The Calais Branch Rail Corridor Rehabilitation and Multi-Use Trail Project Construction of the Down East Sunrise Trail is an inter-agency effort that will rehabilitate and preserve 85 miles of rail corridor for future rail use as well as provide a wide, compact gravel base, multi-use trail for snowmobilers, ATV-ers, pedestrians, bicyclists, cross country skiers, equestrians and many other outdoor enthusiasts.
The Down East Sunrise Trail is closed until May 15, 2013. With recent warm daily temperatures, heavy rains and snow melt the trail surface has become saturated, creating mud conditions in many areas. Trails closed during mud season will have signs stating “STOP TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO SATURATED SOILS”. Pedestrian use is permitted during mud season and is defined as walking, jogging or hiking use only. NO ATV use is allowed during the mud season trail closure. Signs have been posted at all paved crossings and trail heads.
Please observe any mud season closure signs.
TRANSMISSION PROJECT WORK ALONG SUNRISE TRAIL NEARS COMPLETION
Work on the BHEC transmission line along and adjacent to the DEST has been completed with the exception of an approximately 500 yard section adjacent and west of route 200 in Franklin that will require a brief and limited access within the next few weeks. No plowing of this section is expected. Other than this there are several direct trail crossings that are being used for the transmission project and have been signed accordingly.
Bangor Hydro is building the Downeast Reliability Project to improve the reliability and capacity of the electric system in the coastal Washington and Hancock region. This new 43 mile line will strengthen and provide redundancy in the system. The construction of the project has been underway throughout 2011 and is progressing well.
A portion of the route for the new line is within an existing transmission corridor and is adjacent to the new Down East Sunrise Trail. This older line is also being rebuilt as part of the new project. Bangor Hydro has worked closely with the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Down East Sunrise Trail Coalition to arrange for the safe use of the Trail for access during construction. Trucks and equipment have been using the trail during the summer and fall from Cards Crossing Road in Franklin to the Unionville Road in Steuben.
For information, call: 207-215-2873
The trail is now open for all permitted uses from mile marker 2 at Washington Junction in Hancock, East to mile post 87, Ayers Junction in Pembroke. Please see the permitted uses sign below.
As of September 21st, 2010, the entire trail was opened for summer and winter use. In the Spring during what mainers call "mud season", there are temporary closures in areas due to weather and trail conditions.
Enjoy the trail and please remember it is multi-use; motorized users must yield to non-motorized and please demonstrate courtesy and ethics to all trail users as well as abutting landowners.
The Calais Branch railroad corridor is a 127 mile long rail corridor that connects Brewer to Calais in Downeast Maine. It was acquired by the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) in 1987 from Maine Central Railroad and has not been used for commercial freight rail or for passenger rail since that time.
The business potential to support rail freight service has been analyzed and determined to be insufficient at this time, with no improvement projected for the foreseeable future. Unless major changes occur in national and international freight distribution patterns, the significant capital necessary to reactivate the Calais Branch railroad for freight transportation is unlikely to yield a positive return on those investments.
On July 15, 2005, Governor Baldacci charged MaineDOT with developing a trail Management and Maintenance Plan for a interim multi-use trail on 87 miles of the Calais Branch Rail Corridor between Ellsworth and Ayers Junction.
MaineDOT formed the Calais Branch Trail Management Committee including the Maine DOC, local trail groups, law enforcement units, National Park Service, municipalities, and regional planning and economic development agencies to develop a management and maintenance plan for rehabilitation of the corridor and construction of the trail.
The plan recommended that the Maine Division of Parks and Lands be the long term manager of the trail and corridor due to its extensive experience in constructing and managing multi-use trails throughout Maine for over 20 years. MaineDOT and Parks and Lands entered into an agreement to oversee the corridor rehabilitation, trail construction and long term maintenance and in the Spring of 2008 the Division contracted to begin the project.
The multi-use trail will be a place where residents and visitors can gather to ride ATV's, snowmobile, walk, bicycle, ski, ride horses, and participate in other recreational trail activities. The trail will offer people of all ages and abilities access to the scenic lands of Downeast Maine. Trail users will need fuel, food, lodging and other resources that they will look for the local communities to make available. This will present opportunities for local businesses to provide amenities for the trail users and increase economic development in the region. In addition, by constructing and using the trail, the corridor will be repaired and continuously maintained so as to enable the corridor to be available in the future for possible rail return.
In 2007 an Assessment was done, which stated that 28 bridges needed to be repaired or replaced, and found 57 washouts occurring. The washouts were due to failing culverts, lack of maintenance and beaver flooding. The washouts contribute to sedimentation of adjacent waterbodies, water quality issues and loss of the corridor infrastructure. By repairing and maintaining these structures the sedimentation and water quality issues will be eliminated.
Early in the project a concern regarding the potential impact on nesting turtle habitat due to the removal of the rails and ties was brought to the attention of BPL. Staff at BPL worked with Inland Fisheries & Wildlife biologists and determined that the project was providing substantially more suitable nesting habitat and access with rail and ties removed. The rails and ties were creating barriers for the turtles and once these were removed there was more available area for nesting.The turtles were able to cross over the corridor. Restored gravel shoulders and gentle slopes around culverts that are being constructed and repaired will also increase the ability of turtles to move freely across the corridor and provide additional nesting area.
Beavers have had a dramatic effect on the deterioration of the corridor and have altered the hydrology in many streams and wetlands along the corridor. They have blocked, filled, and plugged culverts and raised water levels in adjacent wetlands which has eroded numerous sections of the corridor. The erosion of the corridor and change in water flowage may have an impact on the Atlantic Salmon and other wildlife habitat along the corridor. BPL is working with Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and local trappers to manage water levels along the corridor to create high quality waterbodies that won’t have negative impacts on the rail corridor. This will be done by managing the beaver population and using beaver control devices that regulate water flowage into and out of wetlands and streams.
Down East Sunrise Trail
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