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Businesses, environmental groups back bid to put massive hiking trail overhaul before Maine voters

Over 500 entities have coalesced behind a Maine proposal to send a $30 million overhaul of the state's nature trail system to the ballot box.

Maine's beloved outdoor trail network could receive millions of dollars of improvements under a proposal conservationists have asked lawmakers to put before voters.

The state has long been a destination for hikers, cyclists, snowshoers and other outdoor adventurers, and the state has more than 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails alone. A proposal before the Maine Legislature would ask voters to approve $30 million in public money for the design, development and maintenance of both motorized and nonmotorized trails.


A coalition of more than 500 organizations, businesses and towns in the state has rallied behind the proposal. Members of the coalition, which includes ATV Maine, Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Youth Camping Association, said investing in the trail network is critical to boosting the state's economy.

"In literally every corner of the state, trails are a valued resource for connecting Maine people and visitors with the natural world and reaching destinations to work and play," the coalition said in a statement. It added that the trails support tens of thousands of jobs.

A committee of the Maine Legislature voted last Friday in favor of sending the proposal to voters. The next step is for the full Legislature to cast a vote. The proposal had not been scheduled for a vote as of Monday, a spokesperson for the Legislature said.

The proposal states that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would provide the money to municipalities and nonprofit organizations via a competitive grant process. Trail networks around the state are operated by local governments as well as private clubs and conservation organizations.

The proposal would appear on the statewide ballot in November if the Legislature approves it.

The trail improvements should find broad appeal around the state, Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said while testifying in favor of the proposal.

"The trails of Maine are near and dear to us all, for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, skiing, running, walking, and many other activities," Didisheim said.

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