TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously March 7 to hire the Downtown reVitalization Collaborative to assess the feasibility of a waterfront trail in the lower village.

The board last December approved a $13,000 Maine Coastal Program shore and harbor planning grant, which will be used to pay the collaborative. The town’s match is primarily in-kind, through staff time spent on the project.

The project ties in with the town’s continuing look at developing a park and public water access in the lower village, near the old fire station.

A trail could potentially run along the Androscoggin River from that area, and toward Riverview Cemetery and Amenity Manor, both on Elm Street.

The town received four bids to do the study; two applicants were interviewed, and a selection committee recommended the Board of Selectmen hire the Downtown reVitalization Collaborative.

The collaborative includes Topsham landscape architect Regina Leonard, Denis Lachman of Lachman Architects & Planners in Portland, Rockland community and economic development planner Rodney Lynch, and Michael Sabatini of Landmark Surveyors & Engineers in Rockport.

Leonard, who submitted the proposal on behalf of the collaborative, noted in the Feb. 1 document that the project “holds a special interest for our team, but particularly for me as both a resident of Topsham Heights and a landscape architect who has been involved in several trail and open space projects in town, including the Bridge to Bridge trail and Head of Tide Park.”

She pointed out that such projects “demonstrate how Topsham’s relationship to the river has evolved in more recent years to embrace the Androscoggin’s scenic and recreational qualities. … The Riverfront Trail, within the context of a community and regional trail network, stands to play an integral role in achieving the stated goals for redevelopment because it leverages Topsham’s spectacular natural, scenic and cultural assets to showcase the town’s exceptional quality of life and unique sense of place, both of which are key factors in attracting businesses, workers, residents, and tourists.”

Leonard said determining the trail’s feasibility near the edge of the river requires “a thorough analysis of the environmental conditions, property boundaries and associated permitting as well as early decisions regarding he intended overall qualities of the Riverfront Trail that will drive choices from design details to construction techniques. Pedestrian connectivity and safety, particularly across Main Street to the new Riverwalk, will also be important facts of this study.”

Planning Director Rich Roedner said last December that the study could take about a year, and that the trail would be about 2,000 feet long.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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