SKOWHEGAN — Plans to promote and develop a multi-use trail system are underway, with grant money to start on the project at Coburn Woods, a 336-acre nature conservancy owned by the Somerset Woods Trustees.

The Somerset Woods Trustees, a land trust that works to promote conservation of forests, wildlife habitats and wetlands in the county, is planning to put in two new parking areas at entrances to the woods and eventually expand a three-mile trail system in hopes of getting more people to use the trails, said Roger Poulin, a member of the board of directors of the Somerset Woods Trustees.

“We don’t have brochures and we’re not really on any websites, so except for people that live in the area no one knows about the trails or uses them,” said Poulin on a recent afternoon as he walked through the trails now covered in leaves.

The land trust recently received a $1,500 grant from Plum Creek Timber Company to construct parking lots at two entrances to the trails, on Russell Road and Coburn Avenue. The Russell Road parking lot will accommodate about 10 vehicles and will be accompanied by new signs and maps of the trails. There will also be new signs marking the trails inside the woods.

“We figured that if we started publicizing the trails more and people start to come, there would be no place for them to park,” said Poulin.

Coburn Woods is part of an estate donated to the Somerset Woods Trustees by the founder of the land trust, Louise Coburn and her family, in 1927. Coburn is also known as a pioneer of women’s education and was the first female college student at Colby College in Waterville.

The land trust has maintained the trails, former logging roads, for about the last 10 years and opens them to the public for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The new parking areas and trail maintenance are part of a long-term plan to re-develop parts of Coburn Woods and make them more accessible to Skowhegan residents, said Nina Pleasants, executive director of the Somerset Woods Trustees. She said the Russell Road parking area should be completed by early summer 2015.

“It’s exciting; I think it will be great to have a parking lot there because I think people will make much more use of it,” Pleasants said. “We’re really excited about these trails because I think they’re finally coming into what Louise Coburn envisioned for Skowhegan, to have the land be public for the use of Skowhegan residents but always preserved.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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