Ever since 2000, the Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, a non-profit corporation, has invited anyone interested to come out on the first weekend in June for a community walk on National Trails Day. But this year, the organization wanted to attach a message to the walk.

Peter Garrett, past president of KMT and member of the organization’s board of directors, said the goal of the walk is to bring people together, put aside their differences — whether they be political, religious or social — and get people to talk to each other.

“There seems to be deep divisions in the country,” Garrett said.

The free annual event will start at the Fairfield Community Center on Water Street at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 3, rain or shine. From there, the walk will cross the Route 139 bridge and continue down Crummett Street to the granite steps leading up to the Rotary Centennial Trail.

Garrett said that whether you watch the news or listen to the radio, it’s impossible to escape discussions of the divisions in the country and how it’s become difficult for people to talk to each other. So the purpose of this walk is to get people talking to each other.

“We couldn’t let a few things divide us,” Garrett said.

Garrett said the idea for the theme for the walk “came out of the blue,” and it just came about through conversations about where the country is.

“The purpose of the walk is to get people to talk,” Garrett said.

In past years, Garrett said the event has drawn hundreds of people out onto the trails, but other years maybe around 50. He said the plan is to allow conversations to develop organically. While Garrett said he will likely read statements from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who usually sends a written statement, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, whose office said he would send a statement, and Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, the actual conversations will be completely driven by those who show up.

All told, Garrett said there are about 40 miles of trails in the system, though they aren’t all connected. He said that was part of the beauty of the system, that it was made up of a number of small pieces that would be appealing, but overall the network was “enormous.”

Garrett launched construction of the $4 million system over a decade ago and said they’ve gotten good feedback from people who use the trail network and its 18 segments. The system is made up of trails in Waterville, Benton, Oakland, Winslow and Fairfield. It plays host to events throughout the year, like the winter festival at the Quarry Road Recreation Area. He said he sometimes works parking duty at an event and is surprised when he meets people, even people from Waterville, who haven’t been out on the trails before.

“People like the idea of what we’ve managed to do,” he said.

Saturday’s walk will be wheelchair accessible, Garrett said. While the granite steps leading up the Rotary Centennial Trail in Benton aren’t accessible, Garrett said there are two places for those in wheelchairs to join. The first is at the Asher Farms Mobile Home Park in Benton where there is a wheelchair accessible route, and the other is the East Kennebec Trail in Winslow. The total length of the walk is 2 miles each way.

“It’s a nice walk, a nice chance to chat with people you do and don’t know,” Garrett said.

Also on Saturday, Friends of Quarry Road will celebrate National Trails Day with the official opening of the Susan Childs Boat Launch and a barbecue at Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville. People are encouraged to bring boats and use them on Messalonskee Stream, or walk or ride bikes on the trails.

Friends of Quarry Road is a nonprofit organization that works with the city of Waterville to help oversee and maintain the recreation area, which is city-owned. The day begins at 10:30 a.m. and admission is free, although donations will be accepted to support trails.

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the boat launch, Joe Reisert, president of Friends of Quarry Road, will give an update on the area and plans for trail enhancements.

The boat launch was built in remembrance of Susan Childs, a local family physician and dedicated board member of the group, according to a news release. The boat launch provides access for non-motorized boating on Messalonskee Stream.

The trails, including a mountain bike single-track that was added last year, will be open for biking and walking for those of all ages and abilities.

The barbecue is at 11 a.m. and is free and open to the public. Friends of Quarry Road will hold its annual meeting as part of the event, and all are welcome to attend. The recreation area is off Quarry Road, which is off North Street in Waterville.

Those wanting more information may call the Waterville Parks and Recreation Department at 680-4744 or visit www.quarryroad.org.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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