More than 260 businesses, towns, and organizations from across the state today urged lawmakers to help make Maine a national leader in recreational and multi-use trails to help bolster our economy, environment, and quality of life.
The remarkably broad coalition supports a $30 million Maine Trails Bond (LD 1156) to invest in the design, development, and maintenance of trails for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, skiing, commuting, and other activities.
The Maine Trails Bond was introduced by Representative Jessica Fay (D-Raymond) and Senator Russell Black (R-Franklin County), with cosponsor support from three other Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent. A public hearing on LD 1156 is expected in late April.
At a State House news conference, supporters of LD 1156 released a letter to Maine lawmakers from more than 260 groups, demonstrating both the significance of trails to Maine people and businesses, and the level of support for investing in current and future trails. The bill would provide $30 million in grants over four years to organizations and towns for motorized, non-motorized, and multi-use trail projects. Funds would be managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands. This would be the first significant investment by the State of Maine in its trail systems.
Supporters include statewide organizations such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce; Maine Outdoor Brands; Maine Snowmobile Association; Maine Tourism Association; Environmental Priorities Coalition; Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Maine; and Maine Youth Camping Association; as well as land trusts; sporting camps; individual businesses such as L.L. Bean, Kittery Trading Post, and Good To-Go; economic development organizations; trail groups; and cities and towns in all parts of the state.
“From Caribou to Kittery and Calais to Eustis, Maine people, towns, and businesses are urging the Legislature to invest in our trails,” said Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine, who is leading the campaign for the bond. “The Maine Trails Bond provides a rare opportunity for a stunningly broad range of Maine people to find common ground on a resource we all value — trails.”
“Now more than ever, trails are critical to our quality of life and the health of Maine people,” said Representative Jessica Fay. “During the pandemic, we discovered trails that we didn’t know existed, but we also discovered that we take our trails for granted. As a state, we invest almost nothing in our thousands of miles of trails. This bond would help us realize a compelling vision that features accessible trails that enrich our lives, communities, and economy.”
“For the people in my district in western Maine, trails are part of our heritage of hunting, snowmobiling, hiking, and accessing the outdoors,” said Senator Russell Black. “Snowmobiling alone is worth $600 million annually for Maine’s economy, with most of that spending happening in rural Maine. Investing in trails seems like something that Mainers statewide agree on.”
“As a wheelchair user and lifelong resident of Maine, I grew up in a time when accessibility was not at the forefront of most people’s minds. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about the Maine Trails Bond,” said Enock Glidden, Outdoor Accessibility Specialist. “This bill will go a long way toward providing accessible opportunities for people like me to be surrounded by nature and reap the benefits of what Maine’s outdoors has to offer.”
“This Maine Trails Bond would reaffirm Maine’s status as a national leader in outdoor recreation and further boost our $3 billion outdoor recreation economy. Investments in trails are an investment in our entire state and have helped make Maine a desirable place to live, work, visit, and do business. Our outdoor brand and our outdoor industry will be strengthened by the Maine Trails Bond,” says Jenny Kordick, Executive Director, Maine Outdoor Brands.
“The Town of Rumford is pleased to join Representative Rachel Henderson, of Rumford, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, in supporting LD 1156, the Maine Trails Bond, which will greatly increase outdoor recreation funding opportunities,” said George O’Keefe, Jr., Town of Rumford Economic Development Director. “Promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation has been a key part of Rumford’s economic diversification strategy. LD 1156 will provide funding opportunities that will substantially accelerate major projects now planned in our town such as the 450-acre Rumford Community Forest. The Town is especially pleased at the inclusive approach of the bond bill, which will support opportunities for all types of trail use. We look forward to the successful passage and enactment of this key new funding source that will assist our continued economic redevelopment.”
“From Fort Kent to Kittery, Lubec to Lebanon — and all points in between and throughout Maine, the ‘great outdoors’ is unparalleled. What binds, bonds, and connects us as a state — contributing significantly to tourism and our economic strength — are our trails, whether they’re local, regional, or statewide,” said Denise M. Clavette, South Berwick Economic Development Director, and former Parks and Recreation Professional and Trails Advocate
“Access to the outdoors is Maine’s most important quality. Whether it is after work, on the weekend, or on vacation, trails are where we all turn to recharge and get away from the problems of the day. On private or public land, trails need to be funded,” said Brent West, Executive Director of the High Peaks Alliance.
“We are thrilled, but not surprised, to see this tremendous level of support for investing in Maine trails, and we urge the Legislature to act,” said Silvia Cassano, Maine Trails Coalition Project Coordinator. “Additional funding will do wonders for Maine people and communities through the development and maintenance of the full range of trail experiences.”
“Mainers and visitors have long enjoyed access to trails that connect communities to the outdoors, but we can’t take this critical infrastructure for granted,” said Matt Markot, Executive Director, Loon Echo Land Trust. “As more people discover the benefits of time on the trail, we must invest with a goal of securing existing trails and creating new trail access where it’s needed most. Many other states have developed dedicated funding programs for trails because they understand the return on investment that this infrastructure provides. It’s time for Maine to do the same.”
“If given a chance, we are confident that Maine voters will overwhelmingly support this proposal to invest in Maine trails,” said Didisheim. A 2019 poll by the Maine Trails Coalition indicated that 74 percent of Mainers would support a trails bond.