August 20, 2010

Officially open, Bayside Trail leads to a new vision for urban neighborhood

Not yet finished, the lighted path runs from Elm Street to the Eastern Prom Trail.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - About 125 people gathered Thursday in the Bayside neighborhood to celebrate the opening of the city's new Bayside Trail.

click image to enlarge

Zach Mahoney, 7, and his dad John Mahoney ride their bikes on the Bayside Trail prior to the official opening Thursday in Portland. The project still awaits a final $1 million in fundraising.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

The ribbon cutting for the 1.2-mile trail, which has been in use for several weeks, showcased the trail and gave the city a chance to celebrate the revival of a neighborhood that recently was home to parking lots, vacant lots and scrap metal yards.

"This is very exciting. We've been waiting a long time for this, more than 10 years," said Colette Bouchard, who is secretary for the Bayside Association.

Bouchard was given the honor of cutting the ribbon. "The trail is going to be a wonderful boost for the neighborhood," she said, "a great way for people to get to school or to work."

The paved trail, which is lighted, runs from Elm Street -- next to the proposed Trader Joe's supermarket and Eastern Mountain Sports on Marginal Way -- to the Eastern Prom Trail. It allows walkers and bicyclists to go from Bayside to the Back Cove trail, East End Beach or Portland's waterfront.

The Bayside Trail isn't complete yet. About $1 million still must be raised. Roger Berle, chairman of Portland Trails' board of directors, said supporters want to make "the ultimate connection" -- a pedestrian bridge or a tunnel under Forest Avenue that will link the Bayside Trail to Deering Oaks.

John Mahoney and his children, Aoife, 5, and Jack, 7, were among several onlookers Thursday who rode their bikes.

"We came in from Long Island (Maine) and made a day out of it," said Mahoney, who lives on Munjoy Hill and has a home on the Casco Bay island.

Mahoney said he likes the Bayside Trail because it provides a safe route from the East End to Back Cove.

Mayor Nicholas M. Mavodones asked people to imagine what the Bayside neighborhood was like 50 years ago. He said it was filled with a working-class enclave of carpenters, masons, and blacksmiths.

But over the years, more than half of its homes were demolished, replaced by parking lots, vacant lots and scrap metal yards.

"The Bayside Trail is a product of vision from the past, present and future," Mavodones said, nodding toward the modern development that has sprung up around the trail.

Mavodones quoted Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the landscape architect who Mayor James Phinney Baxter retained in 1905 to develop a citywide park plan, to describe the significance of the Bayside Trail.

"We want a ground to which people may easily go after their day's work is done, where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets, where they shall in effect, find the city, put far away from them."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:


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