September 29, 2010

Lakes Region: Sebago to Sea Trail opens first section

By DON PERKINS

In the near future, Lakes Region residents will likely be able to travel to Portland under a forested canopy along a quiet trail ringing water and woods.

click image to enlarge

The Sebago to the Sea Trail as seen from South Windham at Route 202 follows the old Mountain Division Rail Line. A ribbon cutting takes place Saturday to celebrate the completion of the first leg of the 28-mile trail.

Don Perkins photo

Once simply a notion, the 28-mile recreational path, dubbed the Sebago to the Sea Trail, has reached a major milestone. At 10 a.m. Saturday a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place to honor the completion of the first 8-mile section. Bring your mountain bike or walking shoes and enjoy the newly turning leaves.

"We are very excited about the dedication ceremony," says Will Plumley, chair of the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition. "To have almost a third of the trail completed is a significant milestone achievement."

The finished section begins at the Otter Ponds YMCA just off Route 35 in Standish and runs to South Windham, terminating at Route 202 near the Blue Seal Feeds store. The segment includes three miles of trail on the Portland Water District's Sebago Lake Land Reserve and five miles of trail along the paved Mountain Division Trail.

Many entities have come together to create the path that will eventually link up with Portland Trails' 32-mile network connecting the six towns of Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Portland and Falmouth.

The vision is to establish a contiguous path from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay. The Sebago to the Sea Trail project was first developed as part of a visioning session of the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition, and is now facilitated by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust.

The idea had been percolating for years. Since 2007, the PRLT has convened a group process and established a Sebago to the Sea Coalition. The Sebago to the Sea Trail project is a collaborative initiative, strengthened by its many partners and advisors.

"We have already mapped out the trail route through Riverton Trolley Park, the Presumpscot River Preserve, Back Cove and East End," said Nan Cumming, executive director of Portland Trails. "The next key step for the coalition in 2011 will be to link our trail network."

The coalition includes more than a dozen organizations, including the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, city of Westbrook, Healthy Casco Bay, Healthy Portland, Maine Department of Transportation, Mountain Division Alliance, National Park Service (Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program), Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (Project Facilitator), Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition, Portland Trails, Portland Water District, town of Falmouth, town of Gorham, town of Standish, and town of Windham Parks & Recreation Department.

In creating a regional trail, the Sebago to the Sea Trail Coalition envisions this project will increase opportunities for healthy outdoor exercise, as well as promote greater watershed protection along the Presumpscot River, generate visitors, and economic activity.

Funders for the project include the Horizon Foundation, Healthy Maine Partnerships, the Maine Community Foundation's Deering Fund, the Quimby Family Foundation, and more.  

"This ribbon cutting is a celebration for our coalition. After much ground work defining the primary trail route, and working with multiple partners to formalize the trail arrangements, we are now ribbon cutting the first 8 miles of the Sebago to the Sea Trail," said Tania Neuschafer, Sebago to the Sea Trail project coordinator. "We hope a lot of people come to celebrate with us to see what an incredible resource this trail is and learn more about our further trail efforts on into Portland."

Bring your bike (mountain bike needed for the segment of trail on the Sebago Lake Land Reserve) or hiking/walking shoes. Members of the Sebago to the Sea Trail Coalition will be guiding a mountain bike ride (intermediate) and a 2-mile hike on sections of the newly designated Sebago to the Sea Trail following the ceremony. There will also be some loaner bikes available courtesy of the Westbrook Recycle a Ride Program and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine suitable for riding the paved Mountain Division Trail section of the trail. 

Maps will be available at the event and on the website at www.sebagotothesea.org. For more about the event, contact prlandtrust@yahoo.com.

Directions to Otter Ponds: Take Route 114 from Gorham to Route 35 in Standish. At Sebago Lake Village, go right onto Route 35 (Chadbourne Road) and travel to Johnson Field on your right (just south of the railroad tracks). Just past the Johnson Field parking lot is the gravel access road to Otter Ponds. The gate will be open so you can drive in. Follow this gravel road about a mile to reach the visitor kiosk and event location.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: presswriter@gmail.com

 

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