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Updated: August 23, 2023

‘More than just a pit stop,’ Ellsworth promotes trails in and around the city

paved path with barrier posts Courtesy / Maine Trail Finder The Ellsworth Trail is a short and flat paved trail providing a traffic-free connection for pedestrians traveling between Ellsworth Falls and Downtown Ellsworth.

Ellsworth has long been a place millions of visitors pass through each year on their way to Acadia National Park. 

But now a collaboration among the city, community partners and a Portland mapmaker has resulted in a new guide to Ellsworth’s over 20 miles of trails, with the goal of offering travelers a reason to stop and stay longer.

Map Adventures has released “DownEast Acadia: From Ellsworth to Jonesboro,” featuring maps of Ellsworth’s trails, with a detailed inset of the downtown area and pointing to access to other trailheads in the area.

“Ellsworth is one of Maine’s premier trail towns,” said Steven Bushey, a map creator for Map Adventures. “It’s in good company with Portland, Camden, Bar Harbor, Carrabassett Valley and Bethel.”

Ellsworth is “more than just a pit stop in Downeast Maine,” the city said in a press release. 

The future of growing outdoor recreation opportunities in Ellsworth is promising. In May, the city was preliminarily awarded a grant through the Land for Maine’s Future program to purchase a parcel of land on the eastern shore of Branch Lake. The acquisition of the 279-acre parcel will allow the city to pursue future trail expansion projects connecting the existing Branch Lake Public Forest with other city-owned lots. 

map with squiggly lines and dots
Courtesy / Downeast Sunrise Trail
The Downeast Sunrise Trail map outlines a trail system that extends from Ellsworth to Calais.

“Protecting the quality and viability of our public drinking water supply is of utmost importance to the city,” said City Planner Matt Williams. “Conserving land surrounding Branch Lake aids in community efforts to do this while also providing residents and visitors opportunities for low-impact recreation to stay healthy and enjoy the beauty our city possesses.”

The city has a history of working with Frenchman Bay Conservancy to maintain trails while protecting natural lands and promoting community investment including conservation efforts.

Recent collaborations include the rehabilitation of the Ellsworth Riverwalk into an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trail, and providing technical assistance in the current rounds of grant applications for the Branch Lake Public Forest expansion.

Frenchman Bay Conservancy is the local land trust for eastern Hancock County, with a mission to conserve distinctive ecosystems, lands, and waters for public benefit, from the Union River and Frenchman Bay watersheds east to the Hancock County line. In and beyond Ellsworth, the new map details trails and natural areas under FBC’s land trust, including the popular Jordan Homestead Preserve just minutes from downtown.

“FBC values our long-standing partnership with the city of Ellsworth, which has been a hub for our community conservation work. We are excited to continue playing a role in ensuring Ellsworth residents and visitors alike can safely access and enjoy green spaces within the city,” said FBC Executive Director Aaron Dority.

The Blue Hill Heritage Trust recently expanded its conservation efforts into Ellsworth. Within a five-minute drive from downtown Ellsworth, it offers over 11 miles of logging roads and a 5-mile loop, 

Over 10 years ago, the city worked with the Maine Department of Transportation to create a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail along the railroad right-of-way, a project that connects through neighborhoods, commercial districts and provides access to the high school and the elementary-middle schools, as well as the YMCA.

In 2016, the Downeast Sunrise Trail expanded into Ellsworth. Since 2019, the city, with support from the Maine Department of Transportation, has been working to provide a safe connection between the city’s bicycle and pedestrian trail and the Downeast Sunrise Trail, which is a part of the greater East Coast Greenway, a walking and biking trail that connects 450 cities and towns for 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.

“Expanding the city’s outdoor recreational assets and economy has been a focus not only for the city, but for the community at large,” said Ellsworth Economic Development Director Janna Richards. “It is inspiring to see the ideas and dedication of our community come through to fruition and be recognized in a region full of quality trail systems.”

Other highlighted trails include:

  • Riverwalk: a quarter-mile city trail a block from the downtown area and managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy.
  • Woodlawn: less than a quarter-mile from downtown with 3 miles of field paths and level forested trails, on a nearly 200-year-old estate with a seasonal house museum and 180 acres of land.
  • Birdsacre: a a 200-acre sanctuary within Ellsworth with 3 miles of interwoven trails.

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