David Pope said rediscovering the solitude of the outdoors is one of the best things about hiking a network of trails behind Wiscasset Community Center and Morris Farm. Visitors to the vast land preserve minutes from Route 1 can see majestic white pines, flourishing hemlock groves, cascading streams, unusual glacial erratics, tranquil ponds and more. There are just a few problems. Parts of the trail system have become overgrown, trail markers are missing and a map needs updating.
“It’s a wonderful natural resource to have in our community but it does need some attention,” Pope explained to Wiscasset Newspaper outside the Federal Street cape where he and wife Linda live.
“A lot of the paths intersect with one another making it a bit challenging to navigate,” added Linda.
The trail system runs several miles crossing three preserves: Sortwell Memorial Forrest, managed by New England Forestry Foundation; The Morris Farm, maintained by the Morris Farm Trust; and a sizable area of town-owned property behind WCC and managed byWiscasset Parks and Recreation.
“I’ve been involved directly with the Morris Farm Trail,” said Pope. A path leading into the woods runs along the farm’s western property line and eventually branches off – one path leading to WCC; the other, to Sortwell Memorial Forest. One problem is the intersecting trails have different names depending on which map you refer to. “The name thing is emblematic of the need to bring all the players together to come up with an up-to-date accurate map that serves all users,” explained Pope.
The wooded preserve includes a popular snowmobile route maintained by the Rt. 66 Snowmobile Club and several trails are used by mountain bikers. Pope said he has put new trail markings on the Morris Farm property along its Black Trail, so called due to the black markings, or blazing, used to mark the path. “Over the past few years I’ve rerouted the Black Trail around several boggy areas where bridges had failed, and away from the Morris Farm’s yurt,” he said. Erected years ago, the canvas yurt is now in disrepair. Other trails need directional arrows and blazing.
Help may soon be on the way. Last summer, continued Pope, the Morris Farm was fortunate to have Sam Kitfield-Vernon, a student at the University of New Hampshire, volunteer to upgrade the trail system map using GIS technology.
“He’s putting the finishing touches to a new map that will have a QR code posted at kiosks and other major entry points. This will enable cell phone users to quickly upload the new trail map once it’s completed,” said Pope. Hard copies of the trail map will be available at trail heads and will be downloadable from WCC’s website. Pope added, a draft of the new map could be ready this month after which comments will be sought from the groups managing the land preserves, and from Dan Sortwell and Seaver Leslie, two adjoining landowners.
“We spent a fair amount of time on the trails, cleaning this past spring and early summer,” Wiscasset Parks and Recreation Director Duane Goud stated in an email copied to Wiscasset Newspaper. “We are looking to update our numbers, signage and trail markings as there were some missing or broken. I look forward to seeing the draft copy of the new trail map; this will help us with the replacement of signs and updating of new markers,” wrote Goud.
Pope noted Sortwell has made a generous pledge to help pay for signage upgrades.
“Now would be a good time to establish a trail system oversight committee that could keep the map up to date and oversee maintenance of the trails,” Pope said. He is glad Parks and Recreation is involved. Volunteers to help maintain the walking trails would be welcome, he added.