Bicycle Route Receives Federal Designation

AROOSTOOK COUNTY — Snowmobile season has come to a close, but Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) and Aroostook County Tourism (ACT) are already thinking about bringing in tourists to experience the newly designated federal bicycle route connecting Bangor to Allagash.

   The U.S. Department of Transportation quietly approved the designation in December, which created the northern Maine route, which is called U.S. Bike Route 501. It is part of the United States Bicycle Route System (USBRS), which is the national cycling route network of the United States. The USBRS features interstate long-distance cycling routes and will utilize multiple types of bicycling infrastructure, including existing off-road trails, bicycle lanes, and low-traffic roads.

   U.S. Bike Route 501 traverses the two counties and connects to previously designated scenic byways, Katahdin Woods and Waters and St. John Valley Cultural Byway, and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The route terminates at the Dickey Bridge in Allagash.  A large portion of the proposed route from Caribou north is located on the route utilized during the 2018 BikeMaine event utilized by over 500 cyclists.

   Jay Kamm, Senior Planner for NMDC, who wrote the application to the federal government, said that cyclists utilizing the route can experience the region’s tribal, Amish, Swedish, and Acadian Cultures.

   “The route begins in central Maine’s largest municipality and ends in one of northern Maine’s smallest,” said Kamm. “It was designed to be both scenic and provide an overview of what northern Maine has to offer.”

   The route will be shown on national maps and be identified as a bicycle tourism destination. Designating a USBR creates intrastate connections to coastal Maine as well as possibilities for cross-country travel by bike, bringing out-of-state tourism spending and generating interest in northern Maine.

   Officials with ACT, a standing committee of NMDC, tasked with marketing tourism opportunities in Aroostook County, is already looking forward to getting the word out about the bicycle route.

   “We see an outstanding opportunity to continue to work together with Northern Maine Development Commission and Aroostook County Tourism in further promoting one of our many tourism assets and this is certainly one of them,” said Tourism Developer Alain Ouellette. “The Board of ACT has been stalwart supporters of this important effort and the results of their continued dedication to growing The County’s tourism economy is generating big economic dividends.”

   This past fall NDMC was awarded a National Association of Development Organizations Impact Award for developing the U.S. Bike Route 501 application.