Brushing off black flies and tucking water bottles into backpacks, members of Lincolnville’s conservation commission and historical committee, town officials, the town’s tree steward, curious citizens and a few reporters set off up the western slope of Bald Rock Mountain on a warm afternoon on May 5.

Their destination: a meeting spot one mile into Camden Hills State Park where the Bald Mountain Trail converges with the Cameron Mountain Trail. It was a steady hike up the hill on what was an old settlement road that has been rebuilt in the last few years as a multiuse recreational trail to accommodate bicycles, hikers, horseback riders and snowmobiles.

Meanwhile, another group consisting of Maine park employees — the state director of parks and lands, an ecologist, a projects manager, a history expert, a park manager and others — climbed into a van off of Route 1 and drove into the park via the eastern end of another recently rebuilt trail, heading toward the Cameron Mountain Trail intersection to meet with the hikers.

The hikers got there first, prepping themselves for a meeting that had been convened at the request of the Lincolnville Conservation Commission in April. After watching the recent multiuse trail work evolve inside the park, citizens — park neighbors and regular hikers and runners — voiced concerns over the scope of the project. Leery of state plans to extend the multiuse trail onto the western side of Megunticook Mountain on the existing Zeke’s Lookout Trail, they requested early in April that the groups meet.

At issue were complaints about the scarring of trees, covering of old stonewalls with debris, and erosion into the small brooks along the Cameron Mountain Trail, a 1.1 mile length of old settlement road that extends through the western edge of the park, parallel to the town-owned Youngtown Road. Along the old road, just feet into the woods, sit old cellar holes, overgrown with time. It is a road integral to the town’s history.

“There is nothing too historically significant about the stonewalls here,” said resident Diane O’Brien. “Except it is ours. It’s Lincolnville’s. The state park is a little time capsule and it has local significance, so it has a great deal of significance for us.”

The meeting and subsequent 1.4-mile hike along the Cameron Mountain Trail was a composite of state agency goals bumping into local values, and incorporated a few feisty discussions about proper arbor care and environmental mitigation between park rangers and Lincolnville woodsmen.

Lincolnville has been an outspoken defender of what it holds dear to the community, experienced in dealing with state agencies, such as the Maine Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection, as well as with corporations, such as Central Maine Power. The Bureau of Parks and Lands has been no exception, as the town cuts to the core of state decision making.

To the state, Camden Hills State Park is one of the more outstanding of 48 state parks. It draws visitors from all over the country and world. To Harris, his job is to understand the trends and needs of various user groups — “the big picture of what it means to manage a facility like this.”

In the case of the trail work in Camden Hills State Park, citizens wanted to know why a multiuse trail was important to the park’s success. They wanted to know what the state has in mind for extending the multiuse trail network, and they wanted to know how the bureau would mitigated what they viewed as insufficient engineering and execution.

In an April 14 letter to the Lincolnville selectmen, resident Lynn Travis-Stancioff said the Cameron Mountain Trail improvements opened up exploitation of the land by all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles.

“This trail, a lovely narrow old road lined with stonewalls and sections of man-made paving stones, is now a brand new wider gravel road created without regard for the land or its heritage as an old settlement,” she wrote. “Trees have been uprooted and their massive root systems sit on edge along the new road, many of the trees that have been cut down have been left where they fell, other standing trees have been damaged by the equipment and will die, stonewalls destroyed, old stone paving covered up, silt running off in multiple areas without any sign of concern for erosion concern.”

Camden Hills State Park, established in 1935 with 4,331 acres, has grown and evolved over the past 75 years. Many of its trails, early shelters, stone bridges and outdoor fireplaces were constructed by large Civilian Conservation Corps crews in the late 1930s, including the carefully crafted steps up the steeper sides of the mountains. Landscape architect Hans Heistad developed the park’s master design, creating an aesthetic that endures today. The park now encompasses more than 6,050 acres and is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, which, along with Gov. John Baldacci, declared 2010 Maine State Parks Year.

Like Camden Hills State Park, the entire state park system is celebrating its 75 birthday (Aroostook State Park was the first one) this year and the parks agency want citizens to get out and enjoy state parks. It is good for public health and the state’s economic health, and it is the bureau’s mission, as was stated several times by the bureau’s director Willard Harris on the May 5 hike through the woods with the Lincolnville Conservation Commission.

“Camden is one of the four original state parks,” said Harris. “We hold that dear.”

Camden Hills is also one of the state’s busiest parks, with approximately 150,000 visitors each year.

The goal is to “get people outside using trails,” Harris said. “By having people using the outdoors they become future stewards of our state.”

Willard Harris, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, replied to the concerns on April 21, saying the stonewalls were covered with trail improvement work done last summer and fall, and part of Camden Hills State Park Director Bill Elliot’s spring work is to uncover them. He said some of the trees were scarred by equipment used to dig ditches, and the scars would be covered. And, he said, the exposed roots would be trimmed.

While the May 5 meeting was an open forum, Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Dunham laid the ground rules at the outset, as a group of 20 gathered near the state van.

“Listen without judgment or interruptions,” he cautioned. “This is not a history walk nor an ecological walk. It’s about this multiuse trail and the proposed trail over Cameron.”

Harris told the group that the park has 25 miles of trails, six of them characterized as multiuse. Such trails are wider than hiking trails, and in Camden Hills State Park, both the Bald Mountain and Cameron Mountain trails have ditched in areas, graded and smoothed, and are engineered in some spots at widths of 10 and 12 feet. They are wide for various reasons, including allowing a snow groomer in, or to allow horses to pass each other unimpeded.

Last year, Elliot obtained $28,300 from the federal government, as well as $51,400 from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, to rebuild the trails as a recreational trails project. He hired excavator operator Dale Ricker Jr. of Brooks for 25 weeks at $28,000 to improve the trail; purchased $45,400 worth of gravel; and $6,000 was spent on culverts. Additionally, he acquired Maine State Prison inmate labor and bureau ranger hours to work on the project, with the intention of obtaining another $30,000 in recreational trail funding and Land for Maine’s Future funding to continue the multiuse trail work on to Zeke’s Trail.

While not specifically on the May 5 agenda, a conversation about the blueberry fields atop Cameron Mountain also ensued. There the state park cares for 45 acres of blueberry barrens acquired in 2006 when the Nature Conservancy and Coastal Mountains Land Trust raised funds for their purchase.

Today the fields are cultivated by Dale Ricker Jr. of Brooks, with whom the state has contracted to keep the blueberries harvested. The goal of the five-year contract is to keep the fields from falling into neglect, said Camden Hills State Park Director Bill Elliot. Willard Harris, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, said on May 5 that there may be an effort to carve out a portion of the fields so that the public could pick some blueberries while hiking in the park.

“The Cameron Mountain Trail is used by hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers, which allows access to the peaks of Cameron Mountain, Bald Rock and Maiden Cliff,” wrote Elliott in a grant request. “The Cameron Mountain passes through the Milliken Trust #2 and is in close proximity to the Milliken Trust #1. Both Milliken Trust parcels feature sweeping views inland over blueberry fields and a quiet, less visited environment compared to the more heavily visited parts of the park.”

According to the application, more than $250,000 and more than 1,400 man hours have been concentrated on trail improvement in the park.

The project vision also included building a loop trail for bicyclists and equestrians, and offering easier access to a remote and underused part of the park, as well as access to blueberry barrens, and exposure to rural life in the 1850s with the cellar holes and stonewalls.

“Our rationale is to create a multiple use loop that connects the Cameron Mountain Trail with the Ski Lodge Trail,” wrote Harris in an April 21 letter to Dunham. “These multiuse trails, when used in conjunction with our other park trails, have been very popular with users of Maine state parks. The use of the upper Cameron Mountain Trail appeared to offer us the opportunity to use a current trail and expand its use.”

But on May 5, Harris said the bureau is reconsidering how to finish its loop.

“We’re rethinking where we want to site a connecting trail,” he said, committing to further conversations with the Lincolnville Conservation Commission about that aspect of the project.

“The issue is to get it right,” he said. But, he added, Lincolnville residents will “not be the only folks we’re going to listen to,” mentioning the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“The current thinking is to assess the terrain,” he said, as the group ended its walk at the intersection of the Cameron Mountain Trail and Zeke’s Trail. Gazing up along the spine of the more rugged part of the park, he conceded “it is probably not the place it should go. We need to step back and look at where there might be some other opportunities, and reconsider where to make a connection.”