Wednesday, November 27, 2019

New trail opens in Raymond Community Forest

At the ribbon cutting. The trail, "Grape Expectations",
is named for the wild grapes the grow abundantly in the area
By Briana Bizier

A cold, wintery mix of rain and sleet didn’t stop a group of devoted outdoors-loving hikers and bikers from celebrating the opening of a new trail with a joyful ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday, November 24. The new trail is part of Loon Echo Land Trust’s Raymond Community Forest, a 356 acre permanently conserved area off Conesca Road in Raymond, and it is open to pedestrians and mountain bikes.

This may not be the best weather,” said Jon Evans, Loon Echo’s Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator. “But this is a great day for Loon Echo Land Trust.” of the trails on Loon Echo’s land have been inherited from the land’s previous uses, Evans told the crowd. Being able to design and build a trail from the ground up was a very exciting opportunity. This new trail adds a pleasant one-mile extension to the existing Spiller Homestead Loop, a flat and mild trail in the lower Raymond Community Forest that’s easily accessible for even the tamest hikers. 
The new trail expands on the previous loop and offers several bridges over marshy sections of the
community forest.

As the crowd applauded, Evans handed a wooden plaque to Dave Dowler, who spearheaded the trail building efforts. Dowler turned the plaque over and revealed the name of the new trail: Grape Expectations.

When Loon Echo Land Trust analyzed the potential trail site, Evans explained, they discovered an abundance of summer grape, a native grape species. Raymond is on the far northern edge of the wild grape’s habitat, so the trail builders took care to conserve the wild grape vines. In addition to providing a clever name for the trail, these native grapes are an important food source for wildlife. Expectations was designed to accommodate pedestrians and mountain bikes alike, with gentle curves and plenty of scenic appeal. Evans voiced his hopes that members of the community would make the trip to the Raymond Community Forest to visit the new trail.

Riding season is not over,” Evans said, as the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Fat tire bikes are welcome, mountain bikes are welcome, anything without a motor is welcome here.”

The new trail begins roughly a hundred yards from the parking lot on the Spiller Homestead Loop, and it ends on the Spiller Homestead Loop as well. As the audience of volunteers and Loon Echo Land Trust supporters clustered beneath Grape Expectation’s trail blaze - a yellow diamond with a black circle in the center - Evans spread a red ribbon over the new trailhead. Dowler cut the ribbon, and the crowd applauded.

Welcome to the coolest new pedestrian trail in the state of Maine,” Evans announced. the name of journalism, my five-year-old assistant and I inspected the entire trail. We discovered that Grape Expectations is an easy, enchanting hike that winds through the forest for slightly over a mile, crossing several bridges, climbing gentle hills, and circling a beautiful pool that was just closing over with ice. The ease of following this new trail, even in less than ideal conditions, belies the tremendous effort that must have gone into building the loop. There’s a section cut into a hillside that
is especially beautifully done, and that looks like it would be a heck of a lot of fun on a mountain bike. It would also make a wonderful, family friendly post-Thanksgiving stroll, or the perfect way to avoid the crowds on Black Friday.

If you’d like to check out the coolest new pedestrian trail in the state of Maine, head north from Route 85 on Raymond Hill Road. Turn north on Conesca Road. The trailhead for Raymond Community Forest is just past Hancock Road. Be sure to wear your blaze orange if you hike the trail in November, as hunting is allowed in Raymond Community Forest.

About Loon Echo Land Trust:

Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) was formed in 1987 to protect land in the northern Sebago Lake region to conserve its natural resources and character for future generations. LELT protects over 6,700 acres in Raymond, Bridgton, Naples, Casco, Sebago, Denmark and Harrison through land acquisition and conservation easements. LELT is a community supported non-profit organization.

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