WATERVILLE — It’s a quiet piece of wilderness in the heart of the city.

The Oxbow Trail winds around Messalonskee Stream between Cool and Silver streets, where loons swim, ducks fly overhead and birds perched in the trees sing all day long.

The only other sound is that of water gently rushing by.

Pine trees, birches, bittersweet vines, alders, maples and at least one giant white oak have sprouted on the 19 acres, where the three-quarter-mile trail at times runs right along the bank of the stream. The trail is in the shape of an oxbow.

“It’s almost like you’re not in Waterville anymore,” said Ash Hekmat, president of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails.

The trails group and Five County Credit Union are planning a cleanup and grand re-opening of the trail, one of the oldest in the city, to be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on National Trails Day, Saturday, June 1.


Anyone interested may join the effort and meet in the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection parking lot at 36 Cool St., where the trails group and credit union will set up kiosks.

“All are welcome, and bags and gloves and refreshments will be provided,” Hekmat said.

The forested part of the property is owned mostly by the church, and the lowlands are owned by the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, across the stream. Hekmat and Peter Garrett, the founder of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, who also is a member of its board of directors, said the church and the Children’s Home have been supportive and enthusiastic about the cleanup.

The trail in recent years has been misused, with people sleeping and partying there and leaving litter in the area, according to both Hekmat and Garrett.

They want to bring the trail back to its glory and encourage people to use it frequently. The idea for the cleanup was not only to improve the trail, but also to invite the public so that they will feel a sense of ownership and stewardship in it.

“I saw an opportunity here to basically give this trail back to the community,” Hekmat said.


The official opening of the Oxbow Nature Trail was held Nov. 18, 1974, according to Morning Sentinel archives. The trail was a Waterville municipal project developed over the period of a year by the Conservation Commission. Those who attended the event included Helen B. Strider, commission chairman and the wife of Colby College President Robert E.L. Strider II, and then-Waterville Mayor Richard Carey.

A booklet about the trail was distributed at the time. Developed for the commission by Joel D. Ossoff, of Colby, and illustrated by Hilary Ervin, a Conservation Commission member, the booklet says the purpose of the nature trail and preserve was to provide a place where the “people of Waterville would always be able to enjoy nature in a relatively undisturbed state.”

On Thursday, Garrett brought with him to the trail Waterville resident Jim Shipsky and Winslow resident W. Elery Keene. Keene said he used to walk on the trail in the 1970s, and when he learned an effort was afoot to spiff it up, he wanted to visit again.

Shipsky said it’s important that people be stewards of such areas.

“I think that we can’t protect Mother Earth if we don’t love her, and we can’t love her without getting to know her through close contact,” Shipsky said.

Hekmat walks miles every day — to and from work, the grocery store and other places. It is good, he said, not only for health and well-being, but also for the planet.

“It saves a lot of wear and tear on my vehicle and helps preserve the environment,” he said.

Garrett founded Kennebec Messalonskee Trails more than 20 years ago. The trails have grown to 40 miles since then. The trails are located mostly in Waterville and include those at Colby, but also are in Winslow, Benton, Fairfield and Oakland.

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