By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
When Gen. Sam Veazie purchased a Bangor-to-Old Town railroad in 1849, he expected the short line to run for decades. It did until 1870, then closed forever.
Nature gradually reclaimed the rail bed, but sections remain in use today — just not by trains. Known locally as the Veazie Railroad Bed, the railroad’s route remains evident in a section that borders the Bangor City Forest and another section that on a fine spring day lures people to hike and bike it.
That section lays within the University of Maine Bike Path, a paved trail that connects Hilltop Road on the UMaine campus with Jefferson Street in Old Town and a small parking lot off Stillwater Avenue in that city. Trains once ran along the route that the bike path takes from Jefferson to Stillwater; development has obliterated the rail bed elsewhere in Old Town.
As springtime warmth finally pushed Maine’s lingering winter away in late April, people flocked to the UMaine Bike Path. From access points on Jefferson Street, Stillwater Avenue, the UMaine campus and Witter Farm Road, joggers, walkers, bicyclists, and even birdwatchers took to the bike path to enjoy the great outdoors.
With the bike path’s surface deteriorating as rocks and roots “popped” beneath its aging asphalt, university officials launched a reconstruction project late in 2011. With the project’s 2012 completion, path users discovered smooth asphalt under their feet.
This spring, check out the UMaine Bike Path and bike or walk where the trains once rolled through Old Town. Watch for deer in the adjacent fields and listen to the songbirds singing their springtime melodies.