News from the Executive Director

 

I wanted to introduce myself as the new Executive Director of the Eastern Trail. I use this term collectively as our organization has recently merged two part-time positions (Carole Brush and Nancy Borg) into one full-time position. As executive director I provide support to the Eastern Trail Alliance (ETA) as well as the Eastern Trail Management District (ETMD). The ETA board represents proactive trail advocates who work tirelessly to promote the trail as a recreational resource. The ETMD consists of municipal representatives, often representing public works or recreation departments, from the cities and towns between South Portland and Kittery. I am quickly learning that the organization consists of many dedicated advocates who make the trail a reality, and I look forward to many new and exciting endeavors down the road.

I hope everyone reading this remains COVID free and that social and economic impacts are minimized. The Eastern Trail is experiencing challenges like other Maine people and organizations such as distancing, masks, and reduced activities and events. Our lack of ability to have regular events and gatherings has unfortunately changed what is great about the trail; that is, getting out with others to enjoy the great State O’ Maine outdoors. We were fortunate to have held a virtual event—the Maine Lighthouse Experience—and this provided a smidge of normalcy. And thank you to all of you who participated or otherwise supported the trail during this event!


I wanted to make an unusually blunt request since we are living thorough such extraordinary time. If you can provide either immediate or deferred financial support for the trail your donations will mean more than ever. We have a tremendous base of support, but our lack of events means we are aggressively pursuing financial support that will get us through this extraordinary time. Please visit our website to donate or email or call me directly (860-227-0914) to discuss how you can support the trail.

We also have some exciting news to announce. The Close the Gap project is nearing construction. The final real estate appraisal document is complete in order to secure easements with our new neighbors. The Town of Scarborough is working diligently to finalize landowner agreements and get the project out to bid. Currently the town is anticipating putting the Close the Gap work out to bid this winter in January or February, which means construction could begin during the next construction season between Spring and Fall 2021! Additionally, the trail has secured two Maine Department of Transportation Partnership and Planning Initiative cooperative agreements to explore options and costs for expanding the trail in two locations: Saco/Biddeford representing our “Over the River” campaign and between Kennebunk, Wells and North Berwick known as our “Blazing the Trail South” campaign. These efforts will invest $75K in the Saco/Biddeford section and another $50k in the section south of Kennebunk.


Finally, I wanted to give a big thank to both Carole Brush and Nancy Borg for their incredible commitment, competency and sense of humor managing the Eastern Trail over many years—a job well done!

Close the Gap in Scarborough

The Close the Gap project that will connect 1.6 miles of off-road trail between Scarborough and South Portland is getting closer towards implementation. This is an important project that has significant financial support from trail users, so a community forum was held on September 15th to provide an update on the project timeline and associated activities, listen to comments from attendees, and provide answers to questions that came up during the forum. You can view the Close the Gap community forum summary at: https://www.easterntrail.org/close-the-gap/

Maine Lighthouse Experience

The Maine Lighthouse Experience replaced the annual Maine Lighthouse Ride this year due to COVID. Although we knew it would have limitations, we did our best to hold an event in lieu of the ride this year. This turned out to be the Maine Lighthouse Experience, which was a virtual event for any mode of using the trail such as walking, running or riding. The event was held September 5-12 and we had 175 people sign up to get out on the trail during this time. We also were glad to sign up several new members as a result of the event.  A heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported the trail during this event. Your participation is important and greatly appreciated!

We remain optimistic that will be able to resume our regular events—as well as possible some new trail related events—in Spring of 2021. Please stay posted for more information about future events via our e-blast list and the trail’s Facebook page.

 

 

Maintenance/Trees on the Trail

This summer included significant wind events as I am sure you are aware if you were enjoying the outdoors. As a result of all the wind, there were several trees down on the trail. This included several trees down in Old Orchard Beach, Biddeford and Arundel. Did you ever wonder who is responsible for removing fallen trees or other maintenance such as cutting grass and brush or fixing ruts in the trail? The short version is that each municipality agrees to a maintenance agreement when the trail is built through there city or town. This has provided an immense “army” of public works, recreational departments, and others from the many municipalities between South Portland and Kittery who do a phenomenal job maintaining the trail. One notable maintenance challenge was an exceptionally large scrub oak (also known as a bear oak) that came down across the trail in Arundel on top of two high rock ridges. The tree was growing in only about a foot of soil on top of the rock ledge, and it is amazing that it grew so large and did not blow down sooner.

 

COVID and Trail Use

The trail continues to see heavy traffic with pedestrians and bicycles even into September. Please be aware that there are some areas that have heavy volume and use such as the access points at Pine Point in Scarborough and the Kennebunk Elementary School. Please continue to keep 6 feet apart, wear masks, and be patient as we get through this COVID challenge. On a positive note the trail continues to be a refuge for people to get outside for exercise and mental renewal. We know that the Eastern Trail typically attracts up to 250,000 people out over the course of any given year to enjoy the trail. While we do not have actual data on the number of people using the trail this year, anecdotal information seems to imply that trail use might be 3 times more than average based on the number of cars in parking lots and the number of runners, walkers, and bikers observed on the trail. Could it be possible that 750,000 people will use the trail this year? We do not know for certain, but the trail is clearly crowded.

Click here for more Eastern Trail specific guidance on the virus.



Over the River & Blazing the Trail South 

Our campaign seeks to improve the Saco/Biddeford on-road section of trail by exploring potential off-road sections, improving existing on-road areas for pedestrians and bikers, and seeking an alternate method of getting over the Saco River. The MDOT PPI cooperative agreement between MDOT, the Eastern Trail, and the cities of Biddeford and Saco will provide an opportunity to identify potential improvements for this 3-mile section and better understand the associated constraints and costs. This aerial photo shows the study area.

The Blazing the Trail South campaign aims to plan, design and build trail south of the existing terminus of the trail in Kennebunk. The MDOT PPI cooperative agreement will include MDOT, the Eastern Trail and the towns of Kennebunk, Wells and North Berwick. This effort will identify potential new trail development along this 11-mile section south of Kennebunk. In particular, the planning work will look at roughly .5 mile section immediately south of the existing trail in Kennebunk and a 2 mile section between Wells and North Berwick to better understand options for building trail and understand the associated and constraints and costs for these proposed new sections of trail.

Hunting Season In Maine

Please be aware that hunting is permitted in Maine on many private and public lands, including lands that abut the Eastern Trail.

 

The discharge of firearms, bows or any other devices that launch a projectile is prohibited on the Trail, except in Scarborough Marsh where hunting is allowed according to the rules for the Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management area managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W).

 

During hunting season—generally the end of August through mid-December—please take proper precaution by wearing blaze orange clothing and using a blaze orange vest on your pet.  We suggest you wear a blaze orange hat as well and NOT wear white clothing, hats or bike helmets during this time.

 

For more specific hunting information including seasons contact Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

        Phone: 207-287-8000h yours.

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PO Box 250, Saco, ME, 04072


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