With Maine’s cycling season winding down, early October might seem like unfortunate timing to cut the ribbon on a new biking trail. But after waiting since mid-2007 to see this dream realized, the members of the Sebago to the Sea Trail Coalition weren’t willing to wait for next season.

Yesterday’s ceremony at Otter Ponds in Standish officially designated the first 8-mile section of the trail, which runs from Sebago Lake to South Windham.

It includes more than three miles of land on the Portland Water District’s Sebago Lake Land Reserve and five miles along the paved Mountain Division Trail.

Subsequent phases of the trail call for it to stretch 28 miles, following the Presumpscot River and ending at Casco Bay.

The terrain on the first segment of trail includes a 10-foot wide part of the Mountain Division Trail that’s perfect for families riding with young children and wooded sections of the reserve that are best traveled on mountain bikes.

Tania Neuschafer, the project coordinator, said in the first three miles, on the water district land, hikers and bikers must stop at one of the self-serve kiosks to sign in.

“It ends at the shorefront of Sebago Lake and you actually have a view of Mount Washington, which is spectacular,” she said of the trail.

Peak leaf peeping for southern Maine is predicted to be in mid-October, so this might actually be perfect timing to check out the new trail.

The Mountain Division Trail portion runs along the rail bed and crosses over the Presumpscot River.

“There are beautiful river views,” Neuschafer said. “There is a wonderful side loop trail in Gorham that you can ride and access the historic site of one of the original Oriental powder mills.”

Southern Maine’s newest trail system connects the towns of Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Portland and Falmouth. The partnership collaborating on the initiative includes those towns along with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Portland Water District, Portland Trails, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and several other organizations.

According to Nan Cummings, executive director of Portland Trails, the trail route has already been mapped out through Riverton Trolley Park, the Presumpscot River Preserve, Back Cove and East End.

The next step for the Sebago to the Sea Trail will be to link to the Portland Trails network in 2011.

“The trail itself is primarily a connector trail,” Neuschafer said. “Its goal is to link existing trails together to make one continuous route.”

Many working maps have been created and plenty of landowners have been involved in the plans. So far, the feedback has been primarily positive.

“We’ve gotten a lot of e-mails from people interested in commuting on their bikes,” Neuschafer said.

OTHER GREAT FOLIAGE RIDES

If you’re looking for other great spots to check out the leaves from your bike seat try these:

Route 5 to Fryeburg: From Waterboro, Limerick or Cornish and on into Fryeburg and North Conway, N.H., you’ll travel a heavily wooded road that features views of Pleasant Mountain along the way and parts of White Mountain National Forest when you reach your destination.

Mount Agamenticus, Mountain Road off Route 1, York: There are more than 100 miles of trails in this system and the southern part of the state is always a great choice when the foliage hits its peak.

Bradbury Mountain State Park, 528 Hallowell Road, Pownal: With thick woods, the colors will be varied but the single track trails may not allow a lot of time for looking up. Plan to ride to the summit, where the views should be stunning in another week or two.

Mount Blue State Park, 187 Webb Beach Road, Weld: The extensive network of trails here offers spectacular views of Mount Blue along with sandy Webb Beach, a great spot for a picnic when you need a break from pedaling.

Acadia National Park, Route 233, Bar Harbor: If there’s a more beautiful place in the state to appreciate the foliage, I’m not aware of it. And with 45 miles of carriage roads inside the park the cycling couldn’t be any easier.

Deputy Features Editor Karen Beaudoin can be reached at 791-6296 or at:

[email protected]