Many hands come together to build a trail behind the Gateway Center
By Terry Begley
Summer 2013 Friends of Acadia Journal
Six years ago, a wide-ranging partnership was bringing pieces together for an off-island welcome center and transportation hub for Acadia National Park, MDI-area towns, and the Island Explorer bus system. In December 2007, Friends of Acadia purchased 369 acres at Crippens Creek in Trenton, and the next year sold 152 acres adjacent to Route 3 to the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), for what is now known as the Acadia Gateway Center.
FOA kept the 217 acres of interior woods and wetland, wanting to make it available to the people of Trenton for trail-based recreation. In autumn 2009, Friends of Acadia invited residents to join a “Trenton Trail Committee” and a non-monetary grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program provided a hands-on trails consultant, Burnham Martin, to help on all aspects of trail planning. With Martin’s guidance, the committee conducted public outreach activities, explored the property, discussed potential uses for it, and began mapping potential trail routes.
It soon became evident that the property had a lot of wetland. To minimize impacts and permitting requirements, the trail would need to be carefully routed and constructed to lie lightly on the land. In addition, the first portion of the trail, along with the access road and trailhead parking, would be on the land FOA had sold to the MDOT. This included a 54-acre wetland mitigation area intended to compensate for wetlands impacted during the Gateway Center’s construction. Restrictions on the mitigation area allow pedestrian-only trails but they must be designed to minimize wetland impacts. Using the deed restrictions as a guide, Friends of Acadia and the Trail Committee planned, designed, and mapped a looped, 1.8-mile footpath traversing the two conserved properties. From the beginning, the trail’s purpose was to provide environmental education, contact with nature, and outdoor exercise for area residents and visitors to the Acadia Gateway Center. By the late fall of 2011, the Trail Committee had a trail route in place: a lovely footpath through a variety of forest communities in different stages of forest succession, with a spur trail to a boardwalk and viewing platform overlooking a dwarf shrub bog. This boardwalk and viewing platform are an important part of the trail, providing access to an unusual natural feature while eliminating potential impacts (including barriers to natural water flow and trampling) on the delicate wetland. The trail also features a series of bog bridges and seven interpretive signs describing the geology, botany, wildlife, and history of the land the trail traverses.
Lester Kenway of Trail Services was hired to construct the structures on the trail route; however, the driving force from conception to completion was the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who put in thousands of hours on this trail in partnership with Friends of Acadia, Acadia National Park, and the Trenton Village Connector Trail Committee. Volunteers represented a diverse group: young and old, and from all walks of life and geographic locations. Volunteers handled administrative tasks and planning, developing the trail vision and gathering community support and interest. Then began work in the field, exploring the 369-acre property and mapping the best trail route—a sometimes a thankless task, as volunteers struggled through thick vegetation, temperature extremes, wet and muddy terrain, and occasional clouds of Maine blackflies. Finally, construction began.Volunteers cleared the footpath, limbed trees and cut brush, and hauled more than a thousand logs and boards used to construct the bog bridges, boardwalk, and viewing platform. Volunteers worked on both content and installation of the interpretive panels, with expert input from Downeast Bird and Nature Tours and design by Z Studio, as well as the directional signs and trailhead kiosk.
One hundred percent of the trail’s costs were paid by grants from Davis Conservation Fund, Friends of Acadia, Nature Valley, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Yawkey Foundation. In-kind donors provided a whole range of services, from images for the interpretive signs, to snacks and water for the volunteers, to delivery of the kiosk.
Since the trail’s inauguration in June, it has received high praise from area schools, community organizations, Trenton residents, and local hikers who appreciate the educational opportunities and the unique recreational experience the trail provides.
For more information about the Trenton Community Trail, visit friendsofacadia.org/what-we-do/trails-and-carriageroads/trenton-community-trail. See page 28 of this Journal for a list of volunteer committee members and donors.
TERRY BEGLEY is the programs and events coordinator at Friends of Acadia.