Recreational Development with Inland Woods and Trails
When I first arrived in Bethel two months ago, my new boss, Gabe Perkins, elaborated the main goals and projects of Inland Woods + Trails (IW+T) that I would be working on. One of the main series of projects he mentioned, and which has come to be the most prevalent in my experience here, has been at the Bethel Community Forest (BCF). Purchased by IW+T from a logging company in 2019, the BCF is a plot of land that is far from being developed to its full potential.
As of right now, the main hiking trails are the Summit Ridge Trail, the Bingham Cascades Trail (starting from the BCF and going into the Bingham Forest), and the Parks Bennet Trail in the BCF West. These are all hikes that are less than ten minutes from the town center, take less than three hours to hike, and are accessible to different levels of ability. This latter trait especially applies to the numerous mountain biking trails that are either completed or in construction. From Ghost, a flat, easy, and fast one mile bike ride, to Maxilla, an impossibly steep and rocky terrain that I personally couldn’t fathom riding, there is a trail for everybody to ride, and many more to come! These varying levels of accessibility serve the community well.
This last part, the BCF’s contribution to the community, is what excites me the most. In addition to showcasing the natural beauty of the Bethel area, the spirit of the BCF is its benefit to the community recreationally and economically. The most ambitious project that the BCF is part of is the Community Access Trail System (CATS), a series of mountain biking trails that will connect nearby Mt. Abram to downtown Bethel, the community forest, and Sunday River. With numerous access points, the trail will pass local businesses and other attractions – increased traffic around downtown Bethel will boost the exposure to and activity of these local businesses and institutions that contribute to the unique character of the area. The additional mountain biking opportunities offered by CATS will further increase Bethel’s year-round appeal, expanding upon a thriving winter-oriented tourist industry. I am so excited to be a part of something that serves the community like the BCF and its connecting trails will continue to do.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge the joy of experiencing the natural beauty of the BCF, from the rushing cascades of the Bingham Cascades Trail and the expansive views of the Summit Ridge Trail, to the wildlife that inhabit the woods – I (safely) saw my very first black bear one month ago, after seventeen years of living in Maine! This, combined with its inclusive and community-oriented goals, makes the Bethel Community Forest a special place to me, and I can’t wait to follow the progress of its trails for years to come!
Henry Menz worked for Inland Woods and Trails as a 2021 Richard G. Rockefeller Conservation Intern.