This year Portland Trails is marking two decades of building trails and connecting neighborhoods, schools and open spaces in Greater Portland for recreation and transportation.

If you walk, run, bike, ski and enjoy nature in the urban environs here, then you are no doubt one of the tens of thousands of people who have enjoyed the hard work of this amazing organization and its many dedicated volunteers, supporters and staff.

Portland Trails has a lot to celebrate, having come a long way in a relatively short span of time. The trails movement in Portland took root in 1976 when the Forest City Land Trust was founded by Tom Jewell, a Portland native, lawyer, tireless trails enthusiast and future L.L. Bean Outdoor Hero.

The Portland Shoreway Access Coalition was organized in 1989, and a year later, Portland Trails was formed from this effort. A vision map to create 30 miles of trails throughout the city was then developed.

The first trail added to the system was Back Cove Trail, possibly the most popular 3.5 miles of trail in Maine. Successes came quickly after that, like the Capisic Trail, the bridge over the Fore River, Eastern Prom Trail and Stroudwater Trail.

All told, it took Portland Trails only 16 years to surpass the original 30-mile goal, and in 2007 its mission was expanded to 50 miles. Today there are 34 miles of trails and 20 trails and trail sections.

On National Trails Day, June 4, Portland Trails will unveil its latest accomplishment, a 10-mile cross-town route called the Forest City Trail. Seven and a half miles will be off-road and use nine existing trails, while two and a half miles will be along city sidewalks.

“The Forest City Trail was in the making for 20 years,” said Nan Cumming, executive director of Portland Trails. “The new trail provides a completely different perspective of Portland.”

While the trail isn’t officially open yet, it is listed as trail No. 31 and the route described on the latest version of Trails, Parks & Open Spaces, the official map and guide that covers Portland and surrounding communities. Trail signs are being erected and the route blazed with white paint markers.

The Forest City Trail threads a sinuous route across Portland, starting from a parking area at the end of Blueberry Road, just off outer Congress Street near Exit 46 of the Maine Turnpike. The trail follows the Stroudwater Trail to Congress Street before heading into the Fore River Sanctuary and arriving at Jewell Falls, named in honor of the Jewell family, and Portland’s only natural waterfall. Across Brighton Avenue, the Hall School Trail is followed through Sagamore Village.

Beyond, the trail weaves through the woods of Evergreen Cemetery, past the duck ponds to the University of New England campus and on through busy Morrill’s Corner. The path heads into the woods behind the Portland Arts & Technology High School before crossing Washington Avenue.

After the Shalom House Trail, the route crosses Gray Road and proceeds to Oat Nuts Park, ending at Presumpscot Falls in the Presumpscot River Preserve.

“At the falls you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Cumming said. “It’s amazing how close Portland’s neighborhoods are to these natural places.”

Jewell, the designer of the Forest City Trail, will lead a through-hike of the entire trail on June 4. The hike will start at 7:30 a.m. and finish in midafternoon. Hike participants will be able to enjoy a bag lunch at the halfway point at PATHS on Allen Avenue. Pre-registration is required.

The general public is invited to join the big party at PATHS from noon to 3 p.m., featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Forest City Trail, speakers, exhibits, refreshments and lots of trail friends. There also will be short guided walks on the trails around the PATHS campus.

“Portland is a unique, livable place and a very walkable, bikable community,” said Cumming. “People here are active and really do get outside more because of easy access to the trails in their neighborhoods.”

The activity levels of area residents and visitors can only increase as Portland Trails works into the future to acquire more land to preserve and to build more trails.

“We’re working harder to engage people to get out on the trails, to use them, work on them, maintain and enjoy them!”

 

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

[email protected]