Debate intensifies over Bradbury-Pineland corridor

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POWNAL — The debate over a Bradbury-Pineland trail is heating up as the mid-December deadline approaches for the state Bureau of Parks and Lands’ final draft of a management plan for the corridor.

While a mountain bike organization is pushing for extended loop trails that connect to the main corridor trail, other groups, including the Pownal Board of Selectmen, want the state to install only the connector and preserve the rest of the area.

“We’ve fought hard to keep it to just a single track trail,” Selectman Tim Giddinge said. “We want this to be available to a large group of people.”

Giddinge, whose property abuts the Bradbury-Pineland corridor, said the installation of several mountain bike trails would disturb more traditional uses of the area, such as hunting.

“There are already illegally constructed trails there,” Giddinge said.

The Friends of Bradbury Mountain, a mountain biking club that has pushed for loop trails bikers could use on and around Tryon Mountain, and has suggested the area could become Maine’s answer to Kingdom Trails, a mountain bike trail system in Vermont.

“At the first of the meetings, we talked about that as possibility,” Brian Stearns, a mountain biker who has been pushing the state for a compromise to allow some looping trails within the corridor. “It doesn’t feel like we’re getting the support for that from the state, though.”

The Board of Selectmen sent a letter this spring to the Bureau of Parks and Lands asking that the mountain bike club’s request for extended trail systems be rejected.

“We ask that you consider preserving this land in a way that does not concentrate the use for one specific group, diminishing the natural beauty that generations of Pownal residents have always traditionally enjoyed,” the letter stated.

Jo D. Saffeir, who was hired as a consultant by the Bureau of Parks and Lands in 2000 to begin land negotiations with 14 property owners who would eventually sell, grant easements or donate their land to the project, said she believes some of the land owners would be upset by the mountain bike club’s proposal.

“Some of the land owners were really concerned about mountain bikers,” she said. “There are some land owners, who, frankly, are dead now, who would turn over in their graves to see this project taken over like this.”

However, Stearns said mountain bikers currently coexist peacefully with other trail users in Bradbury State Park and that they would do the same in the new corridor.

Narrow trails off the main corridor trail already exist, Stearns said.

“The trails were created temporarily, with the state’s permission, for a 30-mile mountain bike race course a few years ago,” he said. “They were closed immediately after the race, but people still use them.”

He explained that it was legal to walk or bike around anywhere in the state-owned areas, but that creating regularly used trails is not allowed without state permission.

“It’s a gray area,” Stearns said.

Saffeir said when she was negotiating with land owners, she and the Pownal Land Trust, which has now merged into the Royal River Land Trust, pitched the project as a connection between Bradbury State Park and the Pineland trails that would be available for a variety of non-motorized uses.

“It was a very conscious decision to call this the Bradbury-Pineland Corridor project,” Saffeir said. “By creating only a corridor, open space was protected.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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