NATIONAL COAST TRAIL ASSOCIATION

5124 N.E. 34th Avenue - Portland, OR - 97211 / 503-335-3876 / www.coasttrails.org

News Release

For Release: Monday, July 19th

Media Contacts: Al LePage, Executive Director, National Coast Trail Association - 503-335-3876

Nan Cummings, Executive Director, Portland Trails, Inc. - 207-774-2933

 

"Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Event Begins Day One Connecting Portland, Maine's Urban Trail System

A long-distance hiker and his wife celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary walking Portland's pedestrian pathways as he begins a 700-mile journey of the envisioned "Great Northeast Trail"

A special event, the "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Hike and Paddle begins at 9 AM on Friday, July 23rd at the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Maine. Al LePage of Portland, Oregon plans to first hike some 400 miles and then paddle another 300 miles to eventually reach Oswego, New York and Lake Ontario by mid-September. He will be traveling along the "Great Northeast Trail" - an envisioned trail system connecting proposed and existing land and water-based trails across New England, literally stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The event's focus is to promote and publicize this unique trail concept, and work cooperatively with trail organizations, government agencies, and others for public awareness about the many trails and connections that make it possible. The event is a personal journey, and although it is not a guided hike or paddle for the general public, LePage will be giving some presentations for the public during his trip. He is the founder and executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, and his wife Kathy Christy will join him on the first day of the event as they hike the urban trail system of Portland, Maine on their 10th wedding anniversary. Portland Trails, Inc., a Portland, Maine based non-profit organization, will host a special presentation to be given by LePage shortly after he arrives at their offices about 12 Noon, a short distance away near the Eastern Promenade. The "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" event is officially registered as a National Trails Day 2004 event with the American Hiking Society.

"Portland, Maine is a great place to begin the Great Northeast Trail," begins Al LePage, executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, "not only because it borders the Atlantic and has a great urban trail system, but also because what Portland has envisioned at the local level is essentially what we envision on a regional and at a national level. It's about interconnections, about linking together people with special places through trails. It's about people like old mayor James Phinney Baxter who had a vision of interconnected parks. It's about those who served the Portland City Council when it commissioned the Shoreway Access Plan that eventually proposed a system of trails linking parks, marshes, rivers and the coast. It's about Portland Trails, Inc. -- the non-profit working to make this 'connection dream' a reality since 1991. Well, for the National Coast Trail Association it's about doing the same thing from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes by linking up existing and proposed trails along the 'Great Northeast Trail.' Nationally, it's about linking up existing and proposed long-distance trails into one great big supertrail -- the National Coast Trail -- a 10,000-mile loop trail around the entire United States!

LePage and his wife will begin at Portland Head Lighthouse and then walk down to Ship Cove just to the north to literally touch the waters of the Atlantic. They will travel north to access the trail near Fisherman's Point, follow it to Bug Light, and continue across the Casco Bay Bridge and along Commercial Street to the Portland Trails Office at One India Street. Here they will proceed to a nearby area about noon for a brief presentation, and then continue along the Eastern Promenade, cross Tukey's Bridge and follow Back Cove Trail to Mackworth Street. Here they will connect through to the Baxter School and Baxter Woods to eventually reach the Evergreen Cemetery and head south along streets through the residential area of Nasons Corner, crossing Brighton Avenue to access Jewell Falls and the Fore River Sanctuary parking lot. The next day LePage will continue to hike west using various paths and roads to eventually reach the Gambo Recreation Area Trailhead parking lot, the official beginning of the first section of the proposed Mountain Division Trail, a total of about 45 miles from Windham to Fryeburg, Maine.

"The rivers, coastal areas and woodlands within our city are places of wonder," notes Nan Cummings, executive director of Portland Trails, Inc. "We invite you to explore unique open spaces -- Jewell Falls, Portland's only natural waterfall, the beautiful salt marsh teeming with wildlife along the Fore River Estuary, and the remaining underdeveloped stretches of coastline along Casco Bay -- on an equally wonderful urban trail system. These lands are a crucial part of our legacy, remnants of the landscape enjoyed by past generations, and need to be preserved for future generations."

The "Great Northest Trail" ("GNET") is envisioned as a continuous recreational 400-mile hiking and 300-mile paddling trail from the Atlantic to the shores of Lake Ontario through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Significant portions of this trail concept already exist, other major sections are already proposed or being established, and only a few minor linkages needed to be developed to make it complete. The trail would begin in Portland, Maine traveling the existing urban trail system there and extended along the proposed Mountain Division Trail to Fryeburg, Maine. It would then connect into New Hampshire and continue north on the existing trails of the White Mountain National Forest to connect with the Appalachian Trail around Carter Notch and continue across the state to reach the border at Hanover, New Hampshire into Vermont. Where the Appalachian Trail meets the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont, the route proceeds north until reaching the Winooski River, and then follows the proposed path of the Cross-Vermont Trail into Burlington, hiking north along the shore of Lake Champlain to eventually reach the historic homestead of Ethan Allen. The nearby public boat launch begins the paddling segment of the trail, first where the Winooski River enters the lake, next along the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail south to access the Champlain Canal, then the Erie Canal, and finally the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario.

LePage is apparently the first person to ever attempt, in one continuous trip, the envisioned 700-mile Great Northeast Trail. He's also apparently the first person ever to have hiked America's entire 1800-mile West Coast Trail (not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail or Canada's 45-mile West Coast Trail), doing so on three separate occasions. In 1988 he hiked the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail in about 1 month, in 1992 the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section, and in 1996 he tackled the 1,200-mile length of the California Coastal Trail in 3 and a half months. If he completes the Great Northeast Trail as planned, he will have completed a total of about 2,500 miles of the overall 10,000-mile National Coast Trail vision. LePage, age 50, was born about twenty miles east of Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts, and grew up and lived in the area until he headed west as a young man to reside in the Pacific Northwest, his primary residence being Portland, Oregon.

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The National Coast Trail Association, founded in 1994, is a non-profit trail organization whose vision is the National Coast Trail, a 10,000-mile plus interconnected land and water-based trail system around the entire United States. Our mission is "Keeping the Coast for Everyone" through advocacy, education, and action for trails, public access and coastal preservation. Our program includes trail development, education, and conservation. Our focus is the development of the West Coast Trail, comprised of the Washington, Oregon and California Coastal Trails. The "Atlantic to the Great Lakes!" event is a project to promote and publicize the Great Northeast Trail, field research and photograph it, and initiate cooperative relationships with trail organizations, government agencies, and others to develop and maintain relevant trail segments.

Portland Trails, Inc. is a non-profit urban land trust, working to link people and places. Their mission is to create a network of multi-use trails within Greater Portland, serve as a public advocate for the protection of, and access to, natural areas, and to encourage community participation in stewardship and trail recreation.

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