The Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Eastern Railroad would like to remind ATV owners and operators that riding on a railroad track is dangerous and illegal. The MDOT and MERR have posted the right of way against riding on, alongside or across the track, but the signs are being ignored by some ATV operators. In some cases, the signs have been stolen or vandalized.

Railroad trespassing is the number one cause of rail-related deaths in the United States. In 2009, 435 people were killed and 338 were injured while trespassing on railroad property.

When a train goes into emergency braking because of something or someone on the track, a derailment could occur. That places not only the trespasser, but also the train crew and any passengers on the train at risk.

The stones placed around and between the wooden ties are called ballast. Ballast allows drainage while it holds the ties in place, and the rails are spiked to the ties. ATVs being driven alongside the track cause damage to the track structure by scattering the ballast away from its proper place. Such disruption of the ballast could cause the track to become misaligned, resulting in a derailment.

In most parts of the Rockland Branch, the railroad has a 66-foot right of way, so the area 33 feet either side of the track center is part of the railroad property. The area 30 feet outside a rail can be a danger zone for trespassers. Not only do locomotives and cars overhang the track by several feet, but sometimes a metal band around a freight load can break and fall to one or both sides and not be noticed by the train crew. An unsecured object hanging from a railroad car could injure someone walking, standing or riding too close to the track.

Under Maine law, a person who operates an ATV on railroad property can be fined from $100 to $500. The owner of an ATV that is illegally operated by another person, or the parent of a minor who illegally operates an ATV, may also be fined up to $500. An ATV owner or the parent of a minor may also be liable for damages caused by improper operation of the ATV.

GPS workshop set June 5

Outdoor enthusiasts looking to hone their navigation skills can do so at a GPS basics workshop offered by the Merryspring Nature Center in Camden on June 5.

The workshop will run from 9 a.m. until noon, and will be led by Morten Moesswilde, the midcoast district forester for the Maine Forest Service.

Participants will be given an introduction to the technological system behind GPS, as well as the setup of their GPS units. They will learn to create waypoints and use a GPS unit to find physical locations.

The workshop fee is $30 for non-members of Merryspring Nature Center and $15 for members. Registration is required and the deadline is June 3. For more information or to register, call 236-2239 or visit the group’s web site at

Bird walk scheduled

Birders are invited to take an educational walk with professional birding guide Derek Lovitch on Swan Island in Richmond on May 30.

The walk will run from 8-11 a.m. and space is limited, so participants are advised to call 547-5322 to reserve a spot. Admission to the event is $8.

The group will meet at the Swan Island Dock.

Swan Island has ideal conditions that attract a diverse array of bird species. The tour will focus on migrant and breeding birds, including three pairs of bald eagles that nest on the island.

To submit an item for publication in the Outdoor Notebook, send e-mail to, fax to 990-8092 or mail information to Outdoor Notebook, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...