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News Release

For Release: Monday, July 19th

Media Contacts: Al LePage, Executive Director, National Coast Trail Association - 503-335-3876

Dave Kinsman, Chair, Mountain Division Alliance, 207-935-4283

John Balicki, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Maine Department of Transportation, 207-624-3252

"Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Event Continues Along Mountain Division Trail, Windham to Fryeburg, ME

Hiker continues north along existing and proposed trail segments of the old Mountain Division rail line as the second important linkage of the envisioned 700-mile "Great Northeast Trail"

A special event, the "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Hike and Paddle continues his hike on Sunday, July 25th at the Gambo Recreation Area Trailhead in Windham, Maine. Al LePage of Portland, Oregon plans to first hike some 400 miles and then paddle another 300 miles to eventually reach Oswego, New York and Lake Ontario by mid-September. He will be traveling along the "Great Northeast Trail" (GNET) - an envisioned trail system connecting proposed and existing land and water-based trails across New England, literally stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The event's focus is to promote and publicize this unique trail concept, and work cooperatively with trail organizations, government agencies, and others for public awareness about the many trails and connections that make it possible. The event is a personal journey, and although it is not a guided hike or paddle for the general public, LePage will be giving some presentations for the public during his trip. He is founder and executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, and continues his way north along the existing and proposed trail segment, the second significant link in the "GNET", the Mountain Division Trail. The Mountain Division Trail is a cooperative project involving the Maine Department of Transportation, the Greater Portland Council of Governments, and the Mountain Division Alliance. The "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" event is officially registered as a National Trails Day 2004 event with the American Hiking Society.

"All aboard!" bellows Al LePage, executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, "And that's apparently what's happening with this trail vision, a 'rails with trails' vision, too! 'Alliance' is apparently the key word for the Mountain Division Alliance since it is a coalition of individuals, organizations, and agencies working together to make it happen, and they realize the importance of local input and support. Pardon the pun, but it seems to me they're on the right track."

Major partners working on the Mountain Division Trail include the Mountain Division Alliance (MDA), the Maine Department of Transportation, the Greater Portland Council of Governments, the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission, Portland Water District, Portland Trails, the National Park Service, and the towns of Gorham, Windham and Standish. The MDA is broad-based coalition representing municipalities, land trusts, rail advocates, trail groups, snowmobile clubs, planning commissions, and state and federal agencies. The line was abandoned by Guilford Railroad in 1994 (from Windham to Fryeburg) and purchased by the Maine Department of Transportation in 1997. Though trains are currently not in use along the corridor, the rail lines will be kept in place for possible future rail use, as advocated by the Mountain Division Alliance.

"Community, economic development, recreation, health, quality of life, public access, natural areas . . . let me count the ways," notes LePage. "There are many benefits to trails, and a 'rail with trails' approach adds historic preservation and transportation to the list as well. I understand the first 4.7 miles of a potential 45-miles of the trail were opened just last year. Given what happened on a similar trail in Missouri -- the Katy Trail -- after one section of it was built, other towns along the proposed route wanted to get there section built too! Trail's sometimes are successfully developed like a train leaving a station. It simply takes time to build up steam through meetings, planning, and listening to people, building relationships. Eventually the train starts moving, and although slowly at first, starts chugging along at a pretty good pace before the trail really takes off. Seems the train is finally moving and although there may be some obstacles along the way, it appears the Mountain Division Trail should be full steam ahead."

The "Great Northest Trail" ("GNET") is envisioned as a continuous recreational 400-mile hiking and 300-mile paddling trail from the Atlantic to the shores of Lake Ontario through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Significant portions of this trail concept already exist, other major sections are already proposed or being established, and only a few minor linkages needed to be developed to make it complete. The trail would begin in Portland, Maine traveling the existing urban trail system there and extended along the proposed Mountain Division Trail to Fryeburg, Maine. It would then connect into New Hampshire and continue north on the existing trails of the White Mountain National Forest to connect with the Appalachian Trail around Carter Notch and continue across the state to reach the border at Hanover, New Hampshire into Vermont. Where the Appalachian Trail meets the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont, the route proceeds north until reaching the Winooski River, and then follows the proposed path of the Cross-Vermont Trail into Burlington, hiking north along the shore of Lake Champlain to eventually reach the historic homestead of Ethan Allen. The nearby public boat launch begins the paddling segment of the trail, first where the Winooski River enters the lake, next along the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail south to access the Champlain Canal, then the Erie Canal, and finally the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario.

LePage is apparently the first person to ever attempt, in one continuous trip, the envisioned 700-mile Great Northeast Trail. He's also apparently the first person ever to have hiked America's entire 1800-mile West Coast Trail (not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail or Canada's 45-mile West Coast Trail), doing so on three separate occasions. In 1988 he hiked the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail in about 1 month, in 1992 the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section, and in 1996 he tackled the 1,200-mile length of the California Coastal Trail in 3 and a half months. If he completes the Great Northeast Trail as planned, he will have completed a total of about 2,500 miles of the overall 10,000-mile National Coast Trail vision. LePage, age 50, was born about twenty miles east of Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts, and grew up and lived in the area until he headed west as a young man to reside in the Pacific Northwest, his primary residence being Portland, Oregon.


The National Coast Trail Association, founded in 1994, is a non-profit trail organization whose vision is the National Coast Trail, a 10,000-mile plus interconnected land and water-based trail system around the entire United States. Our mission is "Keeping the Coast for Everyone" through advocacy, education, and action for trails, public access and coastal preservation. Our program includes trail development, education, and conservation. Our focus is the development of the West Coast Trail, comprised of the Washington, Oregon and California Coastal Trails. The "Atlantic to the Great Lakes!" event is a project to promote and publicize the Great Northeast Trail, field research and photograph it, and initiate cooperative relationships with trail organizations, government agencies, and others to develop and maintain relevant trail segments.

The Mountain Division Alliance is a coalition of individuals, organizations, and agencies working to create an enhanced future for transportation and recreation along the Mountain Division rail line of the Maine Central Railroad. This "rails with trails" vision would potentially link Portland, Maine to the White Mountains and beyond through northern New England with a year-round, multi-use trail, sharing the right-of-way.


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