BRUNSWICK — For the first time since its inception, the Trek Across Maine bicycle course is getting a new route next year — one which is expected to draw thousands to Brunswick.

The 35th annual bike ride to be held in June 2019 will start and finish at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The three-day trek coming up next month will be the last using the original 180-mile course from Sunday River to Belfast.

Organizers unveiled a preliminary map for the 2019 route Tuesday at Bowdoin College. It will start and finish at Brunswick Landing — site of the former base — and take cyclists through Augusta, Auburn, Bath, Belgrade, Freeport and Lewiston. The ride will include overnight stops at Bates College in Lewiston and Colby College in Waterville.

Organizers changed the route after hearing that many riders were seeking a change of scenery.

“I just can’t tell you how thrilled we are that you’ve chosen Brunswick to start and finish the 2019 Trek Across Maine,” Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge told Trek organizers. “Brunswick was one of the first, if not the first, communities in Maine to be certified as bicycle-friendly.”

On any given day, he said, one can find hundreds on the bicycle paths in town.

With thousands expected to converge in town, Brunswick Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz said police will meet with Trek planners months before the event and work out a safety plan for any potential traffic issues.

“We also get to explore new parts of Maine and grow awareness of the Trek in the southern part of the state,” said Matt Sturgis, a longtime Trekker and American Lung Association of Maine board member — the American Lung Association being the event’s beneficiary. “We can garner a positive economic boon for the region.”

The Trek has averaged nearly 1,800 riders for a number of years, but in 2019, organizers plan to increase ridership to more than 2,000. Bringing the ride to a more populous part of Maine is expected to draw more first-time riders and generate more funds for the American Lung Association.

Since 1985, the Trek has raised more than $24 million for the American Lung Association, growing from 106 riders to nearly 1,800.

According to Sturgis, the new 180-mile-long route “provides the opportunity for new relationships and fundraising opportunities that will build on the mission of the American Lung Association and impact more people.”

“It’s important to remember that the goal is to ensure the highest amount of funds are raised,” Sturgis said. “The new route will lower the cost of expenses and provide more cost-effective options for families and professionals,” he added, “ultimately raising awareness to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.”

“Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the U.S. and the world,” said Jeff Seyler of the American Lung Association. “More must be done to raise awareness and to research funding to defeat lung cancer once and for all.”

Trek Across Maine expects there will be many this year who will want to ride the longtime route one last time next month. Participants can still sign up for the three-day, 180-mile ride from Sunday River Ski Resort to Belfast set to take place June 15-17. Riders can register for the 2018 Trek Across Maine until May 30 at biketreknewengland.org.

Darcie Moore can be contacted at [email protected]