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Improved Moosehead hiking trails beckon this summer

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GREENVILLE — Some of the wonderful things to enjoy in the Moosehead region, now that the snow has finally retreated, are the many hiking trails in the area. A nearly decade-old plan to improve and expand the trail system in the region continues to be implemented and volunteers are already working to maintain the trails.

The effort dates back to 2012 when a group of committed individuals got together to discuss potential new trail locations as well as to improve those trails that already existed. Rex Turner, outdoor recreation planner for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, assembled this group to help advise on non-motorized trail projects enabled by the Moosehead Lake Region Concept Plan. Plum Creek Timber (now Weyerhaeuser), the landowner behind the concept plan, provided funding and acreage for the state to enhance and expand non-motorized trails in this area.

Moosehead trails

Contributed photo
BRIDGE WORK — From left, volunteer Paul Ducey, Rex Turner, outdoor recreation planner for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and volunteer Karen Lewsen work on bridge repair on a hiking trail in the Moosehead region.

“The group reviewed potential trail locations with consideration of cost, geography, trail diversity, vistas, interconnectivity, and so much more,” Turner said. “And, these trails are intended to be a coordinated system, showcasing the region’s unique natural and cultural character.”

Turner explained that roughly 28 miles of new trail have been constructed as part of the project. While some of these trail miles are available to the public now, the completion and promotion of several new trails is waiting on acquisition and development of trailhead parking areas and, in some cases, remote campsites. The donation of five trailheads as well as campsites and other recreation sites totaling up to 50 acres collectively is also part of the concept plan. Weyerhaeuser and the Bureau of Parks and Lands are actively working on the land donation and trailhead development work. The plan also put in place a 359,000-acre forest conservation easement held by Bangor-based Forest Society of Maine.

Trails require maintenance, of course, whether new or existing trails. “We held discussions early on that maintenance and stewardship models had to be determined and were critically important to the entire project,” Turner said, noting that many of the trails were already in existence, but required regular maintenance and upkeep to make hikers experiences more enjoyable. Thrashing through blow-downs and underbrush when you’re out for a hike sure can diminish the experience.

Moosehead Trails Coordinator Jenny Ward of the Appalachian Mountain Club in Greenville is very much involved with trail maintenance and has worked with Turner since the trail concept plan was created.

Contributed photo
IMPROVING THE TRAILS — Volunteers Alexandra Conover and Karen Lewsen work on a hiking trail in the Moosehead region.

“We’re off to a very good start this season,” Ward said. On Saturday, May 18, she organized a trail workday on a new hike at Prong Pond, an easy hike of just under a mile one way. “We had 11 people attend,” she said. “Some folks drove all the way from Bangor to help us out. We worked with Rex Turner lopping branches, painting blazes and clearing debris. And, we were able to accomplish what we set out to do, in spite of occasional sprinkles of rain.”

There was a big effort by Plum Creek starting in the mid-2000s doing rezoning projects and adding the framework of conservation elements for the region. “It was through the Land Use Planning Commission,” explained Turner. “It’s a very large comprehensive plan that is guiding land use planning for 26 unorganized townships in the Moosehead Lake Region. There are all kinds of pieces to this of course, not just hiking trails. There are other miles of trails that are easements associated with snowmobile trails, for instance.

The stewardship program under the Moosehead Trails program has made quite an impact since January of 2015. With work being done on nine trails they have maintained and worked on over 15 miles of trails, with $24,733 essentially donated to the local community.

“If volunteer hours were equated with a paid position this is the value of the hours contributed to the trails during this time period. This is the monetary value of the volunteer contribution to the trails in dollars,” said Ward. “We’ve had over 30 volunteers and trail professionals working with us during that time and now we look forward to more involvement this summer.”

The next trip planned is for Saturday, June 15. “We’re going to be working on the new trail to Eagle Rock,” said Ward. “That new trail is a treat even though it’s longer than the original trail, there are many beautiful places to stop along the way, and you can make it a shorter hike than the 3.7 miles, which takes you all the way to Eagle Rock.”

Ward is also looking for people who would like to sponsor sections of various trails. Here’s how it works. Let’s say you and a friend are interested in the trail that goes down to Moose Pond. You could volunteer to maintain a section of that trail – say a half-mile or so. Armed with your instructions from Ward, you would walk the trail in spring, mid-summer and fall, looking for any debris or problems on the trail. If, for example, you noted a bridge that was in disrepair you would take photos and make a report.

“Good eyes on the trail is our motto,” Ward said. “Right now we have availability to adopt trail sections at the Little Moose Unit and Big Moose Mountain. It’s lots of fun, so why not grab a friend to share the experience. As an example, a group of friends from the local yacht club have adopted a section of trail,” she said.

“This project has been a thoroughly thoughtful effort with a lot of local input and information from trail designers,” said Karin Tilberg, Executive Director of the Forest Society of Maine. “Now we have the critical volunteer effort – these people are doing this because they care so much. These trails are very important and a huge asset for the Moosehead area – that’s why volunteer groups and the stewardship hikes are critical to the success of this plan.”

There are additional stewardship hikes planned during the summer and fall in addition to the Eagle Rock hike. They are planned for July 14, August 4, September 15, with the last trip planned for October 19. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer and helping maintain this beautiful system of trails in the Moosehead Region, contact Jenny Ward at mooseheadtrails@gmail.com or call 695-3085. You can also visit her office at the Appalachian Mountain Club, located at 15 Moosehead Lake Road in Greenville.

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