Way cleared for 2.5-mile trail extension from Bethel Pathway
Mahoosuc Pathways has reached tentative agreements with six Bethel landowners to cross their property in order to create a 2.5-mile walking/biking trail from Route 2 to Angevine Park.
The trail would be an extension of the current 1.7-mile Pathway trail that starts at the Gateway parcel, according to Landon Fake, executive director of the MP trails organization.
“Mahoosuc Pathways is very excited to have landowners willing to help create a great route to access Angevine Park and extend the Pathway,” Fake said Sunday. “There is a lot of work ahead, but I think we are in a good place. Individual landowner’s needs, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and cost will affect the exact layout.”
The town of Bethel must vote to accept the landowner agreements, he said.
The extension would start as a bike lane near the Bethel end of the North Road and run to the airport, where the trail would then reach out around the back side of the runway and on into wooded areas.
“It’s the flattest piece of land between here and Ohio,” said Fake. “I’d guess there is less than 20 feet of elevation change on the route. It’s a mix of open areas, working industrial landscape, wetlands and woods. At any given time, on the eastern half, there may be timber harvesting, gravel mining, or grinding or crushing operations going on nearby. But if you look up, there are great views of Barker Mountain in the same place. I think that makes it interesting. Obviously there is one long, straight, level section, but there is also the possibility of seeing planes up close, landing or taking off.”
The primary purpose of the trail, he said, “is to extend the length of the Pathway for walkers and bicyclists, and to create a safe route to walk or bike to Angevine Park,and eventually to provide a route to the Bethel Water District land and Bingham Forest.”
The trail route will cross some of the same ground as a snowmobile trail that runs from Bethel into the Sunday River Valley, he said, “but it will only use it for a short distance at both the east and west ends, where it leaves the North Road and then comes back to it.”
The route will require construction work before it can be used. The goal is a 12-foot wide paved pathway, Fake said. But the trail would start as gravel, with some parts narrower than 12 feet.
The rough cost estimate for a gravel trail is $110,000 to $220,000. MP has applied to the Maine National Guard to do rough construction as part of the Guard’s Innovative Readiness Training program.
“The Guard would build basically a rough tank road and we will still need to finish it to a higher level,” said Fake.
The town of Bethel has also applied for a $40,000 Maine Department of Transportation grant, with a 20 percent town cash match, to build the bike lane section from the BIG Adventure Center to the airport.
MP has a commitment of $25,000 for the project from the Northern Oxford Health and Services Council.
As for a timetable of construction and funding, said Fake, “If we are successful in getting the help of the Maine National Guard, they would start in 2014. We need to figure out if we want to start on the east end before then. That will depend on funding and whether the DOT money comes through. The DOT money would also come in 2014, but knowing it was there would help in committing to doing the eastern half without the Guard. I don’t think we need all the money in hand to start the first half, but certainly a good part of it.”
Once the trail is completed, the town would assume maintenance, Fake said. Town Manager Jim Doar estimated Tuesday that cost could be roughly $400 a year, based on an unpaved trail surface.
Fake said MP will work to maintain a good relationship with the landowners who are opening up their property.
“There is the natural concern that allowing the pathway will constrain the use or access to your property, or affect the ability to sell it,” he said. “They worry about vandalism and trash. Many people out recreating expect to use private property, but don’t have any idea that someone owns it, cares for it, pays taxes on it, and maybe uses it to make a living. That is a lot of the concern. I hope we can address some of that with signs and education.”
Fake expressed MP’s gratitude to the landowners and to Sunday River Ski Resort. “Without Sunday River’s financial support, we wouldn’t have gotten the organization off the ground,” he said.
MP is also funded by local businesses, individuals and foundation grants.
Davis Park-Telstar extension
Mahoosuc Pathways has also been working to establish landowner agreements to allow the extension of the Pathway from Davis Park to Telstar High School. “We haven’t been successful getting an off-road route established so far, but we haven’t given up,” he said.
Fake said MP is talking to the Maine Department of Transportation about other options. He said they are planning to resurface several miles of Route 26 from Davis Park south this year. “There may be some options for a combination of pathway and sidewalk, but so far only expensive options. Putting a five-foot sidewalk along 26, for example, would cost the town almost $150/ foot, so that’s not a viable solution.”