Trail would link Bath, Brunswick,Topsham

BRUNSWICK — Grant funding for a regional trail planning effort between Bath, Brunswick and Topsham could revive a plan to link all three communities via the Androscoggin Bicycle & Pedestrian Path. 

Recreation enthusiasts in Bath and Brunswick have long been interested in extending the path into downtown Bath, thus allowing bicycle riders, runners, walkers and other alternative transportation users to travel between the three communities on a protected lane.

The path opened in 1998. It begins at separate points in Brunswick and Topsham and ends near Old Bath Road in Brunswick.

A 2004 feasibility study proposed extending the path another seven miles along the southbound side of Route 1 and onto Congress Avenue in Bath.

Despite support for the extension, its estimated $10 million price tag contributed to the shelving of the project. Brunswick Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farrell said that estimate would likely be higher now. 

Nonetheless, a private grant program from the Maine Community Foundation could bring the extension a little closer to fruition. All three communities are hoping they’ll qualify for the regional trail planning initiative. If secured, a $100,000 grant would be administered by the Midcoast Council for Business Development and Planning for trail projects identified by all three communities.

According to Farrell and Bath Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni, the path extension is at or near the top of the list.

While details of the grant are still being developed, Farrell and Balboni believe reapplication opportunities could yield $300,000 in total funding.

Although that amount is dwarfed by the extension’s 2004 projected costs, Balboni and Farrell said the money could fund an engineering study, which then could be used to lure additional grant opportunities. 

Representatives from all three communities, as well as the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, met Tuesday to discuss the grant opportunity. Farrell said the next step is for all three communities to send a letter of interest to the Maine Community Foundation. Details of the grant are expected to be released in August. 

Farrell said Bath and Brunswick have long expressed an interest in the extension, which would connect both communities with Topsham. He cautioned that the extension is being promoted because of past support for the project, and not because it would be the top priority for all three communities.

“From Brunswick’s perspective, (the extension) might be a worthy project to move forward,” Farrell said. “I think people (at Tuesday’s meeting) were supportive of the project.”

Balboni said Wednesday that extending the path is a trail improvement priority.

“To be able to connect all three communities through alternative transportation is a huge draw for the community,” Balboni said.

Balboni said that the popularity of the existing path was evidence of the support the extension would likely draw.

“I think people had some questions about the path and how it would be used,” he said. “Those were settled the day it opened. Now it’s used 365 days a year.”

During the 2004 feasibility study, Farrell said, there were questions about which route the extension should take – along Old Bath Road or Route 1. Ultimately, the southbound side of Route 1 became the preference because it would be in the public right of way and the project would require fewer easements than Old Bath Road.

Balboni said that the extension could connect the three communities with Woolwich via the Sagadahoc Bridge. The Maine Department of Transportation’s two-year plan includes adding curbing and a bike lane from Congress Avenue to North Street and eventually Front Street, thus enabling access to the bike lane on the bridge. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext.123 or [email protected]

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