State officials plan to begin the process soon of removing old Maine Central Railroad lines to make way for a proposed 32-mile recreation trail that would extend north from Oakland to Embden.

Jim Britt, spokesman for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, said the plan is to have the work finished by the end of the year.

Bids on the project were reviewed recently, and Britt said officials hope to have a signed contract soon with a company to begin the work.

Maine officials say they plan to begin the process soon of removing old Maine Central Railroad lines to make way for a proposed 32-mile recreation trail to extend north from Oakland to Embden. Above, one of the lines Friday in North Anson. The Kennebec River is seen at right. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We need to have rail and ties removed before we can work on the bridges and convert the corridor to a trail,” Britt wrote in an email.

The state is working with several towns along the trail to designate areas for parking, he said.

The bureau announced last November its plans to convert the abandoned railroad line to connect thousands of miles of snowmobile and ATV trails, allowing riders to travel from Oakland to the Moosehead Lake region.

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The route, known as the Madison Branch, travels over the Kennebec and Carrabassett rivers, and should appeal to hikers, bicyclists, Nordic skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts, according to those who support the trail proposal.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation bought the property for slightly more than $1 million, according to officials.

Gov. Janet Mills has said there should be other benefits to the new corridor, explaining it “will support local businesses and strengthen the economy throughout the region.”

Britt said additional funding for construction of the trail “will come from the sale of the steel rails.”

“The expectation is for no additional funding needs,” Britt said, “and all or a majority of the work can be completed this year.”

Plans call for removal of the old Maine Central Railroad lines to make way for a proposed 32-mile recreation trail that would extend north from Oakland to Embden. Above, a section of the line adjacent to Route 201A in North Anson, across from the Kennebec River. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The trail is to pass through Oakland, Fairfield, Norridgewock, Madison, Anson, North Anson and Embden, connecting snowmobilers to the Maine Interconnected Trail System through a new route.

Meantime, ATV riders would be able to connect to the Maine ATV Trail System, which connects Oxford and Franklin counties with Somerset, Piscataquis and Penobscot counties.

“The ATV and snowmobile trails also intersect this trail in many locations, so users will be able to connect to the trail in those locations from other existing parking areas,” Britt said. “This has the potential to be one of our busiest rail trails because of its proximity to the interstate and as a main artery for ATV and snowmobile trails.”

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