Let Maine people decide on the Maine trails bond

By Angela Arno, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council executive director

I recently spent a day at the State House talking with legislators about why the proposed $30 million Maine trails bond is so important to rural communities, including towns in Piscataquis County.  

My message was simple: Trails are critical to our way of life and our economic future. The trails bond represents an investment in that future, so please put the trails bond on the November ballot. Let Maine people decide whether to make this investment.

Growing up in Dover-Foxcroft and living on Sebec Lake, rural Maine means the world to me, and trails often are the best way we explore that world. Trails are central to our way of life, to our heritage, and to the health and welfare of our communities. 

Snowmobiling, ATVing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing — these activities bring hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Maine businesses, particularly in rural Maine, and the economic impact keeps growing. 

Right now, Piscataquis County has incredible trails, including in Baxter State Park, the 100-mile wilderness, trails throughout the Moosehead Lake Region, and hundreds of miles of International Trail System and ATV trails that provide unrivaled recreation opportunities. 

These trails need the sort of investments the trails bond can provide, especially due to this winter’s storm damage. But the potential for the future is what really excites me. 

From my background in marketing, I believe Maine has the potential to become broadly recognized as the state with the most incredible trails in the eastern United States. 

Outstanding trails for all seasons could easily become part of Maine’s brand identity, drawing people to our state for recreation, to support and start businesses, and to relocate. 

We already see that people are moving to places where the outdoor recreation opportunities are exciting, and where investments are being made to make them even more attractive.  Bentonville, Arkansas is a case in point, with over 400 miles of trails, the area has become a mecca for trail-related outdoor recreation, with a rapid influx of new residents.

The Moosehead Outdoor Alliance is developing world-class mountain biking trails that could rival any destination in the eastern United States, including the trails in Bentonville or Kingdom Trails in Vermont. 

Rumford, Island Falls, and other communities are exploring trail development in their town forests. Trail designers are mapping out projects to connect existing trails with towns, enabling ATVs to avoid traveling on the roads. Towns are planning new park-and-ride lots to accommodate a growing number of trail users, making it easier for them to visit, get to know, and spend money at stores, restaurants, and other local destinations as part of their adventures on Maine trails.    

Many great ideas are emerging statewide for new trails that would benefit our communities and economy, yet these ideas will only become a reality if funding is available to make them happen, which is why I support the Maine trails bond. I see the trails bond as an economic development bond, particularly beneficial in rural Maine.  

I’m delighted that the trails bond has received such broad support from more than 515 organizations, businesses, and towns statewide — including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and 28 regional and local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. From a business perspective, trails add value that will deliver economic returns for decades to come.  

That’s why I’m excited about the opportunity for Maine to become a national leader in trail-based recreation. And it’s why I spent a day in Augusta urging lawmakers to help us realize this vision by placing the Maine trails bond on the November ballot. Let Maine voters decide if we want outstanding trails for all types of uses to be a bigger part of Maine’s future.

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