New trail connector on Saddleback Mountain opened

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RANGELEY – The State of Maine recently created a new multi-use regional trail connector on the west slope of Saddleback Mountain after resolving crossing issues of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail with the National Park Service. The new “West Saddleback Connector” will serve snowmobile and ATV riders, hikers, and other backcountry recreational users traveling through Franklin County’s High Peaks region between Phillips and Rangeley.

This newest Bureau of Parks and Lands facility is a key component in a growing network of trail systems serving local people and visitors alike. For many years, the popular ITS 84/89 snowmobile route has afforded access to this area, perpendicularly crossing the famed Appalachian Trail near Eddy Pond as it begins its ascent of Saddleback Mountain. The new connector designation will allow completion of planned additional trail systems, including the new “Moose Loop” Regional ATV System and the new Fly Rod Crosby Heritage Footpath, both trail projects initiated by the local community organization High Peaks Alliance.

Resolution of multi-use trail crossings of the Appalachian Trail and National Park Service-managed lands in this vicinity has been a decade in coming. Maine’s then-Congressional delegation, including Congressman John Baldacci and Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, worked to insert language in federal legislation that provided for the completion of land acquisition needed to protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on Saddleback Mountain. Included in the language was a directive for the National Park Service to convey a portion of the acquired land to the State of Maine, while assuring continued protection of the unique hiking experiences of the Appalachian Trail.

The National Park Service and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands recently reached agreement on a conveyance to the State that retains priority for protecting the Appalachian Trail experience, while also providing an important route for the other types of trails crossing this scenic mountain area. Local planners included Dave Field of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Mike Ferguson of Rangeley’s Camp-2 Riders ATV Club, Ben Godsoe of the High Peaks Alliance, Chris Beach of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, and state Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton.

This spring, the High Peaks Alliance will coordinate a celebration to acknowledge the cooperation that allowed this multi-use trail connection to happen.

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