AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Conservation (DOC) announced recently the acquisition of the inactive Guilford Rail System line between Newport and Dover Foxcroft. The purchase agreement is the result of more than a decade of planning, fund-raising and negotiations between DOC and its partners, and Guilford Rail System.
The line, which runs through the towns of Newport, Corinna, Dexter, Sangerville and Dover-Foxcroft, will be used as a multi-purpose trail for hiking, biking, ATV riding and snowmobile use.
"We are just thrilled that this purchase has been completed," said Judy Doore, town manager in Corinna. "One of Corinna's chief economic assets is this railbed and its all-season use. We expect those who use the trail will make use of our existing businesses and those which are yet to come."
The railbed, nearly 27 miles long, follows the shore of Sebasticook Lake in Newport, runs through downtown Corinna, skirts Lake Wassookeag in Dexter and crosses the Piscataquis river in Dover-Foxcroft. The trail is mainly rural in nature, passing through farmland, forestland and scattered residential areas. The railbed consists of approximately 238 acres, some of which are abandoned sidings. DOC envisions developing these sidings into trailside or trailhead parking for trail users.
The trail has a history of public use for hiking, biking, horseback riding, all terrain vehicles and snowmobiling since the rails and ties were removed in 1993. Five area snowmobile clubs maintain the bridges and groom the trail during the winter months. The trail corridor also provides access for hunting, fishing and trapping.
Among DOC's partners in this acquisition was the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT). "This was a good opportunity for the departments to partner on an important project," said Ron Roy, Director of Passenger Transportation at MDOT. "This purchase is a fine example of preservation of an existing transportation corridor for use in alternative transportation mod- es."
Major funding for the purchase was acquired from the Land for Maine's Future Board, which contributed $583,000. DOT used $400,000 of federal funds from the TEA21 grant program. The Central Maine Trails Coalition for Alternative Transportation (CMTAT) provided $70,000, $25,000 of which was contributed by the towns of Newport, Corinna, Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft.
We have been working on this project for a number of years," said David Soucy, Director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands at DOC. "This trail is a vital link in Maine's vast network of off-road vehicle trails. It will be used not only by the people who live in this area, but also by those who are from away. Like all rail trails, this acquisition will help us build the local economy through recreation and tourism." Chief among the major recreational uses of the trail is snowmobiling, a $300 million business in Maine. The railbed will serve as a connector between state supported Interconnected Trail Sytem (ITS) 84 running from Bangor to Rangeley and ITS 82/83 and ITS 85, that run from Millinocket to Greenville.
"We're very excited to complete this deal with the DOC," said David Fink, executive vice-president of Guilford Rail System. "This was a complicated deal, and the DOC staff worked very hard in a cooperative, collaborative way to get it done. It's been 12 years in the making, but things moved very quickly over the last three months, with the help of Governor Baldacci. Guilford is pleased to be able to turn this line over to the state for recreational use, now that we no longer use it for rail purposes."
The trail, which will be managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, will be formally dedicated in a ceremony that will be scheduled for later this month.
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