CARRABASSETT VALLEY-Work is scheduled to begin on the Western Mountains Foundation’s hut system as soon as next month with the construction of the first hut.
The Carrabassett Valley Planning Board voted Thursday night to allow WMF to build a 5,000 square foot hut and accompanying bunkhouse near the south branch of Poplar Stream Falls. This will be the first of 12 huts that the foundation plans to build along almost 200 miles of trails in the western mountains of Maine.
The hut system has been a dream of WMF president Larry Warren for years, and he and executive director David Herring began the application process in April of this year to build within Carrabassett.
“It’s been an exciting month for us,” said Herring.
WMF will also submit its plans for the next two huts in June to the Land Use Regulation Commission and begin work on those as soon as the permits are complete. The huts are log kits and are built off-site and then assembled on location. Phase I of the project includes the trail system from Carrabassett Valley to The Forks and three additional huts.
Warren and Herring envision that the hut and trails will be used year-round by “people powered recreationalists,”Herring said. This will include cross-country skiers, snowshoers, hikers, paddlers and mountain bikers but no motorized vehicles.
The Poplar Stream Falls hut and bunkhouse will be able to sleep 42 guests and staff, and will be equipped with a dining room, kitchen and educational meeting space.
John Morton, a trail designer from Vermont with an impressive resume, has already begun consulting on the project. He has been involved on a long list of trail projects all over the country and internationally, including the Nordic Heritage Center and Trails of Acadia North in Aroostook County. But this project is something new for him.
“This is definitely a different type of concept,” he said. “Most projects I’ve done before are self-contained Nordic centers. This is a point-to-point trail that is about 180 miles long.
“It’s a fantastic project. Not only will it be a regionally significant facility. I think it will draw people from across the country.”
He said much of the trail will utilize existing logging roads. Morton’s part will be to ensure that the trail is accessible by Nordic skiers of all levels.
“We need to make it as humane and skiable as possible,” he said.
One area that could be problematic is north of Dead River, where the terrain dips down into deep ravines.
“It is difficult to find any skid roads there, and if there are any, they’re really old,” he said.
His job will be to find more gradual terrain and a suitable river crossing where a bridge would not be wiped out with the spring rains each year.
Morton is not only excited by this project as a trail builder but also as an avid Nordic skier who can’t wait to test the product.
“One great thing about my job is that once you design something, in the wintertime, you have to ski it.”