2014-01-17 / Community

Trails open to public

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Cross-country skiers will no longer have to blaze their own trails at Wainwright Athletic Complex and the South Portland municipal golf course. The outdoor ice rink at Wainwright and the purchase of a Polaris Ranger, the vehicle used to create ski paths, was approved in 2013’s capital improvement budget. City staff did not return inquiries about the Ranger’s cost as of press time.

The ice rink may be in plain view, but hidden at Wainwright are more than three miles of trails winding around the area. In addition, there is a half-mile trail at the municipal golf course available for use.

The trails are improvements the city has made to make both locations accessible and useful during the usually dormant winter months. The upkeep of both locations comes at no additional cost to taxpayers, according to South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey.

“It works into the daily functions when we’re not handling snow operations,” Gailey said. “It’s not something where we have to hire over time for nighttime; it’s a daytime activity.”

The Polaris Ranger is a vehicle that works in two phases. First, it digs into the snow while still leaving a thick layer on the ground. It then spits the snow out, creating a lower, smoother surface than the surrounding unworked snow.

Although the trails are created for freestyle cross-country skiing, the Ranger also has the ability to make trails for track skiing, a type of skiing most people would recognize from Olympic competition. The difference in the trail is the additional dual treads that are dug into the smoother surface that engage the skis.

“Currently, our users are preferring the freestyle approach so the trails are wide and even,” said Rick Towle, South Portland Parks and Recreation director.

As a condolence to locals who bear the brunt of recent weather patterns, Towle added that the trails are optimal during cooler weather rather than temperatures that linger around freezing.

Likewise to the rink at the Wainwright Complex, the trails will be open annually at both locations to the public from dawn until dusk.

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