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Down East Sunrise Trail Celebrates the Opening of 32 Miles of Trail 

The opening of all 32 miles of trail was celebrated in Machias Wednesday.It’s a project that’s expected to bring economic development to the region and connect the town with other areas of the state.Meghan Hayward has the story.With the cutting of the ribbon, all 32 miles of the Calais Branch Rail Corridor Rehabilitation and Downeast Sunrise Trail in Machias are now open.The trail can be used by snowmobilers, pedestrians,ATVs, bicyclists and others.It will eventually be expanded to 82 miles, all the way to Ellsworth.Machias Town Manager Betsy Fitzgerald says she was skeptical about the project at first, but is now behind it 100 percent.”Having the rail tracks here and then watching as the machinery came in and removed the rails and then watching while they picked up things and took them away. And then there was gravel coming and it has just been really cool to see the development of this trail.”The first section of the trail goes from Route 1 in Machias to Ayers Junction in Pembroke.DOT Commissioner David Cole says it’s been a long time coming and was difficult at times, but the final project makes it all worth it.”What we have here is a corridor that had been discontinued in the mid 1980s. Was rusting and rotting away and of no value to anyone. Our challenge was to try and find a way to preserve this corridor for future rail use. But in the interim accommodating a trail.”Cole says they started with a lose-lose proposition and ended with a win-win situation.”This is extremely strategic in being an east-west connection because there’s a lot of north-south trails along the state that go along the rivers, but this east-west corridor has bridges and it will help connect up a lot of the other trail systems in this Downeast region.Sally jacobs of the Sunrise Trail Coalition, which has been a strong advocate for the project, says they have high hopes.”First of all we’d like to see it bring economic development and then the very important thing is the health, the fact that people can get out.”As for economic development, Fitzgerald says she can see it already.”There were times when I couldn’t get into the parking lot of some of the area restaurants because there were so many snowmobiles.”