ATV Club Members Sought to Connect Calais with Downeast Trail

By Lura Jackson


Calais has long been on a quest to become an ATV-friendly town, and if the ongoing efforts of the city and the Economic Development Committee bear fruit, the city will soon be connected with the Downeast Sunrise Trail. While there are still some details being worked out in terms of what trail will be used to access the city, City Manager Jim Porter is confident that, one way or another, ATV tourists in Calais will be a reality. To accomplish the task, however, Porter and city councilors Artie Mingo and Mike Sherrard are actively seeking ATV enthusiasts that would be willing to join and support an ATV club.

There is an ATV club already in existence in Calais, and Porter imagines that with renewed interest it will be reactivated again. The club was formed years ago by Andrew Tickle and several others when the city first envisioned the possibility of connecting a trail to Calais from Ayer’s Junction. An ordinance was created that would enable ATV riders to travel from “point A to point B” – or from trail to trail – within the city limits. When no connecting trail was created, the city suspended the ordinance and the club, dubbed the Sunrise Trail Riders, became dormant. It would be a simple matter to reactivate the ordinance once a trail is fashioned.

There are multiple possibilities for creating a trail into Calais. For years, the city pushed for the “rail to trail” initiative, which relied on cooperation with the state Department of Transportation for the removal of the railway leading to Calais from Ayer’s Junction. Rather than continuing to wait for development in that area, the city has now opted to create alternative routes into the city. Right now, the city is looking for a route from Hardscrabble Road into town, a possibility that is nearly complete but for a few private landowners that the city is negotiating with. If that fails, Porter said that the city “will find an alternative trail.”

Once that happens, the city of Calais will be connected to the Downeast Sunrise trail. “It would be a big economic boom,” Porter said. The trail could go down to the Riverwalk where ATVs could park, or it could use snowmobile trails to travel across town. Riders would be able to go to any gas station, convenience store, motel, or restaurants, including along Main Street.

The Downeast Sunrise Trail is a popular method of sight-seeing and travel along its existing 85-mile route through Hancock and Washington Counties. In 2014-15, there were approximately 3,700 trail users in ten months passing Washington Junction by Ellsworth, according to a report by the Hancock County Planning Commission. The commission estimates that those trail users directly generated $236,000 for the local economy with approximately double that generated as a result of indirect economic impact. 

The ATV and snowmobile industries in general are a substantial source of income to the state as a whole. Governor Paul LePage stated last year that the industries combined generate over $500 million for the state.

The Downeast Sunrise trail links to the ITS 81 and 82 trails, granting it access to 800 miles of additional trails connecting throughout the state. More broadly still, it connects with the East Coast Greenway, which runs from Maine to Key West, Florida, enabling long-distance travelers to plan for possible destinations along the route.

Councillor Artie Mingo has said of Machias that “every other vehicle is an ATV on their roads.” He cited a recent event where 460 ATVs came to one location. According to Mingo, they sold 7,000 chicken wings at one restaurant. Mingo adds that the ATV season is much longer season than the snowmobile season, and it is expected to get longer still with climate change.

“It would be dozens of ATVs daily,” concurred Porter. Before that can happen, though, club members are needed to help clear the trail as soon as it is established. With an active club, the effort would be eligible for grants that would foster continued growth. To contact Porter and offer support for the club, call the city office at 454-2521.