Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kennebec River Rail Trail, Part 1

Augusta to Hallowell
The birth of the Kennebec River Rail Trail marks Augusta’s entrance into the ranks of cities with riverside recreation trails. When complete, the KRRT will cover 6.5 miles from Gardiner through Farmingdale and Hallowell to Augusta. At this point, two sections are finished: Augusta to Hallowell and Gardiner to Farmingdale. The final, middle section of the trail is scheduled for completion in September 2007. The sheer number of people out jogging, strolling, and biking on any given day attest to how valuable safe, pleasant trails are to our communities.

Getting There
The Augusta-Hallowell section of the Kennebec River Rail Trail can be accessed at three points. The trail’s northernmost terminus opens out into the Maine State Housing Authority parking lot, directly under Memorial Bridge, at the south end of downtown Augusta (this is also the handicap access point to the trail). To reach the second access point, turn onto Union Street just south of Capitol Park and turn right into the parking lots for the ball fields at Capital Park (near the YMCA). To access the trail in Hallowell, park in the lot at the north end of Water Street.

The Trail
Distance: 2 miles
Walking time: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: easy

The Augusta-Hallowell portion of the Kennebec River Rail Trail is surprisingly peaceful, considering it is located only a short distance from State Street. Trees line the trail for most of the distance, and the river bank drops steeply down to the water, affording visitors a view of the Kennebec’s placid waters and the forested east bank, which appears undeveloped most of the way. Aside from the wastewater treatment facility near the Capital Park access point, a few warehouses and some type of abandoned-looking industrial installation near the Hallowell entrance, very little industrial development remains to remind walkers of the railroad’s existence.

The trail is wide, level and paved for the Augusta portion, topped with crushed stone in Hallowell. Because it follows the rail bed, there is very little change in grade the entire distance, the only climbing required is to reach the access points in Hallowell and Capital Park.

Kid-friendly Factor
Thanks to the non-existent grade and wideness of the paths, the rail trail is a great place to push a stroller and for little kids to try out shaky biking skills. Although the trail is well-used, I’ve found most people are extremely tolerant of kids biking in the wrong lane or darting across the pathway unexpectedly.

Getting Involved
To help support the completion of the rail trail, contact the Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail.

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