PHILLIPS — Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby lived in Phillips, is buried in Strong, and prevails as western Maine’s premier champion of outdoor life.

A writer, avid sportswoman and conservationist, she made the Rangeley Lakes Region irresistible to hunters, fishermen and tourists looking for adventure.

On Saturday morning, the High Peaks Alliance celebrated her life with a formal dedication of the first part of the Fly Rod Crosby Trail.

“Today, each of us looks to our past for a clue as to who we are, where we come from and maybe why we think and act the way we do,” state Sen. Tom Saviello told to the crowd. “This trail we dedicate today is one of those points on that path of discovery.”

High Peaks Alliance board member Christopher Beach said a the morning history walk in Phillips was an important part of the celebration. Crosby’s home, the Historical Society’s building, and the town’s public library were important parts of the story.

“It is as much about history as much as it is about hiking the trail,” he said. “Crosby traveled by railroad from her home here in Phillips to her guiding work in Rangeley.”

The Phillips and Rangeley Railroad began operations in 1891. This 28.5-mile extension of the narrow gauge railroad system in Franklin County brought tourists and prosperity to the area. This Rangeley Express made three round trips daily from Farmington to the Rangeley Lakes area. Bill Berry, owner of Saddleback Ski Resort and a member of the railroad museum in Phillips, was one of the supporters of the project and organized a train ride as a reminder of life before automobiles.

The Alliance will start working next year on the northern trail section, from Saddleback to Oquossoc. The southern section will start near the Village Cemetery in Strong and join the Phillips-Madrid section. Some portions of the trail will be multi-use, available for snowmobile and ATV travelers.

Ben Godsoe, who has been an Alliance spokesman and AmeriCorps volunteer for the project, said the nonprofit group has a single mission: to ensure and enhance public access to recreation in Maine’s High Peaks Region. The group embraces and celebrates the diversity of its members, he said, welcoming input from those who hunt, fish, hike, ski, bike, ATV and snowmobile. Such an assortment of advocates have given hundreds of hours of their personal time to order to preserve this access to recreation for current and future generations.

“This new trail wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of so many private landowners who gave permission for the trail to cross their land and wonderful effort by all of our volunteers,” he said. “We are especially proud that we could offer a total of 11 jobs over three years to local youth to work on the trail.”

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