Land trust and snowmobile club want to fix abandoned roads in Piscataquis County
DOVER-FOXCROFT – Piscataquis County Commissioners have given conditional approval to a snowmobile club and wilderness trust group that wants to repair several abandoned roads in an unincorporated township and make them accessible to snowmobilers and snowmobilers. pedestrians. Both roads – the Levenseller and Crosby roads – were once owned by the town of Atkinson, which after four attempts dissolved its local government in 2019.
DOVER-FOXCROFT – Piscataquis County Commissioners have given conditional approval to a snowmobile club and wilderness trust group that wants to repair several abandoned roads in an unincorporated township and make them accessible to snowmobilers and snowmobilers. pedestrians.
Both roads – the Levenseller and Crosby roads – were once owned by the town of Atkinson, which after four attempts dissolved its local government in 2019. The roads were abandoned in the 1970s because funding was not available to maintain them, and they are in poor condition, George Bakajka of the Northeast Wilderness Trust told Piscataquis County Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.
Snowmobiling and other outdoor recreational activities are widespread in Maine, and Piscataquis County is a popular destination. Repairing these roads would add to the already massive network of crossings across the county.
The Wilderness Trust Group and Cold Smoke Riders, an Atkinson-based snowmobile club, want to see troubled roads become safe and usable again and are seeking a grant of about $130,000 from Maine’s Natural Resources Conservation Program. Repairs to Levenseller Road would help people living in and around the area who are dealing with flooding and other issues. Along Crosby Road, snowmobilers would have more room to ride.
“At this point, the bridge [on Levenseller Road] practically collapsed, and it has been collapsing for years,” Bakajka told the commissioners, noting major flooding whenever the water is high.
About 15 landowners live near Levenseller Road and need to access their land across the bridge and 600 feet of wetland, he said.
If he gets the funding, the snowmobile club would be the primary grant holder, Bakajka said. The Northeast Wilderness Trust is based in Montpelier, Vermont, and protects New York and New England landscapes, including 29,475 acres in Maine, according to the organization’s website.
The two organizations want to build a new wooden bridge to replace the old one and a permeable roadbed across the wetland so that water can seep under the road. Levenseller would also have at least two emergency spillways, Bakajka said.
“The city [of Atkinson] made it clear over the decades that there was no money to be spent on this road,” he said. “Everyone accepts that at this point. No one is asking the county for help with this, other than approval and permission.
Although the former town has abandoned the road, it retains a public right of way held by Piscataquis County. The organizations needed approval from the commissioners before moving forward with permission from the Maine Planning Commission and possibly the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Bakajka.
“The Piscataquis Snowmobile and ATV Clubs have stepped up over the past few years to help out in situations like this,” President James White said. “I think that’s a great use for a right of way.”
Crosby Road – owned by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and Charles Fitzgerald and used primarily as a snowmobile trail – is impassable and hasn’t been for decades, Bakajka said.
At one point, beavers buried the culvert there and now a two-foot dam sits over the road, he said. It’s problematic for the snowmobile club in the winter, he said, and rain and melting snow lead to slushy conditions on the road.
The organizations propose to remove the culvert and part of the embankment from the road so that the road can be restored to its natural state, and barriers added. This project is expected to cost around $30,000. Crosby Road would be maintained as a snowmobile trail and could also be used for foot traffic, Bakajka said.
Commissioners have given their approval on the plans, on the condition that if gates are installed, emergency personnel should have a key to access the area. White mentioned a case from several years ago where a ranger had trouble putting out a fire due to limited access to an area of Piscataquis.
The Northeast Wilderness Trust has also been working on hiking trails, including one completed off Maple Road that descends to Crosby Road and loops around, Bakajka said. The group wants to build another which would include Levenseller Road and total eight miles. The commissioners approved the project.
“All we would do is put markers on the side of the road so people know where to go,” Bakajka said. “People would walk the road, much like they do now, but it would be a formal footpath that would connect to other trails on Northeast Wilderness Trust land.”