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News Center Maine
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Plans begin to move trail system entirely off-road

A $700,000 federal grant will help convert on-road trail portions of 55-mile network to off-road.

View the news video and read the entire article online here.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — Michael and Charlene Flynn are serious trail bicyclists. It’s a part of their routine.

“It’s very important, just to be able to get out and do things,” Michael Flynn said.

The snowbird couple is back up in southern Maine after wintering in Florida. The two drove north but they, along with the two dogs they take with them on bike trips in a basket, could have biked back along one trail system from Key West to Calais, the East Coast Greenway, if it weren’t for the challenges they’d face.

“The roads are too dangerous,” Charlene Flynn said. “A lot of people get killed on regular roads.”

Jon Kachmar is the executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance, which oversees the Eastern Trail – the portion of the East Coast Greenway from Kittery to Bug Light in South Portland. We met Kachmar and the Flynn’s in Kennebunk – the source of a minor snag.

The current section of the Eastern Trail from Kennebunk to Kittery is entirely on roads, leaving runners, cyclists, and horseback riders to compete with cars.

Kachmar and the trail’s stewards just got $700,000 in a federal grant to plan a new 33-mile stretch of trail through the woods, away from traffic.

“It will really open us up to providing that transportation corridor that people can use for whatever reason they want to get around, to get out of their cars, and be safe,” Kachmar said.

Wells has been contributing money to the trail system annually, despite its entire route through town following some of the busiest summer traffic roads in New England. Larissa Crockett, Wells’ town manager, said they have been acting with a long-term payoff in mind. Now, it looks like that payoff will come.

The grant will fund designs for the new trail routes. Kachmar said they’ll still need to fundraise up to $9 million to build the trail.

Despite the price tag, Kachmar said communities and businesses have already shown they’re ready and willing to help get the trails in their southern Maine neighborhoods up and running.

View the news video and read the entire article online here.

Rep. Pingree at Press Conference
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Celebrating New Funding to Expand the Eastern Trail

On Friday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and members from the Eastern Trail Alliance and the East Coast Greenway Alliance celebrated $700,000 in new federal funding to expand the Eastern Trail with an event in Kennebunk. The funding, secured by Pingree in the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bill alongside nine other community projects, will expand the Eastern Trail 11 miles from Kennebunk to North Berwick, supporting the development of an active transportation corridor and recreational trail that offers significant social, economic, and environmental benefits.

“With this federal funding, Maine’s southern communities will be connected with a new, 11-mile stretch of off-road trail, supporting local economies and fostering a safe and sustainable route through some of Maine’s most populated areas,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “I’m proud I was able to secure the funding to support this expansion through my role on the House Appropriations Committee.”

“The expansion of trail south towards our goal of getting to the Maine New Hampshire border will provide a significant investment in off-road trails in Southern Maine,” said Jon Kachmar, Eastern Trail Executive Director.

“This funding is a major step towards completing the Eastern Trail and East Coast Greenway in southern Maine, which will expand economic development, outdoor recreation and equitable active transportation opportunities in the region” said Kristine Keeney, East Coast Greenway Alliance Northern New England Manager. “I am excited to continue to work alongside the Eastern Trail and other local partners to complete the East Coast Greenway in Maine.”

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, right, gestures towards the $700,000 check she presented during Friday’s event. (Left: Kristine Keeney, East Coast Greenway Alliance Northern New England Manager; Center: Mike Pardue, Kennebunk Town Manager)

“The Eastern Trail is tremendously popular with the residents and visitors of Kennebunk. The $700,000 in new federal funding, is sure to foster increased economic growth and outdoor recreation for Kennebunk and the region,” said Kennebunk Town Manager Mike Pardue.

“This is a great project and it will be a wonderful addition to the health of our community providing transportation and recreational opportunities, especially for cycling enthusiasts,” said North Berwick Town Manager Dwayne Morin. “We have two large employers in town, and having this off-road trail access will be a tremendous benefit to their employees, providing alternate means of traveling to work. I’m pleased to see this progress.”

“The Town of Wells has been a supporter of the Eastern Trail for many years because we recognize the value access to outdoor recreation has for the people of Wells and the value the trail will bring to our tourism economy. The Eastern Trail is a wonderful example of what vision paired with long-term commitment can do to create a vibrant community resource,” said Wells Town Manager Larissa Crockett.

Nonesuch River Crossing on the Eastern Trail
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Eastern Trail Alliance closing in on closing gap between Scarborough, South Portland

The organization and Scarborough officials are working on securing one remaining property easement that will allow the trail to be connected from the Black Point area to Wainwright fields in South Portland.

BY DREW JOHNSON | THE FORECASTER/PORTLAND PRESS HERALD | PUBLISHED APRIL 27, 2022

The project connecting the Eastern Trail between Black Point Road in Scarborough and the Wainwright Recreation Complex in South Portland is closer to going out to bid.

The Eastern Trail Alliance’s Close the Gap project will add 1.6 miles to the 65-mile long Eastern Trail, which will then stretch continuously from South Portland’s Bug Light Park to Kittery. The Eastern Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway that, when completed, will span about 2,900 miles from Calais to Key West, Florida.

The $6.1 million Close the Gap project will be paid for with $5.5 million in state and federal funding and another $560,000 the alliance has raised.

All that’s needed to move the project toward construction is the receipt of one landowner easement.

“One of the requirements of the Maine DOT funding is all easements that the trail will be built through have to be in place,” said Jon Kachmar, the alliance’s executive director. “We have one outstanding that we hope to secure very soon.”

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said the last easement has been a challenge.

“The project remains right at the doorstep of going to bid,” Hall said. “The trail design does go through a number of private property owners. We’re dealing one-by-one with the property owners; what we need from each of them is slightly different.”

Hall said because most of the gap runs through Scarborough, the town has been “taking the lead” on the project and in collaboration with South Portland has worked with property owners there as well. Scarborough is collaborating with the city on the final easement, he said.

Scarborough and South Portland have contributed a total of $287,000 to link the trail.

“We’ve been supporting it 100% throughout,” South Portland Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said. “We’re looking forward to bringing this phase to a close and get going on construction.”

The new part of the trail would run through several hundred feet of city land in its approach Wainwright complex, Reny said.

While the trail addition is relatively small, the project is not simple.

“It’s a very complex section of trail,” said Kachmar. “Although not long in the length of it, it has a lot of infrastructure.”

That infrastructure comes in the form of multiple water and wetland crossings, including two bridges. One is to be built over the Nonesuch River while the other is over a railroad crossing south of Pleasant Hill Road.

“There’s a 300-foot pedestrian and bike bridge that will go over a railroad crossing,” Kachmar said, and because the rail line is active, it must be at least 22 feet high.

There are also requirements to meet the needs of people with disabilities, calling for no more than a 5% incline of the slopes leading up to the bridge.

The bridge over the Nonesuch River is slightly less challenging, with existing infrastructure already in place for access to it. In addition, there will be four or five other minor water and wetland crossings, Kachmar said, which will be built out of wood. The remainder of the trail will be mostly paved.

The trail has multiple purposes, like nature walks, off-road biking and snowshoeing. Closing the gap, however, could also present other opportunities, including commuting.

“We’re hearing from people who are really eager about getting the trail there,” he said. “There is significant demand for being able to get to those communities, both for recreation and we’re hearing more and more people wanting it for work.”

Hall agreed, saying that it will allow “expanded recreational opportunities, but also commuting opportunities.”

The outstanding easement, however, remains the final hurdle.

“The town will continue to persevere,” Hall said. “We just think this is too important to fail.”

Once the easement is settled, the project will go out to bid. Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months, Kachmar said.

Read the entire article online here

Wildlife seen on the Eastern Trail
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Cameras capture 60 wildlife species in Eastern Trail gap

A University of New England project is documenting animal’s use of the area for the Eastern Trail Alliance.

BY DREW JOHNSON | THE FORECASTER/PORTLAND PRESS HERALD | PUBLISHED APRIL 27, 2022

Wildlife abounds in the 1.6-mile gap between the Eastern Trail in Scarborough and where the trail picks up in South Portland, and for the past four years, the animals have been captured on camera.

The GapTracks project, conducted by University of New England professor Noah Perlut and students in his Terrestrial Wildlife course, has documented thousands of videos and still images of 60 animal species living in, feeding at and passing through the gap.

The wildlife includes coyotes, deer, turkeys, bobcats, river otters, short-tailed weasels, gray foxes and a even a moose.

The project is using its data analysis to aid the Eastern Trail Alliance, which is working to fill the trail gap between the Black Point area in Scarborough and Wainwright Recreational Complex in South Portland.

“It’s a huge benefit to us in terms of just understanding how wildlife is using that trail and after it’s built how it will use it, post-construction and that allows us to better understand our impact,” said Jon Kachmar, the alliance’s executive director.

Remote cameras placed in the gap pick up sights and sounds.

“Every time there was a movement or sound, a picture would be taken and then a video,” said Nicole Corriveau, a senior and environmental science major at UNE. “If there were animal sounds or animals in the picture or videos, we would mark that video and put it into our database of what species it was.”

Perlut’s students spend two hours per week sifting through the videos and photos and gathering data.

Many of the clips the cameras have captured, however, are of the wind.

“It’s a lot of watching footage that has nothing on it,” said Cameron Indeck, a senior environmental science major. “But the few clips you end up finding in there that have a deer and a fawn walking by or a fox, it’s very rewarding.”

Moose seen on the Eastern Trail

The GapTracks project captured this photo of a moose on the 1.6 mile gap of the Eastern Trail between Scarborough and South Portland. Contributed / Noah Perlut, GapTracks

Madi Harvey, a junior environmental studies major, agrees that “hours of looking through videos of wind blowing gets a bit discouraging.”

“But it was all worth it – seeing beautiful videos of regal red foxes, to red-tailed hawks hunting squirrels, to fat raccoons waddling around,” Harvey said in an email to The Forecaster.

Catching a moose on camera in the fall of 2020 was a bit of a surprise.

“There was a moose that showed up on Scarborough High School’s football field in the morning on a school day,” Perlut said. “It hung out there for a while and it made its way to Willard Beach where it was tranquilized and brought to the forest away from suburbia.”

Read the entire article online here

Eastern Trail Expansion Story
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Eastern Trail Set to Expand Thanks to New Federal Funding

South Portland (WGME) — The Eastern Trail that runs from South Portland to Kittery is set to expand thanks to new federal funding.

The Eastern Trail management district is getting $7,000 for an 11 mile, off-road extension.

That new portion of the trail will run from Kennebunk to North Berwick.

Organizers say the expansion will provide more opportunities for a trail that already has wide-spread use.

“We had 250,000 people use the trail last year. And that was an economic impact of $44 million. So it has a huge impact on the community. A lot of people used the traisl to commute to work. To reach local businesses and to use their services it passes through many communities right now and we’re looking to extend it to even more,” says Eric Wright, President of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

Organizers say the expansion could take several years to complete.

Read the entire story online here.

Area Map Kennebuck to N Berwick
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Eastern Trail extension from Kennebunk to North Berwick moves closer with federal funds

Shawn P. Sullivan | Portsmouth Herald | Published March 25, 2022

KENNEBUNK, Maine – The Eastern Trail Management District will receive $700,000 in federal funds to go toward engineering an 11-mile, off-road expansion of the Eastern Trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick.

Jon Kachmar, the executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance, which is part of the district, said his organization is “very excited” about the funds, which Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, recently announced were part of the transportation appropriations bill for 2022.

“It’s clearly a major push,” Kachmar said Monday.

The Eastern Trail spans 65 miles from Bug Light Park in South Portland to the Memorial Bridge on Route 1 in Kittery. According to Kachmar, the first 22 miles of the trail, from Bug Light Park to Kennebunk Elementary School on Alewive Road in Kennebunk, are through wooded areas. The remainder of the trail, from the school to the bridge in Kittery, is along roads.

The expansion will take the trail off-road, along wooded passages in view of occasional rural houses and farms, from Kennebunk Elementary School, through Wells, to the border of Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft manufacturing company at 113 Wells St. in North Berwick.

Collins, who co-authored the appropriations bill, said the trail’s expansion will provide increased opportunities for transportation and recreation throughout York County.

“The Eastern Trail is a scenic route that allows Mainers to enjoy some of our state’s most beautiful natural resources,” Collins said in a press release.

The funds are part of the omnibus package that Congress passed and President Biden signed into law last week. Kachmar said the alliance is expecting to receive its funding in two or three months.

Kachmar said the cost of engineering the expansion’s design is $910,000. The alliance has the bulk of the remaining $210,000 “in hand.”

The expansion itself will cost $7 million, according to Kachmar. The alliance will seek state and federal funding for the project and will continue to raise funds for the financial match it will be required to provide.

Kachmar said that, realistically, the project should take three or four years to complete. He added that a feasibility study should be completed next month, paving the way for a cost analysis and, “ideally,” an opportunity to put the project out to bid this summer.

The design engineering could take a year, according to Kachmar. Actual construction could take two years, he added.

Under this timeline, the trail expansion could be complete by 2025, Kachmar said.

Read the entire story online here.

Scarbough Marsh section of the Eastern Trail
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Over $44 million is associated with use of the Eastern Trail each year

Scarborough Leader /Portland Press Herald | December 31, 2021

2021 ET Economic Impact Report Cover imageA new economic impact analysis of the Eastern Trail located in southern Maine states the total annual economic impact of use associated with the trail is $44.6 million.

The trail goes from the state border in Kittery and ends in South Portland; a portion of the trail is located in Scarborough

The analysis was conducted by Camoin Associates  in partnership with Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission.

It is estimated roughly 250,000 people use the trail annually based on recent trail counts, and each user spends an average of $118 per day, according to the analysis. The trail also supports 364 jobs across the state, $12.5 million in earnings and $32.1 million in sales, with most sales coming from overnight lodging, food and drink, and retail items.

“While trails are undoubtedly economic drivers, in this case at the regional and state levels, they also provide other significant benefits such as opportunities to promote a healthful lifestyle, transportation alternatives via pedestrian and bicycle options for residents and commuters, and a link between communities that each add their own unique services and amenities along the trail,” said Jon Kachmar, Eastern Trail Executive director.

New portions of the trail are currently under construction in Scarborough, Biddeford/Saco, and between Kennebunk and North Berwick, totaling 16 miles.

Read the full article online here.

Read more about the Eastern Trail’s Economic Development data collection efforts here.

2021 ET Economic Impact Report Cover image
Latest News

New Eastern Trail Economic Impact Analysis Report Released November 2021

Camoin Associates was retained by the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) to conduct an economic impact and fiscal benefit analysis of the Eastern Trail on SMPDC’s region and the state of Maine. The Eastern Trail is intended to provide the route for the East Coast Greenway in southern Maine through a four-season, non motorized, multipurpose, transportation and recreation trail between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and South Portland, Maine. The approximately 65 mile trail brings users through historical landmarks, scenic vistas, recreation spots, and places to eat and shop.

The report’s analysis considers both the (1) impact of current trail usage; and (2) impacts of a hypothetical trail expansion scenario that results in new construction spending and trail usage.

A copy of the 18 page report can be viewed here (pdf format).

A Summary Infographic of major findings of the report can be viewed here (pdf format).

More information on past Eastern Trail Economic Impact Studies can be viewed here.

We love our volunteers!
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2021 Eastern Trail Volunteer Awards

The Eastern Trail exists today only due to energy and contributions of our many volunteers.  At our recent 2021 Annual Meeting, we announced the following Volunteer Recognition awards:

Outstanding Trail Ambassador

Carol MacAllister — Carol is a Trail Ambassador for the Kennebunk to Biddeford section of the ET. She rides the trail regularly, reports on needed maintenance, collects trash along the trail, and converses with trail users to enhance their visit. Like all of our trail ambassadors, Carol provides an invaluable service acting as the “eyes and ears” on the trail.

Outstanding Events Management

Bryan Gallant and Bob LaNigra — Both Bryan and Bob have proven to be an invaluable team regarding event management for the Maine Lighthouse Ride, John Andrews 5K, MEND 10K as well as ET engagement with Ironman Maine and the Maine Marathon. Their knowledge of race management, timing and course setting are a major reason for our successful ET events each year.

Outstanding Event Volunteer

Cynthia Mollus and Rig Trembley — Cynthia and Rig have volunteered at ET events for several years, particularly the Maine Lighthouse Ride. Their dedication to assisting with pre-event setup and event-day activities has gone above and beyond and helped make our events successful. This year they managed the inaugural Bonfire and Brew event check-in.

Eastern Trail logo
Latest News

Our 2021 Annual Appeal is under way – please consider a donation

Our Annual Appeal for 2021 is under way.  Please consider a donation.

First and foremost, THANK YOU, for your support on the Eastern Trail in 2021. We are fortunate to have an incredible amount of support from so many. Whether you volunteered at an event or on the trail or you provided a monetary donation, the Eastern Trail continues to provide a safe and fun outdoor recreational trail and alternative transportation corridor for thousands of people because of you.

We greatly appreciate the support that so many of you give on a regular basis to make the Eastern Trail what it is. Without your help, the Eastern Trail would not be here for thousands to enjoy. 2022 promises to be a big year for the Eastern Trail—including major progress on new trail.