- Support the Trail
- Explore the Trail
- Trail Building Campaigns
- About Us
- Contact Us
[Eds. note: We recently came across another version of this article listing the Eastern Trail is one of ten best national rail-trails, and thought we should highlight this recognition once again. To read about the other nine, read the full article here.]
It might be the ultimate example of repurposing: Since the 1960s, thousands of miles of old abandoned railroad lines have been converted into recreational trails.
Owing to their scenic locales and gentle grades, the Rails-to-Trails routes are perfect for an epic bike ride or a leisurely stroll. The routes offer dizzying variety: They run along the East and West Coasts, past mountains, across rivers and forests, and through bustling urban landscapes.
After hiking and biking rail-trails all over the country, I’ve found that not only do the routes provide an opportunity for exercise in splendid outdoor settings, but they also take me back to the heyday of train travel. I often imagine passengers gawking at gorgeous seaside and mountain scenes to the rhythmic sway and lonesome whistle of the train.
Today, every state in the nation has a roster of rail-trails. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, there are more than 2,100 rail trails in the United States, totaling 24,215 miles.
And hundreds more are in the works. Among them is the mammoth Great American Rail-Trail, which will run 3,700 miles from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Once complete, the trail will allow users to literally walk or bike across America on a seamless, scenic trail. The Great American Rail-Trail is currently more than half complete, with about 1,700 miles left to fill in.
Meanwhile, rail-trails are beloved amenities in communities all over the country. Here are 10 of the best.
Lighthouses, lobster rolls, and white-pine forests: These are just a few of the wonderful things you can experience along southern Maine’s Eastern Trail.
Running roughly from South Portland to Kennebunk and parallel to Maine’s Atlantic Coast, the 29-mile Eastern Trail takes in the charming towns of Saco, Biddeford, Scarborough, and Old Orchard Beach.
Nearly 22 miles of the trail follow off-road sections, but some sections feature on-road bike lanes.
Tip: Start your ride or hike at the northern end at the Bug Light Park Lighthouse (Portland Breakwater Light) in South Portland, where plenty of parking is available.
You can read the full article online here.
Join the Eastern Trail for a full moon walk in Scarborough Marsh. The walks will leave from the Pine Point parking area. Groups will be limited in size to 15 people and masks/social distancing is required. You must register to participate – go here to register online.
Monday, April 26 7:00-8:00PM (Worm Moon)
Contact 207-284-9260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
No flashlights or pets, please.
The Eastern Trail is excited to announce that registration is llive for the 2021 Maine Lighthouse Ride.
This event is increasingly popular with Mainers as well as friends and supporters from all over the country. The scheduled date for the event is September 11, 2021, and online registration began on March 1, 2021.
“We are looking forward to organizing the annual Maine Lighthouse Ride”, said Bob Hamblen, Eastern Trail Alliance President, “which will help us learn how to adapt to a difficult situation and at the same time offer up a world-class recreational opportunity.” The Alliance is also considering options to include a companion walking/running event during the Lighthouse Ride on the Eastern Trail itself, which offers opportunity for COVID-friendly events over a larger geographic area.
In addition to the Maine Lighthouse Ride, the Alliance also plans to strategically re-start additional long-standing events to provide recreational opportunities and financial support to build new trail and maintain existing trail. Jon Kachmar, Executive Director of the Eastern Trail, remarked on the “tremendous excitement building for working with partners and supporters of the MEND Autumn and Ales 10k, John Andrews Classic 5K run as well as the Alliance’s annual Gala.” It is hoped that re-starting these familiar events will help people and communities along the Eastern Trail by providing a healthful and fun recreational opportunity as well as an economic stimulus for the cities and towns who have access to use the trial. Check the Events page for updates on dates and registration information for these additional events.
The Eastern Trail is a planned 65-mile off-road multi-use trail from South Portland to Kittery, Maine, of which 23 miles has been built to date. The trail provides local, state and regional benefits through recreational trail opportunities, alternative transportation options, and community engagement in Southern Maine. The Eastern Trail’s three primary campaigns include trail-building efforts: Close the Gap in Scarborough and South Portland, Over the River through downtown Biddeford and Saco, and Blazing the Trail South from Kennebunk to the New Hampshire border.
SACO — With another round of Paycheck Protection Program grants and loans on tap, some York County nonprofits and businesses say it and various other federal COVID-19 relief programs have been a lifeline.
For local organizations like the Eastern Trail, the money received has been a big help. With fundraisers on the back burner in 2020, the nonprofit Eastern Trail experienced more than $100,000 in losses due to COVID-19, estimates Executive Director Jon Kachmar.
Kachmar said the Eastern Trail received $48,500 in federal funds.
“The funding we received was a ‘lifeline’ that will help us get back up and running,” he said. “We ended up in a good place with help from them at a time when outdoor recreation is more important than ever.”
In 2018, Kachmar said 250,000 people used the Eastern Trail. With data sources indicating the use of outdoor spaces and trails is three times more than usual, Kachmar estimated the 21-mile trail system had 750,000 users in 2020.
Bob Hamblen of the Eastern Trail Alliance that oversees trail operations, said without the grant the organization received, belt tightening would have been necessary.
“We are a volunteer-driven organization, and rather light on staff,” said Hamblen. Besides Kachmar, there is a part-time office manager, and the organization contracts about 10 hours a week for IT services. “Maintaining an office in the North Dam Mill and ensuring that obligations are met is about all we can or want to handle on an annual basis,” said Hamblen.
Absent the federal funding, Hamblen said he expects a cutback in hours would have been considered.
Maine’s transportation planners are getting ready to work on construction and maintenance projects for 2021, but with a lot more questions than normal.
How will finances be affected by the coronavirus pandemic? Will traffic on Maine roads rebound as more people get vaccinated? When should the state Department of Transportation and its contractors schedule work to avoid inconveniencing commuters, residents and visitors?
The department has even coined a term for all the uncertainty: “business unusual.”
Maine Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note said his department had to be nimble to adjust to changes in 2020. Construction prices were originally so high that much of the work planned for last year was stretched out over two years.
Then, when the pandemic hit and traffic plummeted – often to half its normal level – the department found that it could change construction schedules to save money. Work done during the day is cheaper and usually more efficient, and some projects that were planned for the offseason could be done during warmer weather because the roads weren’t as clogged.
The pandemic even helped put a lid on construction price increases, and a drought allowed the department to stretch the construction season into the fall.
Some of the major projects planned for 2021 mean that drivers in southern Maine can expect to see work on two bridges carrying traffic on Interstate 295 over Route 1 in Yarmouth, reconstruction of the Congress Square intersection in Portland, work on the Eastern Trail in Scarborough and improvements to the railroad siding and platform for Amtrak Downeaster rail service in Wells. Those four projects alone will cost more than $54 million.
On Dec. 29, the Eastern Trail Alliance staff, led by former Executive Director Carole Brush and joined by Jon Kachmar, the current executive director, hosted the last of 2020’s full moon walk events, where a small group of people walked through the marsh and saw the clear moon.
Brush said that the moon of that evening is commonly referred to as the Cold Moon. She also discussed the history of the trail and provided information about the section of trail through the Scarborough Marsh.
The Eastern Trail Alliance formed in 1998, but the Scarborough Marsh bridge and trail didn’t open until 2004, she said.
Eagle Scouts have often completed projects on the trails, Brush said, and one such project is in the creation of a bench that overlooks the marsh.
From our friends at the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority:
The Amtrak Downeaster has expanded its carry-on bike program and is now accepting bicycles from all Downeaster stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Newly installed custom-designed luggage racks that convert to bike racks at the end of each car now make it possible to roll bikes on board from any Downeaster station, then secure and store them on the train. Previously, bikes had to be stored in a special car, restricting access to only a few stations. Now, standard full-size bicycles may be carried on from any Downeaster station and stored in the designated racks. Because Bicycles are hung vertically by their back wheels using special bike tire hooks to ensure safety, the front wheel, panniers, and bags must be removed.
Bicycle space is limited to four bikes per train, so advance reservations for bikes is required. A $3 to $8 one-way bicycle fee applies.
NNEPRA has been working to improve bike access on Downeaster trains for years. This project could not have been accomplished without the continued support of the bicycle community and the partnership with Amtrak to modify the current train equipment.
The new trail wear is here just in time for the holidays. Order by December 6th to receive the order by Christmas!
Check out the new shirt styles available from the Eastern Trail merchandise store: