Low impact trail users invited to plan community trail system

IMAGINE THAT — Those behind the Harrison Multi-Use Community Trails group envision the creation of an unbroken system of low-impact trails that can be used by horseback riders, hikers, ATV’ers, bird-watchers. Bikers, and anyone who loves Maine’s woods.

IMAGINE THAT — Those behind the Harrison Multi-Use Community Trails group envision the creation of an unbroken system of low-impact trails that can be used by horseback riders, hikers, ATV’ers, bird-watchers. Bikers, and anyone who loves Maine’s woods.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Not too long ago, when snowmobile enthusiasts first envisioned creating a statewide trail system for their use, the naysayers didn’t believe it would ever happen. Landowners would never grant the needed permission for the sleds to cross their woods and fields.

Yet, today, Maine enjoys around 13,000 miles of snowmobile trails, more miles than any other state in the nation.

Why couldn’t the same thing be done for those who prefer nonmotorized recreation?

It’s a question Scott Hatch has been asking for years, and has been lobbying for in Augusta. But great ideas start small, he realized, so he and another Harrison resident, Manny Pupo, have begun by forming a new group called Harrison Multi-Use Community Trails.

The group will hold their first meeting next Thursday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Harrison Town Office, and the men are encouraging anyone interested in the concept to attend. That includes bird watchers, hikers, nature photographers, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, horseback riders, bikers and anyone else who loves the outdoors.

There are many walking and hiking trails around the Lake Region, but they don’t connect in the same way that snowmobile trails do. To use these nonmotorized trails, most of the time it’s necessary to drive from your home to get there.

“Nonmotorized recreation exists in a box,” such as Pondicherry Park, said Pupo, and while beautiful and pleasant, it’s not a through system. “How many times do you see people on horses riding by the side of the road? They don’t have a place to go.”

What if all the folks who use wooded trails for different purposes were to get together? A study shows that 90% of all people who enjoy recreation in Maine also own property, Hatch said.

By combining forces, becoming organized and assigning tasks, such a group could acquire and maintain an unbroken trail system so convenient that many users could access it simply by walking out their back door, Hatch and Pupo believe.

They’ve already begun to work on the idea, and to date have around eight miles of permissions from landowners for nonmotorized use of their land.

“The term comprehensive trails is a phrase that we’ve coined, and it encompasses all forms of recreation, on both public and private property,” said Hatch. “The master planning of all this is what we need to be focused on as a group.”

 

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