The Eastern Trail in South Portland, Me.


On Friday, Oct. 7, Maine’s Eastern Trail was awarded with Hall of Fame status by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The trail runs from Bug Light Park in South Portland to the Piscataqua River in Kittery. It runs through South Portland, Scarborough, Biddeford, Kennebunk, and more. Much of the trail was formerly a railroad route, and is now used by many pedestrians, bikers, cross-country skiers, and others. The trail is not just recreational; it is also used as an important transportation method. The trail runs both through scenic nature as well as more urban areas.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is an organization for creating and protecting trail networks in the United States, particularly out of former railroad lines. Trail systems are voted on to join the Hall of Fame.

“At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy every year we select one of the best trails in the entire country,” said Brandi Horton, vice president of Communications at the conservancy. “It’s by public vote, so this Eastern Trail was not just picked by us … this was the winner by over 50 percent of the public vote. And part of what makes us so excited about that is that it’s a beautiful trail. It’s an incredibly unique trail in that it connects parts of Maine that are very distinct and different, but it also represents what is happening when it comes to connecting trails all across the country.”

“This has been a progress under way for almost three decades and it still has these gaps that need to be completed, she said. “So, for us it is an example of where we need to be channeling more federal funding, more state funding, more quickly, so we can unlock more trail benefits for people in Maine and all across the country.”


The Eastern Trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a trail system that goes 3,000 miles from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. The Eastern Trail is also part of the developing New England Rail-Trail Network. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is working with locals to create a connected system of trails throughout New England, a project with 50% of the planned network already open.

The event was hosted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Eastern Trail Alliance, and East Coast Greenway at Sea Dog Brewing Co. in South Portland. Speakers included board Vice-Chair of the Eastern Trail Bob Hamblen, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President Ryan Chao, Executive Director of the Eastern Trail Alliance Jon Kachmar, Assistant Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine Jim Tasse, Northern New England Manager of the East Coast Greenway Kristine Keeney, and more.

“In the work that I’ve done with the Eastern Trail over the years, I’ve always characterized it as a trail of local, regional, and national importance and I think this induction really underscores that role,” said Tasse, while speaking at the event. “And do not for a second think that this is just a recreational corridor. Particularly on the segments that serve the more urbanized parts of the state. This is a transportation facility. This is something that people can use to commute to work on, to run errands on, and to have an option to be mobile without having to rely on a car or to put themselves on a busy street on a bicycle.”

According to a recent economic impact study, the Eastern Trail creates $44.6 million in annual economic benefits. An estimated 250,000 people use the trail every year, and the trail supports 364 jobs across Maine. Sixteen further miles are under construction, after which much more in benefits to the economy are expected.

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