BRUNSWICK — Cross country skiing is still prohibited on the Mere Creek Golf Course in Brunswick, but town officials are working on a project to create a new formal access point to the Kate Furbish trail system, right near the first tee, that they think might also address some of the skiers’ concerns.

Mere Creek Golf Course and its parking lot are off-limits to cross country skiers this winter, something the town is trying to resolve with the owner. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record 

The new access point and planned trail improvements, identified as a priority need in 2013, will include the removal of existing trees and chain link fencing, as well as an eight-foot-high protective cedar fence, wooden guardrail, new tree plantings and a trailhead kiosk. 

On Tuesday, the town council allocated $47,000 from recreation impact fees to pay for the project. 

A group of local cross country skiers approached the town last month after the owner of Mere Creek Golf Course blocked the course and parking lot for winter use, eliminating a popular spot many praised for being easily accessible and family-friendly. 

Some worried that not only would people then incorrectly assume the Kate Furbish trails were closed, but also that people might be at risk of being hurt, parking along the road. 

The town has an easement across a portion of the golf course that allows public access to the trails at the Kate Furbish Preserve, and that trail is open for skiing, hiking and snowshoeing. The Parks and Recreation Department also recently cut down some trees to provide direct access to the preserve trails from Merriconeag Road so skiers do not have to go through the golf course property.

Harris Golf, the company leasing and operating Mere Creek Golf Course at Brunswick Landing,  closed the course because of alleged “incidents” that occurred last year, including vandalism and damage to the course, Town Manager John Eldridge told the council at an earlier meeting. Owner Jeff Harris also had “legitimate concerns including protection of property and insurance,” Eldridge said, adding that Harris asked the town to prepare a design for fencing and screening to separate the town’s easement to the preserve from the car path and woods line along the first hold of the course. 

“As more people use the course and the trails there are safety concerns, primarily protecting trail users from errant golf shots,” Eldridge said. 

This trail improvement project has been needed for years, Tom Farrell, director of parks and recreation said Thursday, and while the concerns of cross country skiers did not put the plan in motion, he does think the plan “addresses some of the concerns of the course operator.” 

Namely, the 300-foot long, 8-foot tall fence will protect people from being hit by golf balls.

“There’s no change in the arrangement for cross country skiers to use the property,” as of yet, Farrell said, but the town remains involved in discussions and there may be future opportunities for a resolution. 

Tree removal is expected to begin soon, while the ground is still frozen, to minimize damage to the surrounding area, Farrell said, and the rest of the work is slated to start in the spring. 

Councilor Steve Walker said the proposal would likely resolve problems associated with access to the trails, but that he was still concerned about the lack of parking.

Farrell said Tuesday that there will likely be a proposal in the near future to help create a parking area near the trail. 

No plan has been developed yet, but there is some urgency, he said.

“They think of it as a cross country access-only trail, but it’s intended to be open 12 months per year,” Farrell said. In the summer, when the golf course is operating, the parking lot will be at capacity, necessitating a town-owned lot for hikers, bikers and runners who may want to use the seven-mile trail system. 

It’s a resource the town has more than enough reason to want to protect. 

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported recently that the outdoor recreation industry makes up 4.8% of Maine’s economy, contributing $3 billion every year.Of that, according to Headwaters Economics, roughly $80 million comes from snow activities and the “cascade effect” of recreation is also substantial, with activities like hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating and some sports continuing about $209 billion in added value to the state’s economy. 

For now, cross country skiers can still access the preserve through the new opening created by the parks and recreation department, and there are other options for cross country skiing in town, like the Kate Furbish trails, Crystal Spring Farm and the new Woodward Point preserve. 


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