If you think about the question: “What is the core element of the Moosehead Lake Region?” you find that it is not really that difficult to answer. It’s – umm…Moosehead Lake. Upon further reflection, the question becomes more complex and a broader vision arises. One substantial part of what makes the Moosehead Lake Region a great destination or backyard -beyond the lake and its associated tributaries- is the existing network of trails winding throughout the region’s landscapes and the potential for new trails.
I share this observation in the context of an exciting project under way in the Moosehead Lake Region. As an employee of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, I am fortunate to be leading a Division of Parks and Public Lands and Plum Creek planning process to identify new non-motorized trail projects and improvements for existing trails in an effort to enhance the region’s human-powered trails. Plum Creek will donate up to 121 acres of trail easements and five trailhead areas in the region to Maine Parks and Lands. Furthermore, Plum Creek will fund trail construction on these easement areas as well as on Parks and Lands properties in the region to the tune of $1 million over 5 years. In short, this is an exciting opportunity to establish and improve hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, portage, and nature appreciation trails in a truly special part of Maine.
This planning and trail construction/rehabilitation project is a directive of the Moosehead Lake Region Concept Plan established by Plum Creek with approval by the Maine Land Use Planning Commission. This concept plan includes an array of elements for the region, including maintaining working forestry, supporting land conservation, ensuring wildlife and plant life protections, zoning about 4 percent of the land involved for future development, and affordable housing agreements. Of particular note to trail planning, the Moosehead Region Conservation Easement spans 360,000 acres and serves as the general area of Plum Creek ownership on which trail easements may, with collaborative planning and approval, be established. These 360,000 acres are located on 26 townships surrounding Moosehead (17 in Somerset County and 9 in Piscataquis County).
The geographic spread of the area where trails could be established or enhanced is impressive. There are the 360,000 acres of Plum Creek land potentially available plus Parks and Public Lands including, but not limited to, Little Moose Public Lands just west of Greenville (just over 15,000 acres), 7,275-acre Day’s Academy Public Lands on the shore of Moosehead east of Mount Kineo State Park (800 acres), 925-acre Lily Bay State Park, and the Big Spencer Ecological Reserve (4,242 acres). When it comes to selecting trail project areas, it’s quite a buffet to choose from, and take it from one who loves not just trails but also food; you need a strategy at a buffet!
This is where the public comes in. To date, the process of defining project goals and identifying potential trail project areas has been greatly aided by a small advisory committee made up of municipal, non-profit, tourism, private land management, recreation /conservation management, and trail enthusiast representatives. Keeping with the buffet motif, however, we want more. We want to hear from more voices as we move ahead with this project.
We will be holding a public information meeting to overview this multi-year initiative. The meeting will be held on September 11, at 6:00 pm at the Greenville Town Office on Minden Street in downtown Greenville. The public is invited to participate in this meeting, which will provide an opportunity to learn about the project and share perspectives on and ideas about non-motorized trail improvements in the region. Those seeking more information should contact me (Rex Turner) at 207-287-4920 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project webpage can be found at http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/planning/moosehead.html.
The Moosehead Lake Region’s image is justifiably dominated by Maine’s largest lake (also the largest lake wholly within one state east of the Mississippi). Hunting, fishing, boating, and motorized trails are huge components of what this place is all about. That being said, non-motorized trails are also paths to discovering and enjoying this remarkable place. This project has the potential to greatly expand non-motorized trail opportunities here. We welcome all who want to learn and possibly contribute to this effort.