Hikers enjoy the scenery at the opening of Mill Brook Preserve South Oct. 20. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — Mill Brook Preserve South, featuring 1.5 miles of hiking trails and a preserve of 32 acres along the trails, opened Oct. 20.

At-Large City Councilor Mike Foley leads his son on the new trail after the ribbon cutting. Courtesy photo

Starting at Millbrook Estates off East Bridge Street, the trail goes through forests and wetlands with numerous good views of Mill Brook itself. While the trail is separate from the original Mill Brook Preserve Trail off Methodist Road, the plan is to connect the trails and create a larger system of recreational opportunities in the city.

“We imagine for it to become a full corridor park connecting the new trail to the existing preserve,” said Rachelle Curran Apse, executive director of the Presumpscot Regional Land. “It’s a several-year project. To date, we’ve worked with six different landowners to build the preserve together, and we imagine we will have the opportunity to work with more to make the park a reality.”

The creation of the trail ultimately reflects the overall growth of outdoor recreation in Westbrook, developing alongside the River Walk expansion plans and work to make the  Presumpscot River a recreational destination.

“That is what motivated us to put so much energy into Mill Brook Preserve as a tributary of the Presumpscot River,” Apse said. “There has been momentum and effort by us and others to  identify open space to conserve and find destinations for walking and hiking and building connecting walking areas throughout the city. We have been working closely with the city with the vision of the River Walk connecting to other trail systems. We are looking holistically at the city, looking for places for people to connect with nature.

“Having that corridor park helps protect the fish migration, and when there are thousands of fish, they are feeding other wildlife in the process so it makes for a rich diversity, right in urban Westbrook, which is unique to have that density of wildlife habitat close to one of the largest urban areas in the state,” Apse added.

Parking at Mill Brook Preserve South comes from Westbrook Housing, which provided the trailhead lot at its Millbrook Estates senior housing, as well as a trail easement.

“The trails are moving along great and I look forward to it getting bigger and better, more trails and more connected,” Mayor Mike Sanphy said. “I am hoping to one day see an amazing connected trail system, which will be vital in our community.”

Funding by Cornelia Warren Community Association helped build the trail. Over 100 youth volunteers from My Place Teen Center, the Westbrook Community Center’s Summer Camp and the Westbrook High School’s Alternative Education COMPASS Project helped with the project.

“It’s such a blessing to have these amazing trails in our community as a recreational opportunity for our city and the region,” said At-Large Councilor Mike Foley, who hiked the trail on opening day.

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