Maine’s current governor, representatives on the Transportation Subcommittee, 18 towns along the railroad right of way and the legislative delegations for Washington and Hancock counties have all endorsed the conversion of an 87-mile section of the Calais-to-Brewer rail line to a multi-use trail. As part of this decision, the railroad right of way will be held in perpetuity by the Department of Transportation for future rail use. This bold action by these elected officials was a break from past practices where candidates for public office simply said, “I support economic development Down East.”
I recommend support for candidates with a vision for economic development in Down East Maine. A multi-use trail should be part of that vision. Washington and Hancock counties must embrace the fastest-growing sector of Maine’s economy – tourism. Towns like Machias have a glorious history, which is revealed in the outlines of foundations where mills once stood and timbers that remain from sailing ship piers. Both the mills and the piers were integral to the commerce of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With a comprehensive, realistic vision, rural towns have the potential to again flourish. The vision must draw on strengths like the scenic natural beauty that can be enjoyed by tourists who would come to Maine for the multi-use trail.
The proposed Calais Branch Management Plan allows for a future vision of rail service when it becomes a viable part of the Maine economy. In the meantime, a multi-use trail will give Maine citizens an opportunity to realize a return on the investment they made when they purchased the abandoned railroad right of way two decades ago.
Wayne A. Peters