SCARBOROUGH — Registration for the 2021 Maine Lighthouse Ride has started, and the Eastern Trail Alliance is excited to hold the in-person event on Sept. 11.

Beginning at the Southern Maine Community Campus in South Portland, the Maine Lighthouse Ride includes four biking courses through Southern Maine, with riders passing between seven to nine lighthouses, depending on the course, said John Kachmar, executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance. The routes are the 25+ miler, the 40 miler, the 62 miler and the 100 miler.

“We’ve already had about 115 people sign up, and we’ve heard lots of excitement around just getting out in a real-person event,” he said. “As opposed to being virtual and all of those virtual communications we’ve had. I think just getting back out and riding — there’s a lot of excitement for a real event that is outdoors.”

Although the event will be in-person, there will be a few alterations, including staggered start times, in order to adhere to gathering policies, Kachmar said. No after-event celebration will be held.

The event will be capped at half-capacity as well, he said.

“We’ve been capping at about 1,200 historically over the years, and this year, I think it’s a little bit less than 600,” he said. “That’s assuming nothing changes with policies around outdoor gathering. If that does change, we may add more if we feel like we can while having a safe event with enough space.”

So far, about 115 people have signed up, Kachmar said. Many are excited to have a chance to see Southern Maine, the lighthouses, spend time with people or support the Eastern Trail Alliance.

The event serves as the primary fundraiser for the organization, Kachmar said.

“It’s paying for all of the work we do for maintenance of the trail, around working to build new trails,” he said. “That’s a way to fund those projects so we can have some money to match other state and federal money. It really helps fund the organization in several ways.”

Jon Kachmar, executive director for the Eastern Trail Alliance Courtesy photo Jen Brooks

A trail expansion project in Scarborough is expected to begin this fall, Kachmar said. The 1.6 mile “Close the Gap” campaign will connect the trail between South Portland and Scarborough.

“The latest on the trail project is that it’s planning to go out to bid this summer,” he said. “The town of Scarborough will put that out. That’s their plan right now. That will hopefully allow the project actually starting in this fall, 2021. We know this will be an 18 month to 24 month project, depending on what happens when the bid goes out, but it will definitely be 18 months, maybe more.”

The Eastern Trail Alliance hopes to measure usership of the trail in the future, Kachmar said. He believes that the pandemic has caused more people to explore the different sections, judging from the fullness of parking lots over the last year.

“It has offered a really good way for people to just get outside, experience nature, get exercise, try not to think about the pandemic,” he said.

This year’s Maine Lighthouse Ride will feature an additional walking event on the trail itself, Kachmar said. The Eastern Trail Alliance will make a public announcement in the coming weeks.

“The idea is to be able to spread people out a little bit more, but it is a fundraiser for the trail and we want to give people an opportunity to get on the trail as well as do the ride,” he said. “We think people who come with riders, family members or friends not doing the ride, can come and do the walk.”

There is no deadline to register for the 2021 Maine Lighthouse Ride, said Jen Brooks, marketing and communications specialist for the event.

“However, we have capped the number of registrations and we expect that we will hit that number well before the event and we are encouraging people to sign up sooner (rather)  than later if they want to be guaranteed an opportunity to participate,” she said.

People who are interested can visit easterntrail.org/maine-lighthouse-ride to register and see the different routes. The fee is $100 for non-members on the 25+ miler course and $125 for non-members on the other courses.

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