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Byron Road and access to Tumbledown Mountain trails discussed

6 mins read
Tumbledown Trailhead on the Byron Road in Township Six. (Annie Twitchell

FARMINGTON – The Byron Road in Township Six North of Weld was discussed during Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting. Tim Post with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands attended the meeting to discuss the status of the road with the commissioners.

In late June the commissioners held an emergency meeting on location, and reviewed the significant damage done to the road during a storm event. The estimated cost of repairing the damage is between $70,000 and $100,000, with additional work needed to upgrade the ditches and culverts on the road to help prevent damage in the future.

The commissioners believed that there was only one landowner abutting the Byron Road through Township Six: the State of Maine and the Tumbledown Reserve. Post noted that Bayroot also owns a parcel of land in Township Six, which abuts the Byron Road.

Amy Bernard, County Administrator, shared that the county is currently looking at two options: partnering with the State to repair the road, or going through the process of discontinuing the road.

The road in Township Six is nearly twice as wide as the section that runs through Weld. Bernard and Post both noted that the road is ‘too wide’ and could potentially be narrowed. Post also said he believed the road needs better ditching; Bernard confirmed this and added that the existing culverts are too few, too small, and too far apart.

The trailheads for hiking trails on Tumbledown and neighboring peaks are accessed directly from the Byron Road in Township Six, and discontinuing the road could have negative impacts on the hiking trails.

As it stands now, the road has been partially repaired so it is ‘technically’ passable, but washouts are still present along the shoulders of the road. The commissioners voted in a previous meeting to temporarily post the road as closed, or ‘travel at your own risk,’ while they work to find a solution.

 

Immediately before the trailhead, the shoulder of the road is washed out. Even with the road in poor condition, the trailhead parking lot is full and visitors are parked along the shoulders of the road to access the trails. The Tumbledown trails continue to be one of the more popular hiking trails in the region, with several variations that allow for different skill levels. In addition, the Tumbledown trails are close to Mt. Blue State Park. (Annie Twitchell photo)

 

Post asked if the county would be willing to consider a 50-50 split of the cost, just as an example of one possible solution. He did not commit to anything, but said that he would bring it up to the deputy director at Parks and Lands, and touch base when he had more information, in a couple weeks.

The commissioners indicated that they were interested in seeing the options for a partnership.

Bernard explained that the county is not eligible for federal disaster funding for this incident, as the Byron Road was one of the only roads in Franklin County that was impacted during that specific storm. She reported that Oxford County met the threshold for damages to qualify for federal funding, due to extensive flood damage in Andover, but that Franklin County was not eligible.

In other business, the commissioners approved moving forward with the engineering designs for the Quick Stream Bridge in Salem Township. The engineering designs are compliant with Stream Smart planning, which focuses on water access and helps reduce damages when streams flood.

 

Washouts on both shoulders of the Byron Road have narrowed the access. (Annie Twitchell photo)

 

Later Tuesday afternoon, the commissioners and several county department heads met for the first strategic planning session. This meeting, and the next few that have been planned, allow time for department heads to share the roles and responsibilities of each individual department, along with goals for the next three to five years, and allow county administration to gather data and seek common themes and goals. This will help with defining a vision for Franklin County, which is only the first step of the strategic planning process.

The next strategic planning session will be held on Thursday, July 27, at 2 p.m. in the Franklin County Courthouse.

 

This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org

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