It was a novel idea — a water trail along the Maine coast, with campsites scattered on the state’s many uninhabited islands. In the fall of 1987, Camden native Dave Getchell, Sr., presented this vision, “a waterway for small boats,” in a single-page editorial in the magazine Small Boat Journal, and readers throughout Maine wrote to Getchell, stating their interest in the idea and offering to become involved.
Now 30 years later, the Maine Island Trail weaves through islands and along the rocky coast for 375 miles and features 218 sites, some for day use and some for camping.
“We are very proud to say the mission has not changed by one word since the beginning,” said Doug Welch, executive director of the Maine Island Trail Association for the past 10 years.
In recognition of the trail’s 30-year milestone, longtime members of MITA, including Getchell and Welch, gathered on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the MITA office in Portland. At the event, members reminisced about the trail’s humble beginnings and celebrated of the realization of a unique vision.
In a phone interview just prior to the party, Getchell, now 88 years old and living in Appleton, explained how the Maine Island Trail got started.
“Being an outdoors person and very fond of the water, and having done quite a lot of coastal cruising myself, it occurred to me that it would be great to have something like a water trail,” Getchell said.
At the time, the concept of creating a trail for paddlers, sailboats and small motorized boats, complete with boat launches and individual campsites, was new and controversial. In fact, the Maine Island Trail may very well be the first official “water trail” in America.
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