The Beaver War still rages in a beautiful marsh situated between Burrough Road in Sangerville and Pine Street in Dover-Foxcroft, but this year, an approximately $100,000 project along the Central Maine Adventure Trail should bring victory to outdoor recreationists — especially ATVers, bicyclists, and pedestrians who enjoy smooth trails.
Several years ago, the Maine Department of Conservation acquired an abandoned 28-mile railroad corridor stretching from Newport to Dover-Foxcroft. Long neglected except for a new recreational bridge built in Corinna, the corridor connected ATV and snowmobile trails in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
The Off Road Vehicle Division, part of MDOC’s Bureau of Parks and Lands, has worked with local municipalities as well as ATV and snowmobile clubs to improve the CMAT, particularly bridges and culverts. Beavers frequently dam the latter and create flowages that erode gravel into waterways or flood the trail.
At most beaver-dammed culverts, state employees install “beaver deceivers” to lower and control water levels and prevent future flooding. These “deceivers” — steel and wire-mesh contraptions sometimes blended with poly-plastic pipes — let water drain even when beavers build a new dam around the device’s exterior.
South of Pine Street in Dover-Foxcroft, the CMAT crosses an extensive marsh drained by a stream flowing east beneath Routes 7 and 15. Past the marsh, the CMAT rises gradually to cross Burrough Road in Sangerville.
When Maine purchased the railroad corridor, beaver-caused flooding covered about 50-75 yards of trail in the marsh between Bur-rough Road and Pine Street. Fast-flowing water deterred all but adventurous ATVers and mountain bikers from crossing the flooded section.
The Beaver War broke out as the Off-Road Vehicle Division tested different ways to avert flooding and make the trail passable across the marsh. Using donated steel from Bath Iron Works, crews constructed a distinctive new recreational bridge and raised the trail bed. Combined with a beaver deceiver, the bridge’s width let water flow freely and eliminated flooding “in hopes the beavers would be satis-fied with the water level,” said Scott Ramsay, head of the Off Road Vehicle Division.
But the pesky beavers, even when trapping reduced their numbers, dammed other marsh-draining culverts and kept the water high. So on a hot, partly sunny day in mid-August 2010, Joe Higgins of the Off-Road Vehicle Division watched as Dexter contractor Roger Wyman lifted coffin-sized granite slabs from a historic culvert’s granite-block abutments.
“I’ve taken apart this culvert a few times,” said Higgins, a state recreational safety and trail coordinator. He noted that past beaver-dam removals had resulted in new beaver dams — and this time a plugged culvert, apparent as Wyman scooped up muck with his Cat 312’s bucket.
“I don’t mind what they (beavers) put in there, but the water’s got to keep flowing,” Higgins said as Wyman, his excavator perched on four granite slabs, scooped dirt and muck from the culvert and deposited the material at trailside. Once he cleaned out the culvert, Wy-man would partially cut the adjacent beaver dam so that he and Higgins could install a poly-plastic pipe, a “beaver deceiver,” measuring 22 feet in length and 24 inches in diameter. Then Wyman would cover the pipe with material taken from the dam; primarily mud and sticks, this material would anchor the beaver deceiver at the dam and prevent running water from moving the pipe.
According to Higgins, the pipe would extend into the marsh and through the culvert. Despite the beavers’ best subsequent dammed efforts, water will drain freely, Higgins indicated. “All’s we’re concerned about is maintaining the water level below the trail surface,” he said.
Once the beaver deceiver was in place, Wyman would reset the granite blocks, which would then be covered by geotextile fabric to prevent surface gravel from reaching water flowing through the culvert.
He and Wyman installed the beaver deceiver while working on a trail-length project that started “at Route 7 in Newport” on July 17, 2010, Higgins said. “The goal of the project,” which will end at the Bear’s Den in Dover-Foxcroft, “was to get the rail bed graded to get the water off it,” he said.
Moving north along the CMAT, Higgins and Wyman cleaned culverts and ditches and bush-hogged the trail, a maintenance activity previously done “three-to-four years ago,” Higgins said. Wyman created a sub base of 1½-inch minus gravel; in time, the state plans to cover the entire trail with a road surface made from ¾-inch minus gravel, which “packs in almost like cement,” Higgins indicated.
This year, Higgins and Wyman will spread the ¾-inch minus gravel “in the intown areas, Newport, Corinna, Dexter, Dover[-Foxcroft], to control the dust,” he said.
“We’re taking care of all the bad areas first. We’ve been working on the trail for years. This is a great trail,” with “marshes and rivers and woods. It’s really a beautiful trail,” Higgins said. “It’s a major artery for snowmobilers and ATVers. I love this trail; look at all the scenery you have.”
Encompassing 30.7 miles, this year’s project extends from Newport to North Street in Dover-Foxcroft. Monies provided by the federal Recreational Trails Program and the state’s Off-Road Vehicular Division are funding the project.
Higgins and Wyman have encountered many ATVers while working on the CMAT. “They’re thanking us for what we’re doing,” Hig-gins said. “They know what condition the trail was in. They’re seeing a big difference.”
Headed south to Dexter, Randy Smith of Dexter steered his Yamaha ATV through the construction site minutes before Wyman started removing the culvert’s granite slabs. Smith said that he and his wife have snowmobiled on the Central Maine Adventure Trail “for years,” but “this is the first year we’ve owned ATVs.
“I ride here five days a week. We’ve seen moose out here and beaver,” he indicated, detailing how a moose suddenly loomed in the trail during a recent night ride.
“Boy, I’ll tell you, they’re doing a fine job” restoring the trail, Smith said, referring to Higgins and Wyman. “They’ve taken care of the rocks” that plagued ATVers and bicyclists where the trail nears Route 7 in Dexter.