U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree delivered a $700,000 check to the Eastern Trail Alliance in Kennebunk on Friday, May 20. The money will pay for design and engineering of an 11-mile expansion of the trail to North Berwick. Participants in the event, from left, were Kennebunk Town Manager Mike Pardue, Eastern Trail Alliance Director Jon Kachmar, Pingree, and East Coast Greenway Northern New England Manager Kristine Keeney, Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – Every Thursday, 100 Kennebunk Elementary School students in the Running with Character group are out on the nearby Eastern Trail, getting exercise and enjoying the outdoors – the trailhead is across the parking lot at the school property.

The trail is a popular spot, said Kennebunk Elementary School Principal Ryan Quinn.

“Parents bring their bikes at the end of the day,” he said, and families go out for a ride along the trail.

They are not the only ones who use the Eastern Trail here. It is a haven for many walkers, bicyclists, and others, said Jon Kachmar, director of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

Now, with the injection of $700,000 in federal funds, the Eastern Trail will take another step toward its quest to reach the New Hampshire border. The money, combined with a $210,000 match from the alliance, will fund the design and full engineering of the 11-mile corridor from Kennebunk to North Berwick.

It is part of the Blaze the Trail South initiative. The Eastern Trail Alliance’s goal is to extend the trail to Kittery.


Congresswoman Chellie Pingree secured the funding and stopped by on Friday, May 20, to celebrate, along with members of the Eastern Trail Alliance, East Coast Greenway, municipal officials, and others.

Jim Tasse, assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, rides on the Kennebunk portion of the Eastern Trail on May 20. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree stopped at the trail to present a $700,000 check to the Eastern Trail Alliance that day to help pay for design and engineering of the trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick. Tammy Wells photo

“I couldn’t be more excited; I can’t wait to get a chance to ride this,” said Pingree.

Pingree secured the money through Community Project Funding, one of 10 projects in Maine. A second project in York County provides $325,000 for a Community Resource Center through York County Shelter Programs.

“This is the first time in 10 years we’ve brought back Community Project Funding,” in the appropriations bill, said Pingree.

“The expansion of trail south toward our goal of getting to the Maine-New Hampshire border will provide a significant investment in off-road trails in southern Maine,” said Kachmar.

Construction, pending funding, will come after engineering and design. Kachmar estimated construction of the trail to North Berwick at about $7 million.


The Eastern Trail is the southern Maine portion of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway between Calais, Maine, and Key West, Florida. Based on a 2021 economic impact analysis, there are 250,000 people using the trail annually, and each user spends an average of $118 per day, according to information from Pingree’s office. The trail also supports 364 jobs across the state, $12.5 million in earnings and $32.1 million in sales, with most sales coming from overnight lodging, food and drink, and retail items.

The Eastern Trail Alliance plans to extend the trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick. Courtesy image

The Eastern Trail runs along the old Eastern Railroad right-of-way, a line that brought families from the Boston area to York County seaside communities from the late-1800s to the mid-1940s, when it ceased to operate. In 1965, Portland Gas Light purchased much of the abandoned right-of-way and installed a natural gas pipeline. The Eastern Trail Alliance was formed in 1998, and the work began. New Hampshire-based Unitil acquired the line and most of the right-of-way in 2008 and the shared-use of the line continues.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Bob Hamblen, Eastern Trail Alliance vice president. “A lot of credit goes to Jon Kachmar for being aware of the opportunity and applying, and to our delegation.”

He said the late John Andrews, who founded the Eastern Trail, “is watching us and smiling.”

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