Commissioners learn of Maine Appalachian Trail Club efforts in Piscataquis County

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Approximately 160 miles of the 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine is located in Piscataquis County, much of it comprised of the 100-Mile Wilderness from Monson to the summit of Mount Katahdin. The Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) works to keep the route open for hikers traveling for the day, going between Georgia and Maine, and any distance inbetween, and the Piscataquis County Commissioners learned more about the organization during a Nov. 6 meeting.

County Manager Tom Lizotte said Piscataquis County receives about $34,000 as an annual payment in lieu of taxes from the Department of the Interior for having the Appalachian Trail cross through the region. “We have been giving (the MATC) $15,000 a year and the other $19,000 goes to tax reduction,” Lizotte said with the $19,000 tax reduction for residents of the county’s unorganized territories.

MATC Executive Committee President Lester Kenway said the organization has about 600 members. He said the MATC has more than $450,000 invested in trail mileage in the county, with nearly $100,000 being used per year for a trail crew. Kenway said annually there are around “92,000 hiker days, we estimate at least half of that is in Piscataquis County.”

“When I joined the club in the 1970s the trail was not considered an economic engine for the counties,” Kenway said. He said over this timespan the number of yearly hikers passing through has gone from several hundred to more than 3,000.

Kenway said there are now several lodging facilities in Monson. “People who hike the trail need to resupply,” he said, as Monson is the last stop with stores before the 100-Mile Wilderness. Kenway said shuttle services are another business helping bring Appalachian Trail travelers back to their vehicles parked to the south.

“Our crew also have to purchase fuel,” he said, with this done on both sides of Piscataquis County. “We purchased over $32,000 in groceries the last few years in Dover-Foxcroft.”

He said the MATC crews focus on restoration projects, such as when rain washes out a section of the trail or bridges need work, and “the trail crews we have are a paid leader and a volunteer crew.” Kenway said those donating their time are vital elsewhere along the route with about 115 helping maintain the trail.

“That’s how we keep it open, keep it blazed, keep it maintained,” he said.

“The goal is not to make money on the Appalachian Trail, the goal is cost replenishment each year,” Kenway said.

“I just appreciate your efforts because tourism is the No. 1 industry in Maine,” Commissioner Jim Annis said.

“We are the only county that feeds money back to the trail at all,” Commissioner Wayne Erkkinen said. Kenway said yes, as the other approximate 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through Oxford, Franklin, and Somerset counties.

“Piscataquis County is the biggest supporter of the counties that receive payments in lieu of taxes,” Kenway said.

“I think it’s money well spent,” Annis said.

In other business, the commissioners renewed the fire and solid waste disposal service contracts for Blanchard and Elliottsville townships with the town of Monson for 2019.

“They have been $9,000 per township, for $18,000, for for many years now,” Lizotte said about the fire contacts with Monson.

“These costs have also remained stable, $9,950 per township,” Lizotte said about solid waste disposal agreements for Blanchard and Elliottsville with Monson.

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