Closing the gap on the Eastern Trail in Scarborough and South Portland involves a river and railroad crossing, a street crossing and multiple private easements. Contributed / Eastern Trail Alliance

An easement to cross railroad tracks in Scarborough is the final piece needed in the years-long effort to close a 1.6-mile gap and connect the Eastern Trail between Scarborough and South Portland.

Work on the $6.6 million connector could begin this fall, according to Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall.

Scarborough has been the “lead agency” in negotiating legal access to the land needed for it. The Eastern Trail Alliance’s “Close the Gap” effort began in 2006 but the most recent push got started in 2017.

“Certainly, this is taking much longer than anyone expected,” Hall told The Forecaster last week. “Having said that, I think we’ve approached this very deliberately. We’ve been respectful to private party interests – unfortunately that’s taken time to kind of work through those and get to an amicable resolution.”

Once the gap is closed, the Eastern Trail will cross over the Nonesuch River in Scarborough. Contributed / Eastern Trail Alliance

The gap trail will be built between where the trail now stops at the Nonesuch River in Scarborough and where it picks up again at Wainwright Sports Complex on outer Highland Avenue in South Portland. It will cross over the Nonesuch River, run along part of a CMP power line corridor, cross over railroad tracks near Hannaford’s corporate offices on Pleasant Hill Road and continue on through private property.

Easements were required all along the route and all are in place except for the easement for a trail bridge to cross over the rail line owned by CSX Corp.


The railroad tracks’ previous owner, Pan Am Railways, had agreed to an easement, but while Hall and others worked on getting other, more minor easements in hand, Pan Am sold the line to CSX Corp. The sale put the railroad easement on hold.

The Eastern Trail Alliance’s outgoing director, Jon Kachmar, said the railroad snag has been frustrating for everyone involved, but “it’s nobody’s fault.”

“It’s certainly not the town’s fault or anyone who’s advocating for the trail,” Kachmar said, who is leaving the ETA to be executive director of Portland Trails. Agreements for trail crossings, like the one the alliance is seeking, are in place all over the 20,000 miles of track CSX owns, he said, and it’s understandable that CSX has needed time “to assess what they bought.”

Hall is optimistic the easement will be in hand soon.

“We’re really very close to securing all the use rights, in which case, we can go up to bid and hopefully see this project start as soon as late fall,” he said.

When the gap is closed, the off-road Eastern Trail will stretch continuously from Bug Light Park in South Portland to Kennebunk. An on-road route extends to Kittery. The Eastern Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway that, when completed, will span about 2,900 miles from Calais to Key West, Florida.

The state has committed $2.05 million toward the $6.6 million Close the Gap project and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System will contribute over $1.1 million, according to the Eastern Trail Alliance. The balance is being funded by municipalities, individuals, and nonprofit and business partners.

“I just ask for everyone’s continued patience and really want to acknowledge all of our funding partners and how solid they’ve been, and continue to be, as we look to tie up the final loose ends,” Hall said.

The Eastern Trail Alliance hopes to extend the trail to Maine’s southern border. Closing the gap in Scarborough would create over 16 miles of continuous off-road trail connecting South Portland and Saco. Contributed / Eastern Trail Alliance

Comments are not available on this story.