PATTEN, Maine – Residents and visitors to a small Maine town can soon enjoy a storied walk in the woods.
A $40,000 grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Recreational Trails Program will fund a new one-third-mile trail behind the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum.
Historically, the town has been the jumping-off place for loggers, fishers and travelers before they braved off-grid work and adventures in Mount Katahdin’s shadow. Local officials now want to enhance that connection by adding accessible, outdoor offerings like the Lumbermen’s Trail throughout the town
“I love the project. It is very organic, very grassroots,” said Julie Isbill, National Park Service project manager for rivers, trails and conservation. “We are hoping there will be a whole system in Patten. Our plan is to start with this, and eventually, we could have miles of walking trails.”
Isbill has been working on the trail’s development with town agencies, local volunteers and other groups, including Katahdin Outdoor Trails, for the past year.
Construction is slated for early spring, but volunteers and school students have already cleared debris from the site behind the museum.
“The Katahdin Region has a ton of energy, and this is an example of that,” Isbill said. “The town is very can-do and resourceful.”
The flat, easy-to-maneuver Lumbermen’s Trail, when completed, will cut through a clearing and into a swath of ancient coniferous trees. Museum relics will be placed along the trail and a children’s story walk will be at the trail’s entrance.
The story walk will have 16 permanent, weather-proofed stations offering Maine-themed nature books like “The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever.” Two-laminated pages of the book will be at each station, Veteran’s Memorial Library Director Julie Buhler said.
Buhler needs close to $7,000 for the permanent stations and four Islandport Press books for the trail. She is applying for grants to fund the purchase. If unable to raise the full amount, she will reach out to the community, perhaps seeking donations toward one page of a book or one stand, she said.
“We feel it will help families to get out. Grandparents can do the trail and read to their grandchildren,” she said.
Springing up from the locals’ love of the outdoors and a rootedness in working together, the trail started with Patten Area Outdoors, created by the Patten Planning Commission in 2021.
The grassroots group meets regularly to explore ways to develop a non-motorized trail system in the area, Patten Planning Board Chairman Ron Blum said.
“A Story Walk in Patten will provide a destination for school groups, families, and tourists, adding to a growing array of experiences in and around town,” he said.
Recognizing that Patten is a gateway community to Baxter State Park, Blum said the town wants to build more recreational spaces and non-motorized trails for residents and visitors.
Town planners are thinking beyond the Lumbermen’s Trail, he said, adding that the original plan was bigger, but they decided to start with the Lumbermen’s Trail and build from there.
The Outdoor Sport Institute in Millinocket is administering the grant, and has drafted goals for future trails, Blum said.
Planners are considering continuing the Lumberman’s Trail a quarter-mile to a park in the center of town and then taking it over to the town office, he said.
“It’s the most tangible idea right now,” Blum said.
Other possibilities include clearing overgrowth along Webb Brook, a meandering stream through town, for a trail alongside the water. They are also considering some regional activities like a river trail along Fish Stream, running from Patten to Crystal and Island Falls.
The town can reapply for another Recreational Trails Program grant when they are ready, Blum said.
The town’s outdoor planning efforts include work and ideas from a host of local groups, town leaders and volunteers, including the Patten Selectboard, Patten Planning Board, Katahdin Area Trails, Patten Lumbermen’s Museum, Veterans’ Memorial Library to name a few.
The Rivers,Trails and Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service, MaineDOT Scenic Byway program are also involved in the town’s recreational planning.
“This project is possible thanks to the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum and the Town of Patten allowing the trail to be built on their properties,” Blum said.