About 100 students from Great Falls School in Gorham hiked a newly completed 1-mile nature loop trail on Hawkes Preserve for the first time last Thursday.
During the trail’s first hike, students were guided by members of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and made six educational stops along the trail. The trail is on Hawkes Preserve, consisting of 40 acres of conserved land and over 2,000 feet of frontage on the Presumpscot River.
“To think that we now have a 1-mile nature loop trail adjacent to our school property is extremely exciting,” said Great Falls principal Becky Fortier during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Donald Wescott, a board member of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, said that the new trail is the result of four years of hard work completed by community members and volunteers.
“Volunteers were involved in every aspect of building the trail from trimming to mulching but by far the most effort was spent building and updating more than ten bridges, the largest bridge alone took three full days of volunteer work crews,” said Wescott.
Wescott also stated that even before the construction of Great Falls School, the property on Presumpscot’s Regional Land Trust’s radar.
“What makes the property quite significant is that the old historic Cumberland Oxford Canal falls along this property,” Wescott said. “A path was always there, and people had hiked it for a number of years...the only other trail on the property at the time was an old jeep trail,” he said.
“There was no real official public access to the property...we began to get people coming over, but there was no real place to park. They had to walk all the way in from the Rod and Gun Club on Tow Path Road,” he said.
“Then, (the school’s construction) was the real game changer. When the school was under construction, those of us in the land trust recognized that this was an opportunity to do something different with this property, rather than let it sit there,” said Wescott.
The trail has two trailheads that are now open to the public. The first trailhead is behind the school and can be accessed by parking in the school’s parking lot, and the second is at the end of Tow Path Road off Route 202 in Gorham. The trail, though open to the public, will be utilized for educational purposes.