Mt. Will Trail gains better views, longer route
The popular Mt. Will Trail in Bethel is getting some tender loving care and a reroute, thanks to cooperation between conservation-minded groups and some funding from the town.
At the same time, several local high school students are getting lessons in outdoor skills and leadership.
The trail, built on town forest land in 1991 by the Bethel Conservation Commission, starts just across from the Bethel Transfer Station on Route 2. It followed a 3.25-mile loop, with scenic overlooks that include the North Ledge (looking toward Bear River corners and the Androscoggin River toward Hanover) and the South Cliffs (looking up the river valley).
Hikers can do an up-and-back hike to the spots as well.
This summer’s project goals include rehabilitating and rerouting sections of the north side of the trail to accommodate a wider range of users, eliminating a potentially dangerous ledge climb, lowering future maintenance needs and limiting erosion damage to the trail and nearby streams.
The effort is coordinated between the Mahoosuc Pathways recreational trails organization and the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond.
Together they have formed the Bethel Conservation Corps, which provides a leadership and job skills program for high school students.
Leading up to the Mt. Will project, the half dozen students spent two weeks at the 4-H camp learning outdoor skills that included back-country, Leave-No-Trace camping, outdoor leadership and safety.
Last week they began work on the trail.
Landon Fake of MP said the ledge climb approaching the north ledges has been eliminated.
“The crew finished the new section around it, improved the view from the top of the ledges, and began blocking off the old route up to the ledges. The trail will be about 50 percent longer, but all of the steep/difficult sections will be bypassed,” he said.
The work is funded with $6,000 from Bethel’s Pathways maintenance budget, he said.
“Mahoosuc Pathways and Bryant Pond 4-H camp are making up the difference,” said Fake. ”About half the money is going to pay stipends to the participants.”
Next year the organizers hope to raise more outside money to expand the overall program, Fake said.
For a map and photo of the crew, see Page 4.