Group links trails, communities while raising awareness of Presumpscot watershed
FALMOUTH — A coalition that hopes within the next few years to have a contiguous trail in place joining Sebago Lake to Casco Bay has scheduled a public meeting next week to discuss ideas for the Falmouth-Portland portion of the project.
The Sebago to the Sea Coalition represents more than a dozen organizations and towns that have joined forces to create a hiking trail that would connect Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Falmouth and Portland.
Facilitated by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (PRLT), the Sebago to the Sea Trail project is about two-thirds completed, with 18 miles of the 27.5-mile trail in place and another two miles in progress, said Tania Neuschafer, project coordinator and PRLT manager.
"We've made tremendous progress and I would say the primary work at this point is the connection between Westbrook and Falmouth," Neuschafer said.
Though the initial plan was for the trail to run primarily along the Presumpscot River, Neuschafer said the seven miles remaining may have to take a different course, possibly following the Stroudwater River if the group cannot get landowner permission or locate the proper connections to continue it along the Presumpscot.
For the most part, the Sebago to the Sea Trail is made up of existing trails, some that can accommodate bicycles and casual pedestrian traffic and others that are more rugged, suitable for hiking and off-road mountain biking. Some of them are owned by participating cities and towns; others by private landowners.
In filling in the gaps to the contiguous trail, Neuschafer said the coalition is looking to some landowners for easements or an agreement under license, but added that the trail segments the group is considering would "not go through property owners' front lawns."
So far, the coalition has spent about $20,000 in grant money for coordinating, developing and mapping the project, Neuschafer said.
"As far as trail building, we haven't needed too much – each section is managed by the steward of that segment," she said.
When the trail is completed, the coalition hopes to provide significant historical and environmental information that would educate trail users on the area's cultural heritage and raise awareness of the importance of the Presumpscot River watershed.
Though Neuschafer said she has no idea how many people will attend next week's meeting, she said about 40 people came to a recent meeting in Standish to learn more about the project and to make sure the existing trails would not be altered.
"We want as many people as possible from the public to come out," she said. "If we've already reached out to a private landowner that we'd like to speak with, we invited them to the meeting. No new trail will be established without landowner permission."
The Falmouth-Portland meeting is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21 at Falmouth Town Hall, 271 Falmouth Road.
Sebago to the Sea Coalition members include: the Cumberland County Healthy Maine Partnerships–Healthy Casco Bay, Healthy Portland and Communities Promoting Health Coalition; the Maine Department of Transportation; the Maine Division Alliance; the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program; the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust; the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition; Portland Trails; Portland Water District; the cities of Portland and Westbrook; the towns of Falmouth, Gorham and Standish, and the town of Windham Parks & Recreation Department.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.