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Newly announced central Maine rail trail will connect to thousands of miles of ATV, snowmobile trails

The route will also be available for non-motorized recreation including hikers, bikers, and skiers.

MADISON, Maine — Editor's note: The above video aired on June 27, 2021.

Gov. Janet Mills' administration announced Tuesday that an abandoned Maine Central Railroad Company corridor will be converted to a new multi-use trail.

The trail, known as the Madison Branch, spans 32 miles across Kennebec and Somerset counties and will become a connector to the Maine Interconnected Trail System and Maine ATV Trail System. These trails offer thousands of miles of local ATV and snowmobile trails, including the Moosehead Lake region, according to a release.

The route will also be available for non-motorized recreation, including hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and skiers.

According to Jim Britt, communications director for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, motorcycles and dirt bikes will be allowed to use the trail as long as they are registered as ATVs.

The trail will also be open to hunting unless posted otherwise, Britt said. The Bureau of Parks and Lands Recreational Vehicle Program will work with towns and abutters to make appropriate decisions and some areas may be closed at times due to safety concerns, according to Britt.

More information on trail accessibility can be found HERE.

The Madison Branch rail trail will pass through the central Maine towns of Oakland, Fairfield, Norridgewock, Madison, Anson, North Anson, and Embden. Snowmobilers will connect to the ITS through the new route, and ATV riders will connect to MATS 115, the only ATV trail connecting Oxford and Franklin counties with Somerset, Piscataquis, and Penobscot counties.

According to the governor's office, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry closed last week on the purchase of Madison Branch from Pan Am Railways for just over $1 million.

The process of converting the existing rail line into a recreational trail will require additional funding and may take two years, according to Mills' administration.

The trail passes over the Kennebec River and the Carrabassett River.

“The Bureau of Parks and Lands team has worked thoroughly to finalize this important acquisition,” DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal said in Tuesday's release. “Together with the Land for Maine’s Future Program, we are strategically connecting regional trail riding opportunities and other recreational uses that also will serve the larger community.”

“The acquisition of the Madison branch railbed is a major step forward for our region’s economy. The interconnectivity between recreational areas will be a positive impact on generations to come,” Norridgewock Town Manager Richard Labelle said in Tuesday's release.

Mills said the Land for Maine’s Future Program and the Northern Border Regional Commission were critical to the state’s success in acquiring the Madison Branch rail segment from PanAm. LMF contributed $508,000 and NBRC contributed $436,000.

Mills’ most recent budget provides $40 million over four years to replenish LMF. Before this, the fund was nearly depleted, according to Mills.

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