A map of the planned Mountain Division trail connecting nine communities from Fryeburg to Portland. Contributed / Mountain Division Alliance

A long-envisioned 55-mile rail trail between Portland and Fryeburg is moving closer to reality with state approval of a 31-mile segment connecting existing sections in Windham and Fryeburg.

Gov. Janet Mills last month signed into law LD 404, authorizing the Maine Department of Transportation to construct a multi-use trail along an unused rail corridor from Standish to Fryeburg. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford.

The Mountain Division Alliance has been working on the project for almost 30 years, advocating for a continuous Portland-Fryeburg recreational path that would connect nine communities along the way.

“We have two sections of the trail built already. The bill is connecting the 5-mile section in Windham with the 4-mile section in Fryeburg with a 31-mile trail, which will get (us to) a 40-mile continuous path,” said Dave Kinsman, 20-year president of the Mountain Division Alliance, and the only member who has been involved since the alliance’s inception. 

Railroad tracks on the new 31-mile stretch will be removed and replaced with a paved bike and pedestrian trail on the rail bed. The money for the engineering has been put aside, and “we’re looking at about $18 million to build the 31 miles,” Kinsman said. Efforts are underway to secure grants to cover construction costs and once those are in place, construction can begin.

“When these old railways get converted, businesses spring up along the trail because so many people use them, like bike shops and campgrounds and coffee shops,” said Kinsman. When the entire Portland-Fryeburg trail is complete, “those nine towns along the way will benefit greatly.”


The existing sections of the Mountain Division Rail Trail are popular.

“As soon as it opened up, people started using it,” Kinsman said. “It’s like that saying, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and it’s a great place for people of all ages to get out to run, bike and rollerblade out away from traffic.”

Residents want to see the trail’s gap filled in, he said. “Connectivity is a huge thing. We had letters of support from every town along the rail line, and I think people have become aware of what the trails can mean for their towns.”

“It’s not only recreational, but also an opportunity to support sustainable economic development within the region of Oxford County, which is sparsely populated,” said Paul Schumacher, director of Southern Maine Planning and Development. “I’ve been involved with it from day one, so it’s really exciting to see it finally get to this point.”

“A portion of the trail was built in Fryeburg years ago, but that’s been standing there alone, and now the opportunity is there to connect that,” he said. “We don’t have a ton of off-road trails devoted specifically to bikes and hiking,” Schumacher said, noting that the trail will “be great for families and younger children.”

Because the endpoint will be in Fryeburg, “this can help with revitalizing the downtown,” he said.


“The state sees this as a real benefit as far as promoting outdoor recreation,” he said, “and it is a way to attract people who value recreation and want to live and work and play in an area.”

Bennett said the trail  will give people “access to some of the most beautiful parts of Maine,” including mountains and hiking trails.

Recent studies by American Trails have shown that for every $1 spent on trails, there’s a $3 return in the form of improved health as more overall physical activity is measured in communities. Other benefits include increased property values and equitable transportation options.

Over time, the Mountain Division Alliance hopes to connect the trail to trails in Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire.

For now, the alliance is focused on completing the Standish-Fryeburg stretch, and “we’re also working to build the trail from South Windham to Westbrook, and then 5 miles to Portland,” Kinsman said.

“Hopefully before I’m too old to pedal, I’ll be able to go from Fryeburg to Portland,” he said.

To learn more, visit mountaindivisionalliance.org.

This article was edited after its initial posting to correct Sen. Rick Bennett’s district and to add a comment from him. 

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