New trails are being constructed in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument as a part of a $120,000 project to improve visitor access to scenic ponds and other natural highlights on the conserved property.
“This trail work is really the first improvement on the ground that we’ve done,” KWW Superintendent Tim Hudson said. “But a lot of it is improving trails that we knew were already there.”
The Appalachian Mountain Club was contracted for the work, which began in October and has been put on pause for the winter months, to resume in late spring and continue throughout the summer of 2019.
Funding for the project came from two sources. Half of it, $60,000, is from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge, which has leveraged more than $68 million in funding from Congress since 2015 to support hundreds of projects in NPS lands across the country. That amount had to be matched with non-federal funds, Hudson explained, which came out of the National Park Foundation endowment fund.
“This first project is an important step in the right direction,” Kaitlyn Bernard, AMC’s Maine policy manager, said in a prepared statement. “We want to make the monument more user-friendly and more established, and we want to show that AMC is invested.”
To start off the trail work, an AMC trail crew worked in KWW throughout the month of October to re-route and improved the Esker Trail, which is about a half-mile long and is located near the beginning of the Katahdin Loop Road. This trail is one of the first opportunities visitors have to get out of their cars and enjoy the wilderness if traveling into the monument from the south.
There are also plans to create a new, larger parking area for the Esker Trail. (The current parking area can only fit one to two vehicles.) This new parking area will be northwest of the original parking area on Swift Brook Road, and it will also be used for hiking the new Deasey Pond Trail, which was mapped out in October but is not yet complete.
“That’ll go in next year,” Hudson said of the Deasey Pond Trail. “Deasey is one of our great ponds. The trail goes up over an esker, then drops down to the pond.”
“We’re still in the process of cutting it,” Andrew Norkin, AMC director of trails and recreation management, said. “One of the things we have to do is get approval to put in bog bridging and boardwalks [in the wetlands around Deasey Pond]. Tim Hudson is trying to get that approval done as we speak.”
Though the Deasey Pond Trail has yet to be measured, Hudson said it will be over a mile long, offering visitors a slightly more challenging walk. The trail will end with a viewing platform at Deasey Pond, where hikers can rest and watch area wildlife.
Also on the docket, the Lynx Pond Trail, a short footpath located near the Mile 2 marker on Katahdin Loop Road, will be transformed into a wheelchair-accessible trail that meets Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. It will end at a large platform and turn-around at the end of Lynx Pond, a popular spot for birdwatching.
“That’s something you don’t see all the time,” Norkin said of the ADA-compliant trail. “That’s an important feature.”
In addition, the monument’s popular trail up Barnard Mountain will be improved, and on one of the eastern parcels of the monument, the AMC trail crew will improve a short trail into Kimball Deadwater and reroute a trail into Twin Ponds to avoid wet areas and make the trail more sustainable.
“Those are the things we’ve identified at this point as the biggest bang for your buck,” Norkin said. “Then we’re going to do some more exploring and go from there.”
AMC has a long history of trail building in Maine and throughout the Northeast for a wide variety of landowners, including land trusts, towns and large conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy. In recent history, AMC has worked on trails in the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area, Nahmakanta Public Lands and Acadia National Park.
Norkin estimates the trail work in KWW will take until the end of the summer in 2019. However, during that time, the park will remain open to visitors, and the Katahdin Loop Road will be open to vehicles throughout the summer, as usual.
“I really encourage folks to come and use it,” Norkin said. “It’s just a beautiful area.”