The Bald Mountain trail in Weld is a favorite hike for many people, including kids, living in the western Maine mountains. It’s an easy, short hike. The nearly treeless, rock-faced summit provides spectacular views, including Mt. Washington, N.H., on a good day!

I was a bit saddened when I read public access to this trail was prohibited. It is upsetting when any landowner decides to deny access to private property after years of public admittance. However, this is one case where I feel, for reasons probably different than the landowner’s, the trail should be closed.

As thousands of people head up Bald Mountain each year, the trail undergoes a lot of stress. Hikers may have noticed the vast degree of soil erosion that has occurred. There are many places where networks of tree roots have been exposed.

Other stretches closely resemble a streambed as the trail is about two feet lower than where it should be. In these places, many hikers decide to travel to the higher edges, which results in trampled plants and trail widening. As the chain of events continues, these areas will also begin to cut into the earth.

Unfortunately, erosion does not only adversely affect the trail and its shoulders. Soil erosion is the biggest threat to Maine’s waterways. It clogs waterways leading to shallower streams and habitat depletion. Soil can injure fishes’ gills. It also transports nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, two major factors of alga bloom occurrences in lakes.

At Bald Mountain trailhead, hikers must traverse Wilson Stream. During rainstorms or snowmelt, soil is transported down the trail as it erodes and gets deposited into Wilson Stream. The problem doesn’t end here. Wilson Stream flows into the Sandy River into the Kennebec River and eventually to the Gulf of Maine; all being affected to some degree.

For the sake of the trail, Maine’s pristine waters, and public relations, let’s give Bald Mountain Trail a break from all the stress. Perhaps if the landowner’s requests are respected, public access will be permitted again someday and hikers will hopefully be more appreciative.

Carol Haskins, Presque Isle

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