AUGUSTA, Maine -- MaineDOT and the Maine Department of Conservation are pleased to announce that the first segment of the Calais Branch Rail Corridor Rehabilitation and Down East Sunrise Trail (DEST) Project – a 32-mile segment of the multi-use trail -- is now open to the public.
The first section of the full 85-mile long, multi-use Down East Sunrise Trail is now open from Route 1 in Machias to Ayers Junction in Pembroke. Crews have removed entrance barriers to the trail and are finishing the installation of trail signs on this section.
"This project is an important step in maintaining the rail corridor as an asset," said Governor John Baldacci. "The preservation of the structure ensures the option to expand rail to Eastern Maine in the future."
“The opening of this 32-mile trail section not only preserves the rail corridor for future use, it opens up recreational and economic opportunities for the Downeast region,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Cole.
The Calais Branch Corridor Rehabilitation Project is an interagency effort that is rehabilitating and preserving the entire 85-mile rail corridor for future rail use as well as providing a wide, gravel-based, multi-use trail for snowmobilers, ATVs, pedestrians, bicyclists, cross country skiers, equestrians, and others.
“We have added hundreds of miles of trails to the State of Maine through our efforts,” Commissioner Patrick McGowan of the Maine Department of Conservation said. “This probably is the crown jewel in the trail system, linking Hancock County to the Downeast area.”
The multi-use trail addition is expected to enhance economic and recreational benefits to the Washington and Hancock County areas, similar to what has happened along other rail trails in Central and Northern Maine. Some of the economic benefits include increased visits by tourists to area attractions, increased hotel and motel occupancy and more visits to local restaurants and support businesses, such as convenience stores and gas stations.
Vaughn Thibodeau & Sons of Bangor, the contractor for the construction project, has worked hard to ensure that this new 32-mile section is open in time for the fall foliage season. Those using the trail are reminded that the remainder of the trail from south of Route 1 in Machias to Washington Junction in Hancock is still under construction and remains closed.
MaineDOT purchased the Calais Branch Corridor from Maine Central Railroad in 1987, in order to preserve the corridor for future rail use. This project, overseen by both DOC and MaineDOT, removes the substandard rail, repairs washouts, places decking over bridges, rehabilitates the corridor, and constructs an 85-mile multi-use trail with parking lots. Rehabilitation of the corridor is expected to cost $3.9 million.
DOC will manage and maintain the trail and corridor until circumstances warrant the return of rail use to the area.
The Sunrise Trail Coalition worked with communities in the Calais Branch Corridor region for several years to develop a vision and plan for the creation of an interim multi-use trail along the corridor. After many years of study, Gov. John E. Baldacci assigned MaineDOT the task of developing a management and maintenance plan for the corridor, including the multi-use trail, in July 2005.
The scenic rail corridor runs along the entire Downeast coastal area, connects multiple scenic conservation areas, intersects Downeast salmon rivers, and is very near two state designated scenic highways.
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