NORRIDGEWOCK — Officials from Norridgewock and the surrounding towns celebrated the grand opening of the Madison Branch of the Kennebec River Rail in a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday.

The ceremony kicked off the season and celebrated the business and activities to come on the trail.

As the celebration went on, brothers Chris and Kevin Purnell left their ATVs on the bridge that connects the trail from Norridgewock to Madison as they listened to the speakers with their helmets still on.

The pair said they were one of the first few people to ride on the trail when it opened last fall and now, it’s become a frequent activity.

Christian Gordon of Fairfield stops on the Madison Branch of the Kennebec River Trail during the grand opening Saturday in Norridgewock. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“It’s awesome, we can take (the trail) right from his house,” Chris Purnell said of his brother, Kevin’s house in Oakland.

Chris Purnell drives up from Waterville to his brother’s house to ride the trail, which is exactly one of the goals the Kennebec Valley towns had in mind when creating the trail, as a way to provide not only a trail system, but bring more tourism to towns that people would otherwise pass through.


The trail, called the Madison Branch of the Kennebec River Trail, opened officially last fall, but timing and weather prevented an official ceremony.

The new portion of the trail spans from Oakland through Norridgewock to Embden and provides a gravel trail to walk, run, bike, drive an ATV or snowmobile, the latter two of which are the biggest draw for the trail.

Amanda Clark, owner of Six Penny Jug at 66 Main St., has already seen a difference in the amount of customers at her pub. The pub opened in November 2022 and she formally took over in January. Since the trail opened, business has become great in the otherwise quiet town of Norridgewock.

“It’s great for the economy of Norridgewock. It’s bringing in new people,” she said, “a lot of people are saying when they visit that it’s their first time in town and that they took the trail in.”

Members of the community celebrate Saturday after the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Madison Branch of the Kennebec River Trail in Norridgewock. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Kim Lindlof from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce emceed the event and explained to the roughly 50 attendees the process it took to open the trail.

As she spoke, around 10 ATVs were backed up, patiently waiting to get back on the trail that was temporarily blocked for the ribbon-cutting.


Thirty-two miles of train rail were acquired from Pan Am Railways and the rail and tire removal started in 2021. Around 8 million pounds of steel and 12 million pounds of ties were removed to create the trail and the proceeds of the sale of the rail went to the trail, Lindlof said. The trails were made possible with a $508,000 grant from the Land for Maine’s Future and a matching grant from Northern Borders Regional Commission.

“The extension of this trail spans from Oakland through Norridgewock to Embden. This serves as a connector to larger trails opening recreational travel,” she said. “Accessing the (Interconnected Trail System) snowmobile trails or the Maine ATV Trail System connects Norridgewock to places near and far: Oxford and Franklin, Piscataquis and Penobscot counties.”

Town Manager Richard LaBelle said he is excited for the current and future businesses in town.

“With another main route through town, it will increase property values, increase revenues for the small businesses in town and showcase the community for those who otherwise might just pass through,” LaBelle told the Kennebec Journal on Friday.

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