Jim Tasse, at right, assistant director of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine, chats with a Brunswick resident Jan. 16 during a bicycle and pedestrian public input gathering session. Participants were asked to mark up maps of the town with improvements they would like to see made. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — Despite a storm that shut down many town operations Jan. 27, about 25 stalwart residents braved the elements to attend the second of four public input sessions geared toward helping the town update its Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Plan.

The first meeting, held Jan. 8, covered Brunswick’s downtown, schools, Pleasant Street, Bowdoin College and surrounding neighborhoods. Last week’s meeting delved into rural roads and trails. Brunswick Landing and Cook’s Corner will be the focus of the third gathering at Southern Maine Community College at Brunswick Landing, 29 Sewall St., at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27.

The meetings will culminate at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 with a town-wide meeting at Brunswick Town Hall, 85 Union St., at which Town Planner Jared Woolston plans to discuss the feedback culled about the areas of town that need safety and access improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as parts they already enjoy.

Brunswick last updated its Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Plan in 2004 and, with the Comprehensive Plan undergoing an update, the town looks to revise it accordingly. A framework is on the committee’s page at brunswickme.org, but “it’s pretty rough right now,” Woolston said. “This process should refine … what the public thinks is important, and it should help us prioritize what should be in the plan.”

Attendants at the meeting broke into small groups to review maps of Brunswick’s rural trails and roads, mark areas they frequent and those in need of better conditions. The town will analyze that information, as well as worksheets the participants filled out, to determine common areas of concern.

“That will go toward helping the town prioritize where (financial) resources should be directed,” said Jim Tasse, assistant director of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine. “Not only are you impacting the decisions of your local policymakers, but you’re also setting the town up for success with state and larger grant programs. If you don’t have a plan, it’s very difficult to apply for money to get stuff built.”

Going over some of the input gleaned, which he will present to the town’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee, Woolston said pedestrians walk on the shoulder, but are asking for better trails and trail connectivity. Brunswick already has many trail systems, but many aren’t well connected, he explained.

Many bicyclists prefer longer rides with scenic views, such as along Bunganuc, Maquoit, Mere Point and Highland roads, Woolston said. Areas on the east side of town, on the other side of Brunswick Landing and Cook’s Corner, and to the south toward Harpswell, are desirable places to go, but lack sufficient road infrastructure, he said.

Lee Cataldo, director of programs with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, was among the meeting-goers. Speaking solely as a Brunswick resident, she said she and her children “ought to be able to get on a bike and ride anywhere in town without having to get onto busy, unsafe roads. Drivers are in a rush and distracted, and the roads are designed for them, not human-powered transportation.”

Cataldo would like to see the Perimeter Trail on the Landing completed in order to facilitate greater connectivity around Brunswick. She would also like to see trails and trail connections like the Town Commons improved to become more user-friendly. Cataldo said she wants the town to play an active role in planning the East Coast Greenway’s three significant sections – the Merrymeeting Trail, Androscoggin to Kennebec Trail and Casco Bay Trail – which would converge in Brunswick.

“I’ve seen what trail connectivity and increased recreational opportunity through trails can do to a place’s economy and social and public health,” Cataldo said. “It seems we should be able to do that here.”

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