Resource Plan

The following information was compiled by students from Bowdoin College and a special ESRI link by Lisbon Community School ’06 students and teachers.  This represents the first installment into an ongoing project to understanding the unique qualities the Lisbon Trail System has within the Town of Lisbon.  Continued progress and improved inventory surveys will provide insight and direction for managing this valuable resource.

The Lisbon Trails Sanctuary Assessment Plan: The Paper Mill Trail
Lisbon Trails Committee, Lisbon, Maine


Special External link to ESRI project provided by Lisbon Community School: Natural Resorces Inventory and History

Lisbon Trails

Objectives of a Sanctuary Assessment Plan for the Lisbon Trails Committee:
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The goal of a sanctuary assessment plan is to create a blueprint of the trails in Lisbon that will help realize the goals potential of Lisbon Trail system.  The sanctuary assessment plan is also used to excite the public about the goals of the trail system.  A sanctuary assessment plan contains a survey information section, an objectives section and a planning section.  The Lisbon Trails Sanctuary Assessment Plan survey information section would consist of natural resources information and cultural history information.  The objectives section would list the goals of the Lisbon Trails Committee for the present time and the future.  The planning section would include information as to how to use the trail and the area surrounding the trail.  For example, should the trail be used as a snowmobile trail in the winter? Should the trail be plowed? Could the trail and surrounding area be used to promote business? How do the schools intend to use the trail system?
The natural resources section would include information regarding the habitat surrounding the trail, the health of the soils, the geology and the hydrology of the area, the health of the Sabattus River, and the land use history of the area.  The cultural history section would include the history of Lisbon, how the old road that is now the trail was used, the past and current businesses adjacent to the trail and the history of the Sabattus mill along the river.
In the objective section the trails committee would determine the goals of the trail system and make these goals public for the Lisbon community.   The sanctuary assessment plan for the trail would clearly state the goals of the committee and who is involved in the process of realizing the goals.
The planning section would include ideas as to how to use the trail; for example, using the trail for environmental education and history classes for Lisbon schools, incorporating the use of the trail with town events and businesses or perhaps building a gazebo alongside the trail to host concerts and other town activities.  It would also be valuable for the Lisbon Trail committee to implement their plans for the next section of the trail in this section of the sanctuary management plan.

General Information: Lisbon Trail System

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When completed, the Lisbon Trail System will consist of several different trails connecting the three centers of the town of Lisbon; Lisbon Falls, Lisbon Center, and Lisbon Village. The nearly 4 ½ miles of trails will provide a safe path to and from school and a recreation opportunity for all community members. Currently completed is the Paper Mill Trail. The Railroad Trail, Riverside Trail, and Safe Route to School Trail, will require further construction and acquisition of funds to complete.
The Paper Mill Trail runs along the Sabattus River on what used to be Paper Mill Road. In order to make the trail more suitable for pedestrians, the gravel road was paved to create a ten foot wide road. It connects the Sabattus boat launch and picnic area to the elementary school, which uses the trail for school projects and nature walks. The Paper Mill Trail costs $245,000 to complete.
The Railroad Trail would connect to the Paper Mill Trail via the Sabattus Boat Launch parking lot. Some construction may be required to avoid crossing Route 196. The trail will instead lead underneath Route 196 and then connect to the railroad. Analysis of seasonal flood elevations will be necessary for the concrete platform that will serve as the trail underneath the bridge. Once at the railroad, the trail will be designed as “rail with trail”. There have been some problems with the company that owns the rail. If they do not allow the “rail with trail”, the existing plan will have to be altered. Farther down the trail drainage pipe, an elevated boardwalk, and a bridge will be required to avoid a small stream and wetland area. This section is estimated to cost $497,000 to complete.
The Riverside Trail will connect the Railroad Trail to Lisbon High School via Capital Ave. A survey to ensure that the trail is above flood elevations will be necessary. There are issues with the railroad with this section as well; if crossings are not permitted a new path will have to be taken. Without the Railroad Trail, it does not make sense to complete this section. The Riverside Trail is estimated to cost $344,000.


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Lisbon and its Paper Mill Trail reflect some of the rich mill history of Maine.  In Lisbon, the strong flow of the Sabattus River attracted mill development in the 19th century.  In 1804, Abner Coombs constructed the first mill in the area, thus establishing the area’s nickname “Coombs Mills.”  In 1825, he sold his “water privilege” to Cephus Farnsworth, and the area became known as Farnsworth Mills.  These early mills were mostly small scale, family-run operations.
As the railroad came to Lisbon in 1860, more mills were built, including larger more industrial facilities.  At one point, over 1,000 people worked in the Farnsworth, Farwell, and Worrumbo Mills combined.  Sawmills, paper mills, grist-mills, clapboard and shingle mills, and carding and dressing mills were all present in Lisbon.  Like many mills in Maine, the mills in Lisbon produced until the 1950’s.
The Paper Mill Road, now The Paper Mill Trail, was built in 1865-1866 to provide better access to the Farnsworth Company’s paper mill, which was owned by Benjamin Farnsworth, son of Cephus Farnsworth.  The mill itself was erected in 1866 and produced 1.5 tons of newspaper per day.  The Farnsworth family also owned a woolen mill and a cotton mill on either side of the Sabattus River.  In 1870, Farnsworth sold the mill to A.C. Dennison &Company of Mechanic Falls, Maine, who outfitted the mill with new equipment.  However, the mill burned before the new equipment could be utilized.  The mill was not rebuilt.
While the exact reason for the construction of the Paper Mill Road and its bridge is unknown, local historian Bill Barr presents a few ideas.  Mr. Barr wonders why the Farnsworths would have built the road and bridge, when Mill Street provided access to the mill as well.  He proposes that the Paper Mill Road might have created a flatter, more efficient, and possibly even downhill route for horse transport from the mill to the railroad tracks along the Androscoggin River.  Mr. Barr also suggests that the mill owners maintained a railroad depot somewhere along the Androscoggin River. Additionally, the road might have provided better access to the mills’ boarding house along the river.
Following the mill fire, the town still used the Paper Mill Road for transport.  “The Great Freshet of 1871” carried away the road’s bridge and one abutment, and the “Great Flood of 1936” collapsed the bridge.  The town repaired the bridge and road following these types of events, maintaining the road into the 1950’s.  In 1954, the town closed the road to vehicular traffic, and in 1956, the town discontinued maintenance of the Paper Mill Road.
Local snowmobile clubs maintained the trail, until the town of Lisbon and Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) construction of the Paper Mill Trail in 2001.
Today, the sluiceway for the paper mill and one abutment are visible in the river.

Natural Resources along the Paper Mill Trail: The Sabattus River

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Maine’s rivers are classified by Maine’s Water Quality Classification System.  The river classification system is classified by AA, A, B or C standards.  These letters mean that the body of water must attain the standards of the Clean Water Act or higher.  Class AA means that some human activities are prohibited while the same activities are allowed in Class C waters; such as waste water discharge.  Class AA is used for drinking water, fishing and recreation, has the bacteria and dissolved oxygen counts that naturally occur in a system and is a free flowing and natural body of water.  Class A is used for the same reasons but also includes hydropower and industrial discharge.  Class A must have a 7ppm dissolved oxygen count and also has bacteria and aquatic life as naturally occurs in a system.  Class B has the same requirements of class A but does have some discharge into the body of water.  However this discharge is not supposed to cause adverse impacts on aquatic species or cause degradation to the biological community.  Class C is used for all of the previous things but is a body of water that has a dissolved oxygen count of 5 ppm and discharges from sources may cause changes to aquatic life.  The waters of class C need to be able to support indigenous fish species and maintain the structure and function of the biological community.
The Sabattus River that runs alongside the Paper Mill Trail in Lisbon is 11.4 miles long from the source of Sabattus Pond in the town of Sabattus to the outlet at the Androscoggin River in Lisbon.  The Sabattus is classified as a class C river and does not support all fish and aquatic life.  The quality of the Sabattus River is impaired by pollution.  The river does not support benthic macro invertebrates and has low dissolved oxygen counts as well as high eutrophication and nutrient input.  The sources of these impairments are agriculture and municipal point source discharges (Detail Report for Sabattus River between Sabattus and Androscoggin R).  The town of Sabattus wastewater treatment effluent flows into the Sabattus.  Industrial point source pollution also flows into the Sabattus from industries such as Maine Electronics in Lisbon.  The source of the Sabattus River, Sabattus Pond, experiences algal blooms on an annual basis.  The Sabattus River would benefit from a focus on the restoration of the river and more restrictions on wastewater discharge as well as industrial discharge.  Currently, the Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District is looking at how to control non-point source pollution into the Sabattus.

Uses of the Paper Mill Trail

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Snowmobile Use

The Paper Mill Trail serves as a snowmobile trail and is also crossed by several other snowmobile trails. During the winter months, only half of the paved path along the Sabattus River is plowed, allowing snowmobiles to utilize the trail. There has been discussion about not plowing the trail at all which would be of great benefit to the snowmobilers that use the trail. Some complaints have been made by pedestrians on the trail and the argument has been made that if four-wheelers are not allowed on the trail then snowmobiles should not. Some users of the trail in winter months think that the snowmobiles pose a threat to pedestrians and take up too much of the trail. Who is allowed the right to use the trail is a somewhat contentious issue.

School Use

School teachers from Lisbon Schools take their classes, Kindergarten through fifth grade, out on the trail to use it for everything from finding colored leaves to doing nature studies and learning to use GPS technology. Fitness teachers utilize the trail for walking, jogging, and sometimes snowshoeing in the winter, promoting a healthy lifestyle. During lunch breaks and on staff workshop days, staff members also use the trail to get some exercise and fresh air. The trail provides a great opportunity to get out of the classroom and explore nature, even if only for a short time. Everyone loves the section of the trail that is closest to the water and the rapids.  Students like exploring other footpaths while keeping in mind the potential damage caused by their wanderings. The bathroom is conveniently located for all users. The paved trail extends the opportunity to enjoy nature to people with all mobile abilities and students would love if there were paved offshoots of the trail to enable more exploration.

Trail Survey

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On Sunday, November 16th, 2008, a trail survey of individuals using the Paper Mill Trail was conducted by a group of three Bowdoin students working with the Lisbon Trails Committee for an Environmental Policy and Politics course.  They estimated the ages of interviewees and asked them where the Paper Mill visitors were from; how often they used the trail; favorite parts or aspects of the trail; and improvements/additions to the trail that users would like to see in the future.
The Bowdoin students found that the majority of trail users were from one of the three Lisbon town centers.  The average age of a trail user on the day surveyed was in their 40s, and the range of a user’s age was people in their 30s to people in their 70s.  Many users make use of the trail multiple times a week for walking, biking and taking out their dogs.  The majority of the trail users liked the easy access and convenience of the Paper Mill Trail.  Most people enjoyed the views of the Sabattus River and really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the trail.  Many people also enjoyed the historical information provided along the trail about the Paper Mill in Lisbon and the old road.  A few visitors that came to the trail were from neighboring towns and had stopped by the trail to look for a good place to take their dogs or bicycle.
Many Paper Mill Trail users would like to see more views of the river in the future.  Some also mentioned the idea of lengthening the trail and that it was nice but too short as it is now.  Paper Mill Trail users mentioned the necessity to keep the trail safe for walkers and cyclists.  Some have noticed dangerous tree branches hanging over the trail and many mentioned the icy conditions of the trail in the winter time.  A few users would like to see another bathroom or two placed along the trail.  Plowing of the trail in the winter appeared to be an issue to many trail users that needs to be addressed by the town of Lisbon.
In conclusion, many users are grateful for the Paper Mill Trail but would like to see some changes made whether it be plowing, lengthening the trail, or seeing more views of the river.  One woman told the Bowdoin students that the Paper Mill Trail is “a town resource that I use more than any other [resource].”

Appendix I: Hard Data from Trail Survey

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1. 70’s male from Lisbon uses the trail daily for dog walking.  His favorite aspect of the trail is convenience for him and his dog.  He said he stays on the trail as long as the dog wants.
2. 50’s two females from Buckfield.  They drove by and were interested in the trail.  They haven’t used the trail yet, but are looking for a good place to take dogs or bicycle.
3. 40’s male/female couple from Lisbon use the trail approximately one time per month.  They enjoy the views of the Sabattus River, would like to see more areas for river views.  They enjoy the “peace and quiet,” and the man said that the trail provides an opportunity to “go back into last century.”
4. 40’s male/female couple from Lisbon use the trail multiple times per week. They enjoy the section of the trail close to the water with a bridge/fence.  They would like to see the trail widened to accommodate bicyclists and walkers.
5. 50’s female from Lisbon uses the trail daily, often during her lunch break. She enjoys the sections near the Sabattus river, and does not like the portion of the trail that crosses the street.  She would like to see the trail made longer, maybe by using the open grassy area.  She described that the trail is utilized by families and the schools, making it very busy at times.  She likes the width of the trail and that the town plows it in the winter.
6. 60’s-70’s couple from Lisbon use the trail multiple times per week.  They like the new sign about the history of the mills.  They voiced some concern over safety with trees leaning over the trail and asked that people pick up after their dogs better.
7. 40’s male/female couple from Lisbon.  Between the Paper Mill Trail and Beaver Park, they use the Lisbon trails two to three times a week.  They like the scenic nature of the trail, but would like more open spots closer to the water.  The length is sufficient for them.  The woman said that some women in the community have voiced some concern over safety on the trail for those walking alone, but she said there have been no incidents.
8. 30’s female with female child recently moved to Lisbon from Portland.  She hopes to use the trail frequently, but would like to see a longer trail, especially because she is used to longer trail in Portland.
9. 60’s-70’s male/female couple from Lisbon use the trail six to seven times a week.  They like the Paper Mill Trail section the best, but would like to see more areas cleared for views of the Sabattus River.
10. 50s male/female couple from Lewiston use the trail four times a week.  They like the trail because of the convenient opportunity to spend time in the woods that it provides.  They said that they would like to see the trail made into a loop.  Overall, “We love it here.”
11. 70’s female from Lisbon uses the trail often: daily or every couple of days.  She voiced some concern over winter management because she recently had a hip replacement.  She also said that she enjoys Beaver Park more because it is less used and more natural, but appreciated the convenience of the Paper Mill Trail for residents.  Overall, she said that the trails are “A town resource that I use more than any other [resource].”
12. 70’s male/female couple, from Lisbon, use the trail daily.  They like that the trail is “free and close.”  They would like an outhouse at the northern end of the trail, and said that they often don’t walk the whole trail because there is no outhouse at that end.  They also asked that people pick up after their dogs better.

Appendix II:Lisbon Trails MapBack to Contentstrailsmap

Appendix III: Acknowledgements

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Thanks to:

The Lisbon Trails Committee for guidance and providing print materials
Bill Barr for providing historical information regarding the Paper Mill Trail
Maine State DEP for providing information on the Sabattus River
Barbara Thompson from Lisbon Community School for providing information about how students use the trail
Susan Davies from the Maine State DEP for providing information about the Sabattus River
Various Lisbon Residents who participated in the Trail Survey
Eileen Johnson for guidance with the making of the GIS map
Dewitt John for guidance in the project


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