Media Archive

Bill to reroute Katahdin Trail opposed locally

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 11, March 12, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

Local group hopes to promote trail, as a means of economic salvation

A proposal to reroute the Katahdin Trail could be the last blow to an already-struggling region, local town officials said this week.

Sen. Stephen Stanley (D-Medway ) submitted L.D. 538 for legislative consideration. The Katahdin Trail now winds through Piscataquis County along routes 7, 16 and 11 between Newport and Millinocket before culminating at the entrance to Baxter State Park. The bill would reroute that traffic,starting in Medway at the junction of Interstate 95 and Route 157, extending to Millinocket, finally ending in Baxter State Park.

The bill was co-sponsored by Rep.Guy Duprey (D-Medway).

Late Tuesday, Stanley said his goal was to highlight the trail's potential for economic attention.

"I wanted to get people's attention, and sometimes you have to make yourself a heel in order to get the attention of Augusta," he said.

He said that he would like to see the trail extended, not necessarily rerouted, so that it includes Medway.

As the bill now reads, local town officials and at least one local legislator are opposed to a complete rerouting of the trail, which one said "would be another blow" to the economic survival of such communities as Dexter, Milo and Brownville.

Sophie Wilson, town manager in Brownville, said that Stanley's proposal would inhibit the efforts of eastern Piscataquis towns and the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council in working to promote the existing Katahdin Trail.

She said Stanley has been "a really good friend to Piscataquis County for many years," and she doesn't
believe it is his intention to take away what could become an ecotourist lifeline to the communities.

She said that the bill has raised awareness of the trail, which had not been promoted much historically, and brought it to lawmaker's attention.

Milo Town Manager Jane Jones said she was "very distressed" to hear about the bill, and that she is drafting a letter to Duprey, who represents Milo in House District 139, requesting he withdraw his sponsor-

"Rerouting the trail would create a situation of deeper economic stress for this group of communities," she

Jones said that the moving of the trail would set back her community's attempts at economic development. She said that the rerouting of the trail through Medway and Millinocket is a "misguided attempt" to bring that tourist traffic to the communities hit by the shutdown of Great Northern Paper Co.'s mills.

Meanwhile, she said, the loss of the mill jobs also is negatively impacting Milo and Brownville, both communities of which house former GNP employees.

Jones said that the efforts of local citizens who are working on highlighting the trail "and using it to our
best advantage to draw tourism and other recreational activity" would become defunct if the bill passed.

In Dexter, Town Manager Bob Simpson said that there would be some economic impact to that community, if the trail were rerouted, but "there's no way to quantify what .that would be."

"More and more, we're relying on transient traffic," he said, as a means to balance the flailing economy.

He added that he believes the state legislature has more important issues to consider.

In a prepared statement. Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) said he is igainst Stanley's proposal. "The current route is not only a source of a little revenue for these towns, it is a source of pride for them as well," Davis said. "This proposal aims to bypass our towns for the sake of his district. This is shortsighted and will not cure the economic ills of the Millinocket region. We are all in this together and must work to come up with real solutions that will help rural Maine, not simply just steal from Paul to pay Peter."

Davis said, when reached by phone Tuesday, that he has been contacted by several people concerned about the proposal.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.