October 22, 2012        

Press Contact: Alicia Heyburn, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust,
(207) 442-8400 aheyburn@kennebecestuary.org



BRUNSWICK - The National Park Service has announced that the Merrymeeting Trail project, facilitated by the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and with numerous partners including the Towns of Topsham, Bowdoinham, Richmond and Gardiner, Healthy Maine Partnerships, Merrymeeting Wheelers and many more, has been selected to receive a second year of assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA).

The proposed 25-mile Merrymeeting Trail will connect Augusta with its Kennebec River Rail Trail to Brunswick- Topsham’s Androscoggin River Bicycle Path. These trail systems will link eight communities and offer expanded transportation and recreational opportunities to 588,000 people (46% of the state’s population) who live within 30 miles of these trails.

The trail will make use of the existing railroad corridor owned by the State of Maine, and be designed so that it does not interfere with potential redevelopment of the railroad. It will connect two major rivers by new modes of non-motorized transportation. The Merrymeeting Trail will provide impressive views of Merrymeeting Bay; a 20,000 acre tidal estuary with significant wildlife habitat and popular for recreation. When built, it could be an alternate route on the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile national trail linking Calais, Maine with Key West, Florida.

With assistance from the National Park Service, the Merrymeeting Trail Alliance is entering Phase II of their project. This will include holding public meetings to inform and communicate with the public, working with local governing boards and town managers, and raising funds to further develop the trail. "The Merrymeeting Trail offers great promise for connecting people to village neighborhoods, schools, and businesses as well as scenic farms, woodlands, and wetlands along the Kennebec. The National Park Service is very pleased to continue assistance to the coalition," said Burnham Martin, National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program, Northeast Region.

Through RTCA, the National Park Service helps communities and neighborhoods preserve their important local resources, protect river resources, develop new trails and greenways, and create new open space. These projects are locally led with RTCA staff supporting local recreation and conservation leaders. This year, 55 projects in 13 states were selected to receive technical assistance from RTCA in the Northeast Region.  In 2012, RTCA efforts helped 158 communities and 221 organizational partners in 13 states to conserve 873 acres, improve and develop 88 miles of trails, conserve and improve stewardship of 176 miles of rivers and waterways and leverage $7.45M in funding for project implementation.

For more information on the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program, please visit www.nps.gov/rtca. For more information about the Merrymeeting Trail Alliance project, or the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, contact Alicia Heyburn, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, (207) 442-8400 or aheyburn@kennebecestuary.org or go to www.merrymeetingtrail.org.


Photo: section of the rail line between Gardiner and Topsham that will be converted to a 25 mile long rail with trail. Photo courtesy KELT.