Trail hut construction kicks off in W. Maine

Carrabassett Valley, Maine (AP) 9-07

Ground was broken Thursday on a wilderness lodge that marks the first step in construction of a 180-mile system of huts and trails for cross-country skiers and hikers between the Mahoosuc Mountain and Moosehead Lake.

Larry Warren, president and founder of Maine Huts and Trails, was joined by Gov. John Baldacci, Penobscot tribal governor Kirk Francis and dozens of supporters and well-wishers at the a ground-breaking ceremony at Poplar Stream Falls.

Poplar Stream Falls, located on land leased from the Penobscot Indian Nation, is the first of 12 backcountry lodges planned for the entire project.

The 5,200-square-foot facility, along with three small bunkhouses, is located north of the Carrabassett River and south of Flagstaff Lake.

It’s scheduled to open in February, along with 40 miles of groomed cross-country trails between Carrabassett Valley and The Forks. In the summer, the trails will be used for hiking.

The projected route begins in the foothills of the Mahoosuc Range in Newry and ends on the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake. Warren, who has been involved in the ski industry for many years, proposed the trail to aid the regional economy, hard hit by mill closings.

“Western Maine has to transform itself from the industries of the past to the industries of the future,” said Warren. “We believe that nature-based tourism, experiential education and quality destination resort facilities will create significant opportunities.”

Baldacci praised Warren for his vision and efforts to line up the support – $4.5 million has been raised to date – needed to transform his plan to reality.

“What’s not to like in this project?” asked Baldacci. “You have people working together to take advantage of economic development and tourism done in a responsible manner.”