A Little History
Rediscovering Maine’s Forgotten Trail
In the mid 1930’s after the great depression, Maine began seeking new ways to bring revenue into the state by way of tourism. 1936 was the first year “VACATIONLAND” appeared on license plates.
In 1937, the 88th Maine State Legislature passed an act to designate a certain road as the “Pine Tree Trail”. Legislation says it would be a route from Portland to Fort Kent. (Some maps, atlases & newspapers say Kittery to Fort Kent)
The Trail would be an inland route that traverses many of Maine's towns, cities, lake regions, forests and farmlands.
With disruption of WW2 and new road planning thereafter, it would become “Maine’s Forgotten Trail," and then....
...one day in 2012, a fella came across what looked like an old rusty bent up piece of sheet metal with bullet holes in it. Brushing leaves, rocks & dirt off it and inspecting it further, he realized it was a steel embossed road sign. The sign read "Pine Tree Trail" and had an evergreen tree embossed in the center. It was in such rough shape that he nearly discarded his find but ultimately decided to hang on to it. He kept the sign for years.
During mud season (spring) of 2019, the man decided to look into the origin of the sign, the route, and the knowledge about it from others. He did so with his fiancé and found that there was a real lack of information readily available on it. During the covid pandemic 2020-21, he purchased old maps & atlases from Ebay that had Pine Tree Trail mentioned on them and eventually came across old 1930s-40s newspaper articles from around the country also mentioning the Trail. One article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1939 even had a lady holding a new sign! A few postcards were also found that said "Pine Tree Trail" on them.
The fella came up with an idea to bring back the recognition of the route and the benefits it could bring to Maine. It would become known as “The Pine Tree Trail Project.”
Along with his fiancé, they would invite the Trail community to help re-establish the route by raising funds from local businesses and individuals to re-sign the route once again. With not being a non-profit, the funds raised went directly into an account setup by a well-known and respected local sign manufacturer.
Pre-covid, Nate & Robbie met with former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and he said, “it was still the law of the land," meaning the route was still active and just hadn’t been signed or put on the map for 70+ years. They also met with legislators and Director of Tourism Steve Lyons and they were all excited. And then....Covid came and nearly put a halt to things. Fortunately, the effort to re-sign the Trail and put it back on Maine maps continued and was successful.
By reviving the Trail, it has given hope to many people in communities along the route and in Maine, aka “The Pine Tree State”.
A "Maine's Pine Tree Trail Community" group page on Facebook has been created to share memories and happenings along its length.
Unbelievably, unearthing an old road sign was what sparked the discovery and revival of Maine's forgotten 500-mile Trail ...
MAINE’S PINE TREE TRAIL
AS PASSED BY THE
STATE OF MAINE
An Act Designating a Certain Road as "Pine Tree Trail."
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine, as follows:
"Pine Tree Trail" designated. The road leading from Portland through Auburn, Lewiston, Winthrop, Augusta, Belgrade, Oakland, Waterville, Pittsfield, Newport, Bangor, Orono, Old Town, Lincoln, Mattawamkeag, and Macwahoc, Route A from Macwahoc to Houlton by way of Haynesville Route B-from Macwahoc to Houlton by way of Island Falls, from Houlton to Mars Hill,-Route A from Mars Hill to Fort Kent by way of Presque Isle, Caribou, and Van Buren-Route B-from Mars Hill by way of Ft. Fairfield, Limestone and Van Buren, is hereby designated as the "Pine Tree Trail." Approved March 29th 1937
Photo of new old stock 1937 Maine license plates. Original masking on one plate.
Photo: Road Rte.2/ Pine Tree Trail Molunkus Twp./ Macwahoc Plt. line