Some 2,000 cyclists will follow a new Trek Across Maine route in 2019, one that will include a trip through the state capital.

The ride will pass through several Kennebec Valley communities this summer, including a trip through downtown Augusta and onto the Kennebec River Rail Trail through Hallowell, Farmingdale and into Gardiner. Riders will finish where they started the event, in Brunswick.

Local officials say the event will be a chance to highlight the region’s sights, businesses and attractions to riders and their friends and family members expected along the route. It has the potential, they said, to provide an economic boost during the ride and beyond.

“We want to welcome these people to our community and do the best we can to put out a great product and show off our downtown and our waterfront,” said Bruce Chase, director of parks and recreation for the city of Augusta, who said the city will provide music on its portable stage in Waterfront Park, where there will be a rest stop for the riders. “It’ll bring them to our downtown area, where they can stop and take in the beautiful sights on the Kennebec River. It should be a good boost for our city and downtown.”

Trek Across Maine’s Kim Chamard said the organizers of the Trek, which largely has followed the same route for most of its 34 years, decided to move to a new route for its 35th anniversary. The ride, which she said is the largest fundraiser in the nation for the American Lung Association, brings in an average of $1.3 million a year. It has raised more than $24 million since the event started.

Chamard said the new route was selected by a group of volunteers, including veteran cyclists who rode the entire route before endorsing it.

“We tried to find areas that would be bike-friendly and maintain the traditional feel of the Trek, and still give people that feeling of Maine in the summer,” she said of the new route, a loop that starts and ends at Brunswick Landing. “They’ll have great views, including of the ocean, farmland and the Kennebec River.”

For the first time, the Trek, which usually sticks to roads, will have participants leaving streets behind on some of the route to travel the entire length of the paved Kennebec River Rail Trail from Augusta to Gardiner, as well as trails in Brunswick and Lewiston.

“We’re excited to give our cyclists that opportunity, to get them off the main road and utilizing bike paths, and that’s a nice safety component as well,” Chamard said.

Andy Hendrickson, longtime chairman of the Kennebec River Rail Trail’s board of supervisors, said the trail won’t be closed to the public for the Trek, but signs will be placed in advance in an effort to warn regular trail users that a crowd of bicyclists will be coming that day.

“The Trek people expect somewhere around 2,000 bikers to come down through there, so that’s going to be interesting,” he said. “I hope the bikers spread themselves out; there are some narrow places on the trail. But it should be good publicity for the trail.”

Hendrickson and others said the hope is riders — even those who might not get off their bikes while on the Trek itself — might be impressed enough with their experience that some will come back and spend more of their time — and money — in the communities along the ride’s new route.

“I’m sure a lot of these people are from away and have not been down through here,” he said. “So that will be good. What we’re hoping for is people will say ‘Gee whiz, look at this. This is beautiful. We’ll come back sometime.’ Nobody knows how many may come back and tour Hallowell or Augusta and see what’s going on, but hopefully it will stir up some interest.”

Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said the Trek usually brings numerous friends and family members of riders, who position themselves along the route to cheer them on. He said that concentrated mass of people downtown, along the riverfront, is an opportunity to impress people and lead them to make return visits.

“I think the largest benefit to be gained from all of this is exposure,” Hall said. “It’s hard to get a full picture of all that’s happening in a community, especially in just a few hours on a Sunday. But with the backdrop of our beautiful riverfront, as well as our historic downtown, we hope to provide just a taste of what we as a state capital can offer.”

The Trek, scheduled for June 14-16, will pass through several Kennebec Valley communities.

Riders will leave from Brunswick on June 14, with the route taking them through Harpswell to Freeport along the coast, then inland through  Durham to Lewiston, where riders will stay overnight at Bates College. From Lewiston, day two will see riders travel through Greene, Wayne and Mount Vernon and then through the Belgrade Lakes, through Oakland and on to Waterville for the final overnight stop, at Colby College. On the final day of the ride, cyclists will travel through Vassalboro to downtown Augusta.

“It’s going to be great visibility for the Kennebec Valley,” said Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. “People come from all over to participate in it. It’ll be great for them to go through our small towns and downtowns and see the revitalization.”

Chamard said volunteers will be needed to help with the Trek, such as at road crossings and other positions along the route, and to help with rest stops.

Riders, who must collect pledges of donations to the American Lung Association to take part, may register at the Trek’s website. Registration is open until May 20.

Chamard said the new route has so far received a positive response, with an increased numbers of riders signing up to take part.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

 

 

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