Saturday, December 7, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH – A year ago, Terri Patterson would never let her young sons ride their bikes along Shore Road.
Betsy Critchfield of South Portland runs along the new Shore Road Path on Monday morning, Sept. 24, 2012. The two-mile path connects the Cape Elizabeth town center to Fort Williams, and is nearing completion.
Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer
Daniel and Allison Poteet of Cape Elizabeth walk their field spaniel, Coco, along the Shore Road Path on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. The two-mile path connects the Cape Elizabeth town center to Fort Williams, and is nearing completion.
Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer
Now, children in her neighborhood are planning their first bike ride to school, along the nearly completed Shore Road Path, which hugs the curves of the road but separates traffic from pedestrians.
"It's the first time we've had a way to get into the town center," Patterson said Monday as she sat near the path with friends. "I think it's neat the kids have all talked about (using) it."
The 2-mile pedestrian path, long envisioned by town officials and residents as a safe way to connect the town center and Fort Williams Park, is nearly complete after a summer of construction. The 5-foot-wide path is expected be finished by mid-October, shortly after a dedication ceremony on Oct. 8.
The ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. at Fort Williams Park, near the entrance by the pond. A guided walking tour of the path will begin at 3 p.m. at town center, and a bus will bring walkers back after the ceremony. Children will be given chalk to "mark" the path.
The nearly $1 million project was funded by a $729,000 grant from the Maine Department of Transportation's Quality Communities Program and $110,000 in donations from residents and the local group Safe Access for Everyone.
The balance was financed by multiple sources, including $60,000 from the Town Center sidewalk account, $75,000 from the town's Infrastructure Improvement Fund and $26,000 from a 2008 bond.
From the town center, the path begins on the water side of Shore Road, then crosses and runs along the inland side of the road most of the way to the old entrance of Fort Williams, where it crosses the road again to allow access to the park.
Before the path was built, walkers, joggers and cyclists used the narrow shoulders along the road.
Town officials say the path makes the two-lane road safer. It is separated from the road by a grass strip, or in some sections by a guardrail. The path isn't for use by adult bicyclists, but they will no longer have to maneuver around pedestrians and runners on the road's shoulder.
Public Works Director Robert Malley said paving is close to 80 percent done, and people have begun using the path regularly.
"People are on there before we can get the pavement down," said Town Planner Maureen O'Meara, who hears regularly from residents who are pleased with the project. "It's becoming beloved before it's finished."
Betsy Critchfield, who lives near Willard Beach in South Portland, runs on the path every day. Before it was built, she had some "close calls" with cars because the shoulders of Shore Road were so narrow. She said she appreciates the barrier that protects her from traffic.
"You feel like you're on Back Cove or something," she said. "I think it's tremendous."
During her daily runs, Critchfield has noticed more people using the path. Older walkers from South Portland used to turn around at Fort Williams, but now appear to be walking farther into Cape Elizabeth, she said.
"Yesterday there were people out in herds," she said.
Daniel and Allison Poteet, who live on Shore Road and walk their dog on the path several times each day, said they are impressed with the aesthetics and safety of the path.
Before the path was built, they rarely walked along Shore Road because "it was taking your life in your hands," Daniel Poteet said.
"We pictured it as just a little strip of pavement. They seem to have done it really thoughtfully and we're thrilled," Allison Poteet said. "It's a huge addition."
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: