MADRID TOWNSHIP — Under a sunny sky at midday Saturday, a steady line of all-terrain vehicle riders and mountain bikers filed down the ITS 84/89 multi-use trail in Madrid Township.

While Saturday’s weather would have drawn anyone out to enjoy what Maine’s backcountry has to offer, the group of ATVers, hikers, bikers, snowmobilers and Franklin County officials that converged two miles down the trail were out for one specific purpose: celebrating the completion of a three-year collaborative effort to replace the Perham Stream Bridge.

“It’s a project that has required a lot of effort by a lot of people and a lot of collaboration,” said Nancy Perlson, a volunteer who worked to bring the project to fruition. “I’m really thrilled to be at this stage of the project.”

The new 80-foot single-span steel girder bridge was completed last month, with the trail being closed to the public for a week while construction was done. The bridge, located over the confluence of Perham and Orbeton streams, replaced an existing bridge that was in disrepair.

The $150,000 bridge was a collaborative project carried out by the High Peaks Alliance, the North Franklin Snowmobile Club, the Narrow Gauge Riders ATV club and landowner Mark Beauregard, of Rangeley.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at noon Saturday to mark the project’s official completion. Members of the organizations involved in the project along with trail users and local government officials applauded the collaborative work that went into the project.


“That’s why this success lays out here, because you did it together,” said Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton.

The bridge is just under 2 miles along ITS 84/89 from Reeds Mill Road. The trail is a major multi-use trail that runs north through Madrid Township toward Perham Junction and Redington Township. The trail, maintained by the North Franklin Snowmobile Club, connects with snowmobile trails from Rangeley, Phillips, Kingfield and Weld, among others.

With the installation of the new bridge ensuring safe passage over the stream for trail users who then travel onto other trails — taking them farther north into Franklin County — the completion of the project was seen as a boon for economic and recreational prosperity in the region.

“For this region, as most of you probably know, backcountry recreation is kind of the backbone of the regional economy. So it’s important to have these kinds of facilities and infrastructures that let people safely and comfortably enjoy what we have to offer,” Perlson said.

“This bridge is actually the connection between one part of the county and the other part of the county, and without it, that economic opportunity would not be here,” Franklin County Commissioner Gary McCrane said.

The project was funded by grants from Maine’s Recreational Trails Program, the Franklin County tax increment financing program, and the Betterment Fund.


The old bridge had been patched together using the remains of materials from the old rail-bed of the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Narrow Gauge Railroad, which ran in the location of the Perham and Orbeton stream section of ITS 84/89. The old bridge, made from the riveted iron beams of the railroad, was rusted and was becoming unsafe. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene washed out a center support from under the bridge.

Ralph Luce, president of the North Franklin Snowmobile Club, said when the trail groomers went over the old bridge with heavy machinery, the bridge’s instability could be felt.

Perham Stream is a protected habitat for several species of fish. Therefore, building the new bridge with a center support was not an option; a single-span bridge was required.

With the bridge completed, it is open for public motorized and nonmotorized recreation, with a recreational vehicle width restriction of 60 inches. Going farther along ITS 84/89 from the bridge, trail users have access to 6,000 acres of recently conserved working forest in Madrid Township, Perlson said.

“It’s a beautiful piece of backcountry,” she said.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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