GARDINER — A $50,000 grant will help pay for the design of the Cobbossee Trail project, which will open up a section of Gardiner to a walking trail that will link the Kennebec River Rail Trail with a path that skirts the downtown historic district and extends along the Cobbosseecontee Stream toward the New Mills Dam.

The grant notification, from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, comes at about the same time that elected city officials have approved an annual budget that includes funding for the city’s share of the delayed Cobbossee Trail project. Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said his organization applied for the grant earlier this year, long before it was apparent the project funding would be included in the city’s annual spending plan.

“We wanted to create inspiration and start to show some momentum,” Wright said.

More than a decade ago, city officials approved the Cobbossee Corridor Master Plan, a document that identified the Cobbosseecontee Stream corridor as the location for mixed-use development. With the award of a state transportation grant, conceptual design plans for the trail were completed, but the economic slide that started in 2008 reordered the city’s priorities, and plans were set aside.

Two years ago, Wright said, the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee formed a working group to kick-start what had become a stalled project. The plan was to consider the trail project in phases and dedicate funding to one particular phase, the railroad trestle.

The Sewall Foundation’s Healthy People Healthy Places Program, with its emphasis on integrating environment and human well-being, proved a match. The grants are awarded to organizations with programs aimed at connecting people with nature.

As proposed, the trail would pick up at the southern end of the Kennebec River Rail Trail and take the path along Maine Avenue through the Arcade parking lot to Winter and Summer streets, and across the rail trestle to a trail head. Following that route, the trail links building environment to the natural environment, Wright said.

“This is an exciting time for Gardiner,” said resident Kate Carnes. “We’re sitting right on the edge of progress and change.”

The trail links up what Carnes said she thinks is unique about Gardiner – its historic downtown, its heritage as a manufacturing community, its unique setting where the Cobbosseecontee Stream meets the Kennebec River and the wildlife that it supports.

The project dovetails with another high-profile project: the redevelopment of the former T.W. Dick Co. properties on Summer Street. Developers Collaborative is the company city officials identified to redevelop one of the four parcels into a medical arts building. The company has secured options on two other T.W. Dick parcels for planned senior and workforce housing. The trail would pass by that site, giving residents easy access to the walking path that would connect to downtown Gardiner.

Redevelopment of those blighted properties is being made possible through more than $1 million in state and federal grants that city officials are using to clean up the contamination that’s the result of two centuries of industrial development along the stream.

The timing is also crucial. When he proposed the Gardiner budget earlier this year, City Manager Scott Morelli said the Department of Transportation had approved funding to pay for the trail nearly a decade ago. The city was reaching the point where it would have to return the money and pay back what’s already been spent on developing the conceptual design.

“That wouldn’t be a productive use of the city’s dollars,” he said.

Although the grant was intended to pay for the design of the trestle portion, Wright said it can be applied to the entire project. The City Council is expected to take up a resolution to fund the trail project this summer.