LINCOLN, Maine — When people walk into the town Recreation Department office asking for a good place to jog or walk, Ron Weatherbee wants to give them an awesome answer.
The rec department director and a handful of volunteers hope to begin building in the spring Phase I of Lincoln’s first collection of public multi-use, nonmotorized recreation trails. The first portion of trails is about eight-tenths of a mile and will run near Mattanawcook Academy, Ella P. Burr School to the town-owned land off Route 6 slated for a recreation center, he said Monday.
The idea, trail volunteer David Irving said, is to have this three-phase set of trails eventually connect to existing ATV, snowmobile and walking trails throughout Lincoln.
“The vision is a comprehensive system of trails that connects to this hub with hopefully the rec center built on it so everybody can get there to run, walk, hike or bike,” Irving said Monday. “Not all the trails will be as good as these but they will be at least marked.”
The trail effort, which is among Town Manager William Lawrence’s 13 ideas for attracting young people to Lincoln, won a $17,100 grant from the Herb and Ellie Bailey Trust Fund in January. That might be enough to build Phase I. The volunteers, who have applied for a $40,000 federal grant that might pay for Phases II and III, want to use donations, grants and in-kind services as much as possible, Irving and Weatherbee said.
The trail system “is nothing we are looking to fund with your tax dollars or mine,” Weatherbee said.
A licensed forester who has helped design what will become the Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes region’s first off-road mountain-biking facility next summer in Township 1 Range 8, Irving calls Lincoln’s trail effort “a fantastic opportunity.
“What they have right now is the town and school land. It is a raw woodlot right now,” Irving said. “I have worked with other projects harvesting and thinning wood lots so they are aesthetically appealing. Historically, the running trail that’s already out there is closed in. It is dark. It is wet because it can’t dry out properly. I am able to see what this can be and how I can cut a woodlot with an eye on making it appealing.”
Phase I could be finished by November, Irving said.
Organizers hope to place weather-resistant exercise stations along the trail where users can do sit-ups, chin-ups and other simple exercises. They have also begun scouting other locations where other trails can go, such as by Stump Pond off Frost Street, northeast of the rec center land, Weatherbee said. They plan to inspect land off MacKenzie Avenue on Thursday to see how it might accommodate a trail.
Anyone interested in making donations to the effort or joining the volunteers on Thursday should call Weatherbee at 794-6548, he said. Donations of equipment, such as mini-excavators, small bulldozers or timber harvesters, or items such as crusher dust and gravel, would be especially appreciated, said Irving, a town resident donating his services.
The trail system will act as a recreation and economic draw for Lincoln. Such trails typically boost the value of homes and quality of life around them and enhance retail sales of recreation equipment, Lawrence said.
“When people look to move to a community,” Lawrence said, “that’s one of the first things they look at — do they have a fitness center? Do they have a trail system?”
A young professional couple Lawrence knows opted not to move to Lincoln because it lacked a trail system. “It was a major concern that we did not have one,” said Lawrence of Lincoln, which does have 13 ponds, lakes and other water bodies within its borders, plus the Penobscot River.
Lawrence said he would rather see the trail system completed than attempt at this time to resurrect the dormant recreation center effort because the trails can be done for low to no cost to taxpayers.