WATERVILLE — Alumni of Thomas College helped open a new 3-mile trail system to the public Sunday morning.

The college inaugurated the trails at the sixth annual Homecoming Weekend Terrier Trot 5K race. The Sukeforth Family, whose donation funded the project, was honored at a celebration on Saturday. The paths have been collectively named The Sukeforth Family Trail System.

The new looped routes are suitable for running, walking and mountain biking. Hills and flat stretches provide a variety of terrain.

Head Cross Country Coach Kerry Smart said that the trails provide a “great opportunity to welcome the community to campus.” Smart has coached runners at Thomas College for 11 seasons and also serves as the director of athletic fundraising.

The system contains numerous loops, which can be combined in a variety of ways. Trailheads with maps are located by Smith Field and the practice field. One route measures 2.33 miles in total but can be subdivided into shorter distances, and another is 0.66 miles. The campus has housed the roughly half-mile route since 2009, which is maintained in part by Kennebec Messalonskee Trails volunteers.

“We’re trying to figure out which loops are the best and how to make the loops work for races and competitions and using our imaginations to find the best routes for student-athletes and runners,” Smart said. The men’s and women’s cross country teams have been practicing on the trails since late August.

A 0.78-mile stretch of challenging terrain has been proposed as an addition. The college is getting quotes on the project and looking for a donor, according to Smart. If successful, that part of the system could open next year.

Smart said she has enjoyed seeing people enjoy the new paths already and welcomes newcomers to campus.

“You can see faculty and staff walking on the trails during the day,” she said. “It’s an easy loop to do during the day and great from a wellness standpoint.”

Before the Sukeforth Family Trail System was complete, the college’s cross country athletes had to drive their own cars off campus to complete runs and workouts.

“It’s been program-changing for me,” Smart said. “Now we have the opportunity to be on campus and do great workouts.”

Smart noted that it isn’t just the athletes who benefit from the new paths. Over the summer, the Thomas College recreation department purchased four mountain bikes — including two fat-tire bikes — that students can rent and take on the trails.

Sunday’s Terrier Trot was a fundraiser for the cross country program. Smart said that about 35 runners registered and that the event raised around $400, although she had not finished final calculations.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins

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