Freeport mountain bikers have mostly had to look to neighboring towns to enjoy their fast-growing hobby, but their hometown could soon become a new cycling hotspot, according to local officials.

A forum is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on plans for a new system of bike trails on the town-owned Hedgehog Mountain, according to Tawni Whitney, executive director of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce.

If approved, the trails could begin drawing cyclists from around the region as early as next year.

“It would be the best 6.3 miles of mountain biking territory in the state,” said Whitney. “The goal is to make Freeport a destination.”

The proposal, which grew out of recent efforts to develop a new vision for Freeport’s future, would supplement Hedgehog Mountain’s popular hikes with an array of beginner, intermediate and expert biking trails, according to Whitney. She added taxpayers won’t cover any of the projected $250,000 cost, thanks to fundraising efforts from the Chamber of Commerce and the New England Mountain Bike Association.

Mountain biking has surged in popularity in recent years, said Rob Lavoie of the New England Mountain Bike Association, a non-profit advocacy group that has helped Freeport develop its Hedgehog Mountain plans. Cyclists seeking fresh air during the pandemic flocked to trails in towns like Falmouth, Pownal and Gorham, which Lavoie said saw a 366% increase in ridership from 2019 to 2021.


“I see it as a public health benefit,” said Lavoie, who will join Whitney in sharing Freeport’s proposal Tuesday evening. “We need to get more people outside, off screens, reconnecting with nature, and this is just another avenue to do that.”

Besides encouraging residents to connect with the outdoors, Whitney said, the trails could also support local businesses by bringing visiting riders to Freeport, especially during the normally quiet winter months.

“I think that Freeport is at a pivotal time for change,” she said. “We’ve been known as an outlet town for the past twenty years, but Freeport is much more. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us.”

Town Council Chair Dan Piltch agreed the project fit well with Freeport’s new emphasis on promoting outdoor experiences. He said Tuesday’s forum at Town Hall will give the public a chance to ask questions and shape the proposal before the Town Council votes on it, which likely won’t happen for several months.

“We haven’t really heard from other users of the property or the residents in town,” Piltch said. “They may be a lot of opposition. There may not be much. We just don’t know, and that’s why we wanted to have a public workshop.”

Some members of Freeport’s Conservation Commission were initially anxious about the project’s impact on the environment and the hikers and dogwalkers who already use the property, according to Stuart Johnson, co-owner and trail crew lead of Maine Trail Builders, which would lead the six-month construction of the trails.

Yet Johnson argued that purpose-built mountain bike trails can reduce issues like erosion and overcrowding that can occur when cyclists ride on hiking trails. With thoughtful design, he said, trail makers would be able to bring cyclists out to the mountain while minimizing the negative impact to natural habitats.

For Chip Gray, owner of the Harraseeket Inn and a former mountain biker, is supportive of the plan that would make it easier for kids and families to get outdoors.

“It’s completely different than riding your bike around town, or on the road,” he said. “It’s fresh air instead of riding in traffic and breathing exhaust. And it’s fun. I mean, it really is fun.”

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