GORHAM – A leader of a Gorham-based trail group that wants to ban the state spraying chemicals to kill weeds on the abandoned Mountain Division Railroad line took the issue last week directly to Sen. William Diamond, D-Windham.

Diamond talked with Den Morton of Friends of Rails to Trails at a Windham restaurant Aug. 29.

“He and his group are pretty adamant about stopping spraying along the Mountain Division,” said Diamond, who described his meeting with Morton as informational.

Morton, who lives in Gorham, shared data with Diamond that the group has gathered about the spraying herbicides issue. Diamond suggested that the group could seek legislation to ban the spraying. Diamond is a member of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.

“He gave me some pretty good advice,” Morton said.

Diamond said he needed to see what the transportation department is using for spraying and what other options are available.

“My basic concern is an increase of toxicity into the environment,” Diamond said.

The state sprayed its Mountain Division line from Baldwin to Fryeburg in June.

Morton and other members of the trails group have gathered signatures of individuals and business owners advocating a no-spray policy by the Maine Department of Transportation. Friends of Rail to Trails claims in literature it disseminates that the Maine Department of Transportation sprays toxic herbicides along the railroad line.

A five-mile walking path utilized by hikers, bicyclists, children and pets runs adjacent to the rail bed in the section stretching from Windham-Gorham to Standish.

The trails group has a note from transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt in April saying it wouldn’t spray this year, if the group kept the five-mile section weed free.

But, the trails group seeks a permanent no-spray policy. Besides health concerns, the group says spraying the abandoned railroad is wasteful.

“It’s an abandoned rail line. It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” Gorham resident Joe Cerny said last month at a group rally. “Especially with issues with the state budget.”

The trails group gathered 1,200 signatures on a petition at Gorham polls last November. This summer, aided by volunteers from environmental groups, they piled up 1,000 more signatures on individual postcards.

Morton said the trails group plans to meet to discuss the possibility of one of Gorham’s legislative delegation sponsoring a bill.

With his 1929 Ford Model A business coupe, Joe Cerny of Gorham
campaigns at a Friends of Rails to Trails rally Aug. 17 urging the
state to halt spraying herbicides on the Mountain Division Railroad
line. (Staff photo by Robert Lowell)

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