AUGUSTA — Mike Seitzinger is helping pass on his love of hiking to the community by giving people the opportunity to get outside, stretch their legs and explore the outdoors in the heart of the city.

Seitzinger founded Augusta Trails in 2009 to both build new trails in the city and promote existing ones. So far, its major project has been the construction of the Bond Brook Recreation Area trail system which is a collection of almost 15 miles worth of trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and more on 268 acres of city-owned land.

For his volunteer work, Seitzinger is being presented with a Community Service Award at the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet Jan. 25 at the Augusta Civic Center.

“His commitment to the region to outdoor sports, recreation, good health — all of these things were considered,” said Peter Thompson, president and CEO of the chamber. “If we had wellness award, he’d probably be right up at the top.”

Leif Dahlin, director of community services for the city of Augusta, said Seitzinger’s efforts and energy toward improving his community are priceless assets for the region.

“And he’s glad to do everything he does. He’s just a breath of fresh air in all of our lives,” Dahlin said. “More deserving a recipient, there is none. Mike is just top shelf.”

Seitzinger, 65, practices health care law at the firm Kozak & Gayer and lives in Augusta with his wife, Maria Cusick.

Before Augusta Trails, Seitzinger helped lead the Kennebec Valley YMCA’s $10 million capital campaign for a new building as the president of the board of directors. Seitzinger said it was the largest non-hospital capital campaign ever in Kennebec County.

The Bond Brook Recreation Area trails have hosted collegiate Nordic ski races, a 5 kilometer summer trail running series and, most recently, its inaugural Tread Fest, a day of trail running and mountain bike races in October.

Next February, the New England Nordic Ski Association will hold one of its premier competitions, the final weekend of the TD Bank Eastern Cup, at the Bond Brook trails.

Seitzinger gave credit of the development of the Nordic ski trails to Bill Rogers, a board member of Augusta Trails and International Skiing Federation official.

Rogers said the Nordic trails are on track to be certified by the International Skiing Federation next spring, opening up opportunities for higher level races.

Seitzinger has a longer history of volunteerism besides Augusta Trails and the YMCA, including stints on the board of directors for the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail, Friends of Lithgow Library and Kennebec Land Trust. He also used to volunteer at the Bread of Life Kitchen before work every Friday and used to maintain several hiking trails.

Although a lot of Augusta Trail’s work has been for the Bond Brook trail system, Seitzinger’s long-term goals for his organization include connecting trails throughout the city.

Seitzinger said that having more recreation opportunities improves the health and quality of life of area residents, helping employers like hospitals recruit hires.

“These trails we’re talking about are increasingly making Augusta a destination for these people that want that experience,” he said.

Further down the road, Seitzinger envisions that the city could hold a winter carnival at Bond Brook Recreation Area with Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, tobogganing and ice sculptures.

“A lot of people still don’t really know about it, even though it’s right in the heart of the city,” Seitzinger said.

Spreading the word about the trails and the benefits will increase the number of people willing to donate time and money to the projects, he said, “and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]