AUBURN — Larry Pelletier is known around New Auburn for his efforts to keep the city’s riverside litter-free.

He’s also the guy who keeps a watchful eye on the new Barker Mill Trail for the Androscoggin Land Trust, noting whether portions need repair, keeping track of use patterns and looking for areas that can be improved.

“Basically, we’re just citizens who agree to oversee an area,” Pelletier said. “In my case, it’s Barker Mill Trail and the parks along the Androscoggin River. For parks, it’s really simple: It’s just a matter of making sure there’s not a lot of litter around and contacting public service if there’s graffiti.”

Deb Charest, conservation director for the land trust, said she relies on a cadre of 30 land and trail stewards like Pelletier to keep track of more than 5,000 acres of public land.

“Basically, we just ask the stewards to be the eyes and ears of the properties that they love,” Charest said. “We don’t ask them to approach anybody, just to report back to us.”

The stewards get some basic training and a tour of areas they’ll be keeping an eye on.

“We take them out and walk all along the boundary and tell them what to look for,” Charest said. “We talk about what the boundary markers mean and all that.”

They must visit the site regularly, looking for changes and potential problems so they can let someone know. They also file a report on the area’s condition once each year.

The Barker Mill Trail reopened as a formal hiking and athletic trail about four years ago, with volunteers coming annually to clear brush and keep the path walkable. It’s a half-mile hike along the Little Androscoggin that begins just behind Barker Mill Arms and comes back out farther along Mill Street.

“A lot of people, myself included, didn’t know the trail was even there before it was opened,” Pelletier said. “Some older folks who’d been in the community longer than I have did know, but it was never being used.”

He’s helped guide the development and has recommended putting planking over marshy spots to help keep the path from washing out.

One time, he and a group of hikers stumbled upon an amorous couple parked along the hiking trail. Heavy rocks went up at the entrance to keep cars out after that.

This year, he’s noticed some of the “No ATV” signs have been removed. He’ll send that info along to the land trust and get them replaced.

“One thing I’ve noticed, some parts are starting to grow in again,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get some volunteers out there to help clear it out again and repair some of the planking.”

It’s a perfect fit for Pelletier who traded in his car keys for a good pair of walking shoes back in 1990 when it came to his morning commute.

“I decided we only need one vehicle, and I thought I could walk to work,” he said.

He retired from MaineOxy on Washington Street in 2009 — he takes occasional part-time work — but still walks the area daily.

He’s looking forward to his trail getting more use.

“Right now, there are not a ton of people who know about it,” he said. “I suspect that will change as we spread the word.”

The land trust will host a thank-you breakfast for all of its land and trail stewards at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 4, at Lewiston’s Rancourt Preserve, just off Tall Pines Drive and behind Marden’s. Current stewards, as well as those interested in signing up, and the merely curious are invited.

Know someone with a deep well of public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Scott Taylor at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.


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