During the next month, Maine lawmakers will decide whether to send a Maine Trails Bond to the November ballot so that Maine voters can decide whether to invest $30 million over the next four years in the development and maintenance of trails statewide.

I know I speak for many in saying that I hope they do.

Although Maine currently has tremendous trails that contribute to our economy and quality of life, we have the potential to become a top-tier state in the nation that is known for trails that attract new residents, talent, businesses and tourists.

I say this as a lifelong trail user and an economic development professional in central Maine.

Trails have played a major role in my life. I grew up in North Anson on a large dairy farm, and I have been a trail user since I could walk. My sister and I rode our snowmobiles to school, and we loved four-wheeling and walking our dog Buddy on local wooded trails.

These days I cross-country ski and look forward to annual backpacking adventures with my sister, and mountain biking has become my favorite pastime. My husband and I ride local trails, but we also travel to Vermont to ride the Kingdom Trails each year, and we spent several days riding in Moab, Utah, this past fall.


The importance of trails has taken on a whole new meaning in my career as executive director of Main Street Skowhegan. In 2016, we led a community-wide effort to develop the Skowhegan Strategic Plan for Community Transformation. The plan’s goal is to make our town a thriving economic, cultural and recreational destination where residents enjoy a high quality of life.

One of our economic transformation strategies is to enhance recreation and promote our natural resources. As a result, we are doubling down on outdoor recreation infrastructure, which will include Maine’s first whitewater park with the Northeast’s only adjustable surf wave in our downtown river gorge. Skowhegan is also developing a plan for 50 miles of multi-use trails that would be accessible via our commercial district.

We are not alone in seeing the value of trails. Other towns and organizations across Maine are planning trail networks as a tool for economic development and revitalization. But we need support from the state and federal governments to realize Maine’s potential as a place with accessible and connected trails that offer a full range of year-round experiences.

That’s why I strongly support a bill (L.D. 1156) that would create a Maine Trails Bond. The measure would be Maine’s first-ever funding source dedicated to building and maintaining trails for hiking, biking, walking, snowmobiling, ATVs, skiing and all manner of other uses. The proposal has already received statewide support from nearly 300 towns, organizations and businesses, including the town of Skowhegan and Main Street Skowhegan.

Here in Skowhegan, we’re in the throes of a trail master plan that will serve as a roadmap for new construction and current trail maintenance. Once complete, our municipality and local nonprofits will use the plan to fundraise for trail projects. Having the opportunity to apply for trail funding from the state would help Skowhegan continue to realize our vision of becoming an outdoor recreation mecca.

Like other small, rural towns, we just need more capital to bring our goals to fruition. I urge the Legislature to approve the Maine Trails Bond this session and send it to the voters in November. Like Skowhegan, the state of Maine needs to double down on investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure as a tool for economic development.

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