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Snowmobile trails would link Maine wind farms

Associated Press Modified: November 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm •  Published: November 25, 2012

The economic impact of snowmobiling on Maine was $261 million in a 1998 study by the University of Maine and the Maine Snowmobile Association. Meyers said that grew to an estimated $300 million to $350 million of business responsible for 23,000 jobs statewide by 2010.

Meyers pointed out that snowmobile trails already exist on about 98 percent of a proposed route linking eight to 10 wind farms, leaving very little to be added. The Maine Snowmobile Association, he noted, has never taken a position on wind power, an industry that has its critics as well as supporters.

Planners have drawn a map of a proposed route from Kibby I and II near western Maine's border with Canada, south to Record Hill near Rumford, with stops at Spruce Mountain in Woodstock, Beaver Ridge in Freedom, Rollins and Stetson in Washington County and Mars Hill nearly touching Canada in eastern Aroostook County. The map also shows a side trip to the newly operational Bull Hill in Hancock County.

Wind companies envision allowing sledders to ride near the windmills so they get a good view of them, but not on the properties, said Kiely.

Meyers said he plans to take a ride this winter to check what's been plotted out. When it's completed, he envisions marking existing trails along the route with special windmill trail markers. Other ideas include giving sledders who complete the trail special patches for their riding suits, or issuing passport-like books that could be stamped at each of the stops.

There may be a reward for the state, too, which could see a new source of revenue from trail users who buy gas, eat meals, rent lodging and buy essentials along the way.