The Maine Trail Crew has been a critical component of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club’s efforts to maintain the state’s 267-mile stretch of the AT – plus side trails, shelters, campsites and privies – since 1976. These folks do the heavy lifting, bridge building and rock work, for example, that regular volunteers cannot.

But for the past 30 years, the seasonal crew, lacking a home base, has been forced to move six times. That situation is about to change in a big way, however, thanks in part to the generous donation of an MATC member.

The new facility, located in Skowhegan, will be formally named “The Maine Trail Center: Honoring the Memory of Mark McAuliffe, a Devoted Member and Volunteer of MATC.” McAuliffe, 66, passed away at his Scarborough home last October, but in his final days he arranged for a monumental gift in excess of $1 million to catapult the club’s 10-year “Trail Champions” capital campaign into a position to finally allow construction to begin.

McAuliffe, educated at Colby College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, enjoyed a successful career as a businessman and entrepreneur. He was also a passionate hiker and cyclist, outdoorsman and world traveler, and was actively involved in a variety of professional and nonprofit organizations. Among these groups was the MATC, where he had volunteered as a trail maintainer since 2005.

“Joe Kilbride and I were close friends and longtime hiking buds of Mark, and we comprised the team that maintained the Buck Hill section of the AT in Monson,” said Chris O’Neil. “It was Mark who turned us on to the North Woods, and Mark who took the initiative to sign us up as maintainers. Mark’s rationale was clear: ‘Think of all the trails we’ve hiked, and how much we’ve taken from them. Don’t we owe it to those trails to give back a little?’

“Mark loved the rigor of the maintenance work and the reward we got from something so simple as making the trail passable, safe and enjoyable,” noted O’Neil. “I get tingles recalling the passing hikers who always thanked us for our ‘work.’ Mark especially found gratification in this inconspicuous and unpretentious aspect of MATC volunteerism: that our toil occurs in the pucker brush, with really only intrinsic rewards.”


The new Maine Trail Center will be a permanent home for the Maine Trail Crew. The modern structure will feature passive solar and other green energy in its design, meeting space, a kitchen, housing for 34 persons, showers, laundry, office space, a tenting area, an outdoor work space, and parking. A maintenance building will serve as storage and as a workshop. Two crew quarters were built onsite by the National Guard last summer.

Construction of the driveway into the facility, which sits on 55 acres of land leased from the Somerset Woods Trustees, has already begun, according to Lester Kenway, the MATC’s president from 2009 to 2022 and the chair of the Trail Champions campaign. Site work will continue through May, the buildings will go up starting in June, and by the end of the year, the project should be complete. The crew will occupy the center in May 2025.

“Mark’s gift made this happen. There’s a sense of relief now that the goal has been achieved. No other AT club has taken on such an enormous project. But this was important to do,” said Kenway. “Mark’s love for Maine and the AT was matched only by his love for his family. Mark’s memory will live on in the memory of all who visit the Maine Trail Center.”

Close to 500 individuals, foundations and businesses have added their support to the Trail Champions campaign, which has raised $2.97 million to date, including McAuliffe’s bequest. The current pandemic- and inflation-impacted goal is $3.2 million, so fundraising will continue, but the bright sunlight at this end of this long and winding trail is in sight.

Situated just off U.S. Route 2 in Skowhegan and a 40-minute drive from Augusta, the new trail center is centrally located not only to the Appalachian Trail corridor, but to land trusts and other such groups that will also use the multi-purpose facility for functions and meetings, and as a training center for trail design, building, maintenance and restoration, as well as chainsaw use.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is a 20-year volunteer trail maintainer with the MATC and a two-time AT thru-hiker. Please support the MATC effort to maintain our beloved stretch of the AT in Maine (

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