GREENVILLE — Greenville has seen a surge in visitors the past two summers during the pandemic, adding to those tourists who have already made the Moosehead Lake region one of Maine’s premier outdoor destinations.

Now, some in the town of 1,600 hope the development of a mountain-bike trail system modeled after those built in other Maine communities will draw more tourists and year-round residents.

The Moosehead Outdoor Alliance recently received permission from the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land to build a 25-mile trail system on 2,000 acres of the state-owned Little Moose Public Reserve just west of Greenville, where several hiking trails and primitive campsites already are popular.

This first phase of the trail system – that would include beginner, intermediate and expert trails – will cost an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 to build, according to Chuck Wagenheim, the alliance’s president. It would be the flagship section for an expanding mountain-bike network around Moosehead, the state’s largest lake. 

The nonprofit alliance, which formed in the past year, hopes to secure grants as other Maine mountain bike clubs have done. It’s also held a bike-in, outdoor, six-movie series in Greenville this summer to raise awareness and funds for the project.

“We’re really hoping it brings younger families to town, more kids to the school, and generates jobs,” said Greenville Town Manager Mike Roy, who sits on the Alliance’s board. “The town’s role is minimal. But we want this group to succeed. We want these trails to succeed.” 

Downtown Greenville, as seen in mid-August. The Moosehead Outdoor Alliance in Greenville plans to build a 25-mile mountain bike trail system in the Greenville area. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Summer tourism in Greenville took off the past two years, Roy said. 

“We have a blinking light in town. This summer people said we now need a stoplight there,” Roy said.

Typically, lodging and restaurants around Moosehead Lake slow after Labor Day before picking up before Indigenous People’s Day, during the height of fall foliage, but this year most are now busy or full to capacity, said Allison Arbo, director of the local chamber of commerce, Destination Moosehead Lake.

“The restaurants have been jam packed and places to stay are booked solid on weekends, which is a little bit unusual,” Arbo said.

Roy and Wagenheim hope a top-tier mountain-bike trail system created around downtown Greenville will attract even more folks. Other Maine towns – such as Carrabassett Valley, Bethel, Gorham and Camden – have seen similar trail networks draw tourists and prove an outdoor amenity that has improved the health and fitness of residents.

Maine boasts eight chapters of the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Northeast’s premier mountain-bike trails advocacy nonprofit. The Piscataquis County Chapter that includes Greenville riders is one of the state’s newest clubs. Many Maine clubs have partnered with municipalities to develop popular trail systems. 

In Gorham, the town has provided roughly a third of the land used for the 36 miles of new mountain-bike trails over the past five years. The town has pledged at least $30,000 between staff time and municipal funds for the cause, said Tom Poirier, Gorham’s director of community development.

“It’s hard not to have a day in Gorham without seeing multiple people at the trail head by the high school, or the one by the pump track,” Poirier said. 

Carrabassett Valley might be the most successful town trail system to date – with a 65-mile trail system soon to stretch to 75 miles. Town Manager Dave Cota said Carrabassett Valley just received a $300,000 federal grant to build trails on Crocker Mountain Public Reserve Land.

Cota said the difference for them has been the energy and effort by the local mountain bike club as well as the long-standing relationship between the town and Sugarloaf (the town owns the golf course and outdoor center and leases both to the ski area). The 10-year-old trail system, which also runs across the Maine Huts and Trails, will host a World Cup mountain-bike event at Sugarloaf next year.

But building mountain bike trails – especially across mountains – is not easy or inexpensive. Roughly $800,000 already has been spent on the Carrabassett trail system, Cota said, and he estimated roughly 70 percent was funded by the town, which has embraced the new outdoor amenity with a passion.

Rodney Folsom and Chuck Wagenheim walk along a trail that would be part of the new 25-mile mountain bike trail system the Moosehead Outdoor Alliance hopes to build in the Greenville area. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“Mountain biking added a new reason to own second homes up here,” Cota said. “There are businesses now open in the summer that were never open before. And businesses that were never busy in the summer now are busy. It’s been very impactful. But it’s not just about tourism, it’s recreation, people are living healthier lives here.”

Greenville already owns a roughly mile-long multi-use trail that leaves from downtown, runs across private land and connects to the Public Reserve Land unit to the west where the 25 miles of trails will be built. Roy said the town also wants to build a pump track – a skills course for youth – at Red Cross Beach beside Moosehead Lake.

“We’re hoping to make that area more appealing for people to come enjoy the lake,” Roy said. 

Both would put Greenville on Maine’s mountain-bike map, Wagenheim said. Three zones that include beginner, intermediate and expert trails would be built at Little Moose Public Reserved Land with the first zone offering 5 miles of beginner trails. Up on the ridge of Little Moose Mountain, intermediate and expert single-track terrain would be built offering technical, narrow, and flowing trails that are more challenging and fun for advanced riders.

Wagenheim said the vision is to build a trail system that would be much used by the community of mountain bike riders – and new riders.

“We’d have bike racks in town and at trail heads,” Wagenheim said.

The local NEMBA chapter has local businessmen and mountain bike enthusiasts behind the effort, including Wagenheim, a local fishing guide, and realtor Rodney Folsom Jr.

“I lived in Wyoming for nine years and mountain biked out there,” Folsom said. “When this effort started, I jumped on hard to help.”

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