The proposed Bethel Pathway trail extension is shown in pink on this map. Mahoosuc Pathways

BETHEL — The popular Bethel Pathway recreational trail will be extended by two-thirds of a mile this summer, thanks to a collaboration between Bethel, Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, Mahoosuc Land Trust, and Mahoosuc Pathways.

A news release from Mahoosuc Pathways said the extension will connect the pathway from the paved section on the North Road to the universally accessible trail at the Mahoosuc Land Trust’s Valentine Farm. The pathway will stretch from one mile to nearly three miles when combined with the land trust trail.

The extension is a result of a more than 18-month planning process between the organizations and is made possible by funding from a Maine Recreational Trail Program grant, an appropriation from Bethel taxpayers at the June 2019 town meeting, and a gift of the Bethel Rotary Club on behalf of the Jim Monahan Fund, the release said.

The Maine Recreational Trails Grant Program awarded more than $46,000 toward the project, which is among a few grants awarded statewide. The Bethel Rotary Club made a gift of $30,000 toward the project from its Jim Monahan Fund. The fund was set up after Monahan’s death in 2013 and is to be used on a project of great community importance and impact. Monahan was a U.S. PGA professional, two-time past president of the Bethel Rotary Club and a civic leader in Bethel, according to the release.

The town will solicit bids in early spring with construction anticipated to begin in early summer.

Mahoosuc Land Trust opened the Valentine Farm Conservation Center in 2017 and built a 1.2-mile crushed gravel trail around the fields above the Androscoggin River floodplain.

Executive Director Kirk Siegel said, “We see this as a way to let more people enjoy the beauty of Valentine Farm, and to learn more about its bird and wildlife habitat and the flourishing pollinator garden.”

The land trust also plans to add a mowed loop to the Androscoggin from its gravel trail this summer, the release said.

Construction of the extension and final surface will be a crushed stone surface, 6 feet wide with occasional wider “bump-outs” for easier passage or rest. The trail width was an important consideration for Maine Adaptive, which has a new office in Bethel village and is looking to expand programming locally.

Director of Advancement for Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation Deb Maxfield said, “Our participants have benefited from the universally accessible trail network in the Bethel area, allowing us to expand cycling and trail terrain programs to individuals with disabilities throughout the state. The planned expansion of the pathway will surely enhance these program efforts in our backyard and beyond.”

“This extension is years in the making and we’re so grateful for the support from the town, the funders, our nonprofit partners, and the partner landowners to make this extension possible,” said Gabe Perkins, executive director of Mahoosuc Pathways. “We believe that trails and ease of access to recreation creates a more prosperous economy and elevates our community profile for year-round recreation opportunities.”

Bethel will hold the trail easements, manage the construction bid process, and maintain the pathway extension after it is built.

“I believe that the pathway is a great extension of the local area. People talk about and use it frequently,” Bethel Town Manager Loretta Powers said.

Rotary President Tim LeConey said, “The Bethel Rotary Club is very pleased to help with the trail expansion project as the Monahan fund is to be used for local recreation opportunities, especially for young people. This is a great, collaborative project that the Rotary Club is very excited to be a part of.”

The organizations will work on volunteer days to help get the project ready and will hold an unveiling once the construction is complete.

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