NORWAY — Three Western Maine organizations have received grants to expand and mark recreational trails in Rangeley, Bethel and Norway.

The grants were announced by the Northern Forest Center of Concord, New Hampshire. A total of 10 towns and organizations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will receive financial support for outdoor recreation opportunities.

Rangeley and Bethel land trusts will develop more recreational trails and navigational signs for the public. Submitted photo

The Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust was granted $30,000 to add signs at its four regional gateways and through its 36 miles of trails, and to build an in-town trail between Rangeley’s Lakeside Park and the Rangeley Public Library.

The project will primarily focus on creating consistent signs to navigate trails to local noncommercial attractions such as museums and points of interest.

“Wayfinding is a fairly new term in recreational planning,” David Miller, executive director of The Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, said. “It refers to a series of signs to connect people to their environment through well-marked trails.

“The Trust is acting as a fiscal agent for this grant,” Miller said. “We are coordinating with the Maine Department of Transportation and the Rangeley Scenic Byway Wayfinding Council, a community group of business and resident stakeholders, to develop signage and rewrite the area’s corridor management plan.”

The plan includes protecting quality and clarity of the waterways surrounding Rangeley, including Rangeley Lake, Upper and Lower Richardson lakes, Mooselookmeguntic Lake, Cupsuptic Lake and surrounding watersheds, and the Kennebago, Magalloway and Rapid rivers.

“The Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation and Maine Office of Tourism have been key partners to developing the project to this point,” Miller said. “Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust has conserved more than 14,000 acres in the region for public access and the wayfinding system will be critical to keeping access safe and educational.”

Miller said even though overall tourism is down in Maine, activity is up throughout Rangeley’s recreational areas.

Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust plans to connect Rangeley’s Lakeside Park and Rangeley Public Library via a recreational trail. Submitted photo

“We have 60-80 volunteers who monitor our lakes and a seasonal ‘river ambassador’ to interact with people along the Rapid and Magalloway rivers about maintaining water quality,” he said. “Already in June our boat inspectors have removed invasive plants from eight boats before they launched in our waters. That’s more than we saw all of last year.

“There is more activity on the trails, we’re seeing more women out fishing on the water. Outdoor recreation is growing,” he said.

In Bethel, Mahoosuc Pathways received a $30,000 grant to build a trail between the Bethel Pathway and the Valentine Farm Conservation Center. The Pathway connects several public facilities, including a skate park, playground, picnic area and boat launch. It also accesses several related businesses.

“This grant enables us to get closer to our goal of connecting Bethel to Sunday River, north or Bethel, and south to Mt. Abram through a network or recreational trails,” Gabe Perkins, executive director of Mahoosuc Pathways, said. “Our organization acts as a conduit between landowners, businesses, private interests and recreation enthusiasts, all in pursuit of that vision.”

Perkins said eventually the trail network will connect to the Bethel Community Forest, a 1,000-acre preserve two miles from the center of town.

Mahoosuc Pathways will also use the grant to create navigational signs within Bethel’s public lands.

In Norway, a $21,000 grant has been awarded to the Western Foothills Land Trust to link the Nordic trail system at Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road to the downtown.

Western Foothills Land Trust will build a trail to connect the Nordic trails at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway to the downtown. Submitted photo

“We have been doing private fundraising for the last three years for this project,” Executive Director Lee Dassler said. “In 2019 we added a 1 kilometer section and just this week completed another three-quarters of a kilometer. The grant from the Northern Forest Center will allow us to build another kilometer section to create a loop.”

Dassler said the 20 kilometers of trails at Roberts Farm are challenging terrain for skiing and snowshoeing, and the new system leading to town is more level and a nice compliment to serving different skill levels.

The new trail is inspired by Nordic trails that wind through Scandinavian countries in Europe, including Norway.

“In the winter of 2018-2019 more than 3,000 skiers and snowshoers enjoyed the 20k trail system at Roberts Farm,” Dassler said. “Those visitors frequent Norway village’s restaurants, shops and services while in town, and this trail will connect them directly to it, similar to the way they do it in the other Norway.”


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