POWNAL – The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is preparing a management plan for the Bradbury-Pineland corridor, which runs from Bradbury Mountain State Park to Pineland.

Among the potential use changes is a proposal from the Friends of Bradbury Mountain, a local mountain biking club, to extend the current mountain bike trail system from within Bradbury Mountain State Park out into this corridor.

While I understand and appreciate the mountain bikers wanting to expand existing trails outside the park, I think it would be both ill-advised and an affront to the local community.

I was on the board of directors of the Pownal Land Trust (which was eventually absorbed into the Royal River Land Trust) when the Bradbury-Pineland corridor was conceived.

We encouraged public participation very early in the process. The board held two public meetings, inviting questions and comments from landowners and land users of the proposed corridor.

Not surprisingly, many were guarded and suspicious, fearing the loss of traditional uses that have been available to the entire community for decades.

Their resistance softened once the plans were explained, but the overriding sentiment among those in attendance was nearly unanimous. They would be receptive to the project only if traditional uses, specifically hunting and snowmobiling, were retained.

The proposed corridor crosses private land, and therefore also needed the blessings and cooperation of more than a dozen property owners, who would ultimately sell, grant easements or donate their land.

Owners of some of the larger parcels made it very clear they too would support the project only if it did not negatively impact traditional uses, again specifically citing hunting and snowmobiling.

The Pownal Land Trust board made assurances that preserving traditional uses would be among their principal objectives for the project.

BPL representatives made no such assurances, conceding they would be bound by the conditions of any easements, but also admitting that if “established” trails were built on any land sold outright to the state, some traditional uses could, and almost certainly would, be eliminated.

The corridor was established and traditional uses have been maintained thus far, in accordance with the wishes of the landowners and residents of the community.

I applaud the BPL for their exemplary work on promoting multiple uses of Bradbury Mountain State Park.

Hunting, mountain biking, camping and hiking are all permitted on some or all of the park’s lands in such a way that there is little or no conflict.

We citizens of Pownal have welcomed mountain bikers to pursue their preferred form of recreation in our back yards, so long as it does not conflict with our traditional uses. And thus far they shown themselves to be very respectful guests.

This new proposal threatens not only traditional uses, but the wishes of the community and the long-standing and carefully crafted relationship between the local community and the Maine BPL.

The people who have used this property for years, the people who own or owned it and the people elected to represent all residents of the community have made it clear they do not want trails to be expanded into the corridor for mountain biking.

Pownal’s Board of Selectmen submitted a letter to the Bureau of Parks and Lands asking that they reject the mountain bike club’s request. Yet the proposal is still under consideration. To quote a popular country song, “What part of ‘no” don’t you understand?”

Coming into a small and very close community and trying to force a significant change in land uses on its residents that they very clearly do not want or like is not only a bad idea, it’s just plain bad manners.

– Special to the Telegram