bike route of trails and paved road that begins in Benton, runs through Winslow, crosses the historic Two Cent Bridge to Waterville and ends at the Quarry Road Recreation Area.
“This link offers people an opportunity for walking, running and cycling, and an off-road recreation venue for those in wheelchairs. It will be especially valuable as a cross country running route for Winslow High School students,” Garrett said.
The route will also be added to a much longer pedestrian and cycling route, the East Coast Greenway, which spans nearly 3,000 miles from Florida to New Brunswick. In Maine, the Greenway stretches from the southern tip of the state and travels northeast, on scenic roads and trails, to Calais.
“If you’re going from Key West to Calais, this is a part of it,” Garrett said.
“Integrating this acreage into their trail system has been KMTrails’ vision for a long time,” said Russ Drechsel, UPM Madison general manager, in a press release. “This donation improves the quality of life in our communities and enhances the environment we all value and enjoy, demonstrating UPM’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”
A presentation of the deeds to the several parcels took place at the trail head kiosk of the Rotary Centennial Trail in Benton on Saturday, followed by a public walk along the trail to the railroad abutment, from which point all of the land donated by UPM Madison can be seen.
The donated land includes 42 acres in Winslow (above the Brookfield LLC Hydro dam), 2.3 acres in Benton (immediately upstream from the Winslow sector), and 0.71 acres in two lots next to the river in Fairfield, along with three former railroad bridge piers on the river.
KMTrails is already working to develop a plan for the future trail.
“Two thirds of the route that we need to go on is actually a tote road already,” Garrett said. “So I expect that we’ll be doing something a bit later this year.”
“When you start to develop a trail system, you kind of have to do it in pieces,” Garrett said. “Where the land is available in the area, you create a trail, and then you start to join the pieces together. We’ve been doing that for a while now. This is a major missing piece to that puzzle.”
KMTrails was established in 2002 (though was in the works since 1996) to promote, build and maintain recreation and fitness trails along the waterways connecting the City of Waterville and the surrounding towns of Winslow, Benton, Fairfield and Oakland. A new focus on pedestrian and bicycling safety and friendliness is now a part of the organization’s mission. For more information, visit www.kmtrails.org.