From left, recreation committee member Tom Carr, Selectman Jane Covey, Select Board Chairman Kevin Johnson and recreation committee member Tony Barrett tour the Cliff Trail, looking for hazards for those with limited mobility. Photo courtesy of Gina Perow

Harpswell will start work to make Cliff Trail more accessible later this month and is seeking donations after the COVID-19 delayed the project and drove up the cost of labor and materials.

Work to improve the hiking trail should have started last October, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the project. During the delay, some small changes were made to the project plans, said recreation committee member and project liaison Tony Barrett. However, those changes and the rising cost of materials and labor caused the project cost to increase 7.6%.

The project was initially expected to cost just over $109,000 in 2019, according to Recreation Director Gina Perow. Two years later, the new project estimate is about $117,400.

According to Barrett, the price of pressure treated lumber alone, needed for bridges on the trail, has risen 29% since 2019. The cost of contracted labor also rose from $63,200 to just over $72,000 from 2019 to 2021.

The town received a $50,000 grant from the state’s Recreational Trails Program in 2019 to help pay for the project, but Barrett said fundraising is needed to offset the added costs. As of Friday, the town was looking to raise a minimum of $15,500 to cover the deficit.

The first half-mile of the trail will be closed to the public from May 1 to October 1 while crews work on to make the trail more accessible to those with mobility issues. The trail will be widened, large roots and other tripping hazards will be removed, and crushed rock will be spread along the path, making it accessible by the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.


As of 2019, about 40% of the town’s population was ages 62 or older, according to the United States Census Bureau. The median age in Harpswell is 57.

“Having an ADA accessible trail in the oldest community in Maine opens up an opportunity for our entire community to get out and enjoy nature,” said Perow. “The woods should be an inclusive place for everyone.”

Perow said the trail is heavily used since it opened in 2006 and has subsequent erosion issues, in part because of its proximity to marshland. Over 800 people each week have used the trail since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, “which is way more than it can handle,” she said.

Hikers aren’t the only one who will benefit from a smoother trail.

Cundy’s Harbor Fire Chief Ben Wallace said said the trail is neither wide nor smooth enough for the department’s all-terrain vehicle to travel, slowing down the rescue team. Crews have to use an all-terrain stretcher when helping people who get injured on the trail, but the trip into the woods isn’t easy or comfortable.

“We have a stretcher we can use, but if you’re bouncing over roots, that takes a lot more effort, plus it’s harder on the patient,” said Wallace. “It’ll be good to have this done. Every little thing helps.”


Wallace said his team responded to around six to eight calls on the Cliff Trail in the last year, up from their average two or three annual calls.

“We had two calls in one day a few months ago,” he said. “People are a lot more interested in being outdoors these days, even in the middle of the winter.”

Perow said Cliff Trail “easily the most well-known and well-used trail in Harpswell.” The 2.3-mile trail traverses two pieces of land totaling roughly 194 acres. The trail includes a shore walk along tidal Strawberry Creek, an area for children to build fairy houses, and views overlooking Long Reach from 150-foot cliffs.

The trailhead is behind the Harpswell town office at 263 Mountain Road.

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