The increasingly popular River-Link trail is about to get its own trailhead at Dodge Point. Here walkers enjoy the trail as it passes through the Schmid Preserve in Edgecomb.
The increasingly popular River-Link trail is about to get its own trailhead at Dodge Point. Here walkers enjoy the trail as it passes through the Schmid Preserve in Edgecomb.
Described as “a taste of the North Woods in our backyard,” the River-Link trail on the Boothbay peninsula continues to grow not only in length but also in popularity. To serve this increasing demand, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is preparing to create an additional trailhead and parking area at Dodge Point in Newcastle. The trailhead will be located at the northern end of River-Link, on the west side of River Road, well south of the existing Dodge Point parking area. Work will commence soon after Labor Day.

River-Link was conceived in the late 1990s and is now coming to fruition through a partnership among state agencies, citizens, municipalities, funders, and local and statewide conservation organizations.

The goal of the partnership was to create connected natural areas and trails in the middle of the Boothbay peninsula for wildlife and recreation. Today it is possible to walk more than five miles from Dodge Point on the shores of the Damariscotta River in Newcastle down to the Zak Preserve in Boothbay, experiencing woodlands, stream valleys, and extensive wetlands with abundant animal life and evidence of a rich human history as well.

Among the partners in River-Link are the towns of Newcastle, Boothbay and Edgecomb; Schmid Preserve; Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; Bureau of Parks and Lands; Department of Transportation; Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust; Boothbay Region Land Trust; Midcoast Conservancy; Maine Coast Heritage Trust; Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program; Maine Community Foundation; and Land for Maine’s Future. Essential to the project as well were the dozens of private landowners and donors who made substantial gifts of key properties, funds, and conservation easements, almost tripling the impact of public investment in the project.

The new trailhead project at Dodge Point Public Reserved Land will be funded by a broader effort to complete the latest cycle of periodic tree harvesting to maintain forest health and improve recreational opportunities there. It’s also the first step in that process.

The State of Maine Public Lands System is unique in that it is self-funding on a management basis, meaning that revenue from forest harvesting is used to maintain and enhance the lands for public enjoyment.

Dodge Point is a special case in that a partnership from the very start between the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and Damariscotta River Association, now Coastal Rivers, has allowed not only for the purchase of the land, but also for continued additional improvements and maintenance.

Ownership and management decisions at Dodge Point rest squarely with the bureau, but Coastal Rivers donors and volunteers continue to assist with upkeep of the trails and property. Coastal Rivers also provides local input on property and trail usage, as well as assisting in the maintenance of the dock so that users can visit by water. Notably, Land for Maine’s Future was the core public funding source for the original purchase of Dodge Point, again leveraging hundreds of thousands of private dollars.

Anticipated next steps in the harvest plan will include upgrades to existing woods roads this fall and, finally, selective cutting over the next two winters both on the west side of River Road and certain sections of the eastern side. The bureau’s work will continue a tradition begun by former owner Edward Freeman and his crew, repeated winners of statewide recognition for their thoughtful woodlot management. The large timber at Dodge Point is a testament to that legacy of careful natural resource management over almost a century.