JAY — The steady lull of the Androscoggin River and the sounds of birds singing above lend for a tranquil stroll along a path of landscaped wood chips, all part of a newly restored nature trail that offers a glimpse of papermaking history.

The 1.7-mile French Falls River Walk was designed and built in 1996 by Jay High School students and teacher John Schoen on International Paper property with help from the paper company and others. Over the years it had not been maintained.

The Androscoggin Land Trust owns the property now.

Members of the Jay Recreation Committee, town workers and area community members have pitched in to mend and expand the trail. It has been restored to preserve its original intention: a learning experience and a source of community pride.

Randy Easter and Don Leclerc, both of Jay, and Mike Simoneau of Livermore have done a lot of work, including putting down wood chips, cleaning the trail, and marking any trip hazards with colored paint.

The town’s public works crew put up a wooden arch at the head of the trail that branches into three directions with each one coded either red, white or blue. Jennifer Easter added flowers to brighten the entryway. The original sign was restored but with the new colors marking the individual paths.


It is designated for foot traffic only and walkers are asked to leave footprints, not litter.

The Recreation Committee, all volunteers, and community members have also restored the French Falls Recreation Area, a 10-acre parcel that abuts the trail. The walk and recreation area are at the end of French Falls Lane off Route 4.

Signs donated by Rob Taylor of Jay are hung with aluminum nails on different trees giving facts about the species. The nails are tipped down so the water runs away from the tree, Simoneau said.

He pointed out different areas of interest across the river and talked about the history related to the paper industry. A railroad trestle bridge can be seen over the river. It runs by the Verso-Androscoggin Mill and the former Otis paper mill. It was built by the Phoenix Corp. in 1892, Simoneau said.

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere pointed out some rapids downriver that would be dangerous to anyone kayaking or canoeing in that area.

As they walked, Simoneau, LaFreniere and Leclerc discussed features that have been discovered along the trail: a beaver den piled high with tree branches on land that doesn’t appear to be active; rocks jutting out into the river; a possible wood sluice left from the days logs were sent down the waterway; and a tree that had fallen long ago with a long tangle of roots and branches sprouting from it.


These are some of the natural landscape highlights.

“We keep coming up with great ideas,” LaFreniere said.

The dream is to eventually go as far as they can south with the trail, Leclerc said. It is a joint project with the land trust.


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