May 26, 2018
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New Hampden trail system behind middle school nearing completion

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — A group of community volunteers is about to complete construction of Reeds Brooks Trails, a system of outdoor recreation paths that will serve not only Hampden Academy’s cross country and ski teams but also the broader community.

The plan is to have the trails completed in time for the start of the new school year, when they would be available for Hampden Academy’s cross country and ski teams and anyone else who wants to go out for a walk, run, bicycle ride or snowshoeing, according to Dustin Ramsay, an avid cross country runner and skier who graduated from Hampden Academy in June.

Ramsay is arguably the driving force behind the project, which will result in a 1.6 mile loop of mulch-covered trails. There is plenty of room for expansion, including a proposed connector trail.

Among the adults who served as mentors to Ramsay were Lauren Jacobs, a cross-country ski coach with the Maine Winter Sports Center, and Peter Buzzini of the Penobscot Valley Ski Club.

“Any nonmotorized recreation is really what we’re trying to encourage on this,” Ramsay said in a recent interview. “We really want the emphasis to be that it’s a community recreation area and not just an outdoor classroom specific to the school, although we have talked about building an outdoor classroom out there,” he said.

RSU 22 Assistant Superintendent Emil Genest sits on the seven-member trails committee assembled to oversee the project, which he said will cost an estimated $60,000 to $70,000 in total. The funding is privately raised.

“What’s unique about this project is that it’s a collaboration of community members, students and [area organizations],” including the Boy Scouts, the Penobscot Valley Ski Club and the Maine Winter Sports Center, he said.

Reeds Brook Trails is located out behind Reeds Brook Middle School and a few minutes walk through the woods from the Hampden Academy parking lot.

RSU 22 acquired that mostly forested parcel as the result of a property swap with the town in which the town gained the old Hampden Academy property for the purpose of redevelopment.

Ramsay said a portion of the trail system was completed in time for the 2013-14 winter ski season. That section was the focus of an Open Trail Night in March.

Hampden resident Jeremy Guerrette, co-owner with Darren Donovan of Ground Perfection Specialists, provided the group a flat rate to bring his company’s forestry mulchers to the site to grind wood waste from the trails project into an eco friendly, permeable mulch surface for the trails.

The mulch is mixed with 3 or 4 inches of topsoil, which Guerrette said helps prevent erosion.

“It’s a great way of doing this, low impact to the environment,” Guerrette said Tuesday, describing the process as “cover-as-you-go.”

“It’s an instant trail,” he said, adding that the process eliminates the problem of holes and ruts being left behind.

As his Eagle Scout project, soon-to-be Hampden Academy senior Ryan Cole has coordinated the construction of a wooden bridge that spans Reeds Brook, Ramsay said.

The trail concept was born in 2010, when Hampden Academy began the move to its new building on Western Avenue and had to leave behind the cross country course it had been using for roughly three decades, according to the trail project’s website.

“The need for a new cross country course was realized, and plans began taking shape for a year-round recreational trail facility for both Hampden sports teams and the greater community,” the website notes.

Ramsay’s mother, Melanie Spencer, wrote a grant proposal to the Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands on behalf of RSU 22. The $50,000 grant, however, required matching local funds. The first year the district applied for the grant, the federal funding fell through. The next year, the local match was no longer available and the project was set aside.

Last fall, the project regained its traction when Ramsay, members of the Penobscot Valley Ski Club and several other interested people came together to revive the original project — this time as an effort to be fueled by volunteers and donations.

“It was really great that we had maps set up and GPS files of where the route was going to go [leftover from the grant application]. We got started again and we came up with Phase 1,” which Ramsay said involved improving some existing trails.

Community volunteers who want to help with the project are invited to participate in two upcoming trail maintenance days set for 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 9 and 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website and select the Reeds Brook Trails project from the Special Purpose drop-down menu.


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