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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NEWS FLASH!!!!!*****Trail Project Public Meeting - Tuesday June 22


(added June 24,2010)
By Steve Warren
Trail Project Public Meeting -
Tuesday June 22 7 PM -
Lisbon Town Office

The Androscoggin River Trail is taking shape over the next two years, after decades of vision, effort, and with the allocation of $1,600,000 in State and local funds. However, unless the public speaks out at this meeting, it will be reduced from a jewel for Maine and a legacy for future generations to just another paving project, which allows the engineers to say they met the requirements, but misses the whole point; something people will use. 

The benefits of doing this right include enhanced quality of life, image, property value, business development, population retention, community pride, and showcasing the unique character of the area. The popularity of the Papermill Trail shows how a well designed trail can become a focal point of the community and be intensively used. The Mill Street and Upland Road sidewalk/trail is evidence of what happens when the vision is lost and it becomes a paving project. Usage of the Papermill Trail runs 20:1 over the other section, which the engineers selected without consideration for trail users interest in a quality experience. They are now at work to do the same with this project.

The vision was to create a two mile long greenbelt along the water from the Sabattus River outlet to Lisbon Falls. We have the rare situation of having a sole landowner of the entire route, who has been very generous in the past and is very supportive of the project. The entire area would become a destination as an educational resource, a park, a canoe landing, as well as a transportation corridor. With this landowner’s support, the waterfront would be accessible for water related travel, exponentially increasing the possibilities for access and use. The resulting increased tourism traffic would have far reaching economic impact.

The riverfront route would be lined and shaded by stately mature tree growth and entail level or gently sloping terrain. The engineers contend that the riverfront scenery and lack of steep grades are boring, but actual trail users obviously feel otherwise. It would be inviting to all ages and physical abilities and the most direct route, resulting in 1,000’ less pavement. It eliminates several steep grades along the alternative route, which would keep a large portion of trail users away. Several large wetland crossings on the engineers preferred route will require expensive solutions. The only significant water crossing on the riverfront route would be much shorter and also become a scenic focal point, as opposed to a massive structure proposed to cross the swamp.

The riverfront route maximizes the experience of getting away from traffic and the man-made environment. The alternative route has the first ¼ mile of both ends in the road right-of-way, which creates an experience which will put off most users from going any further. The Davis Street section will but up against numerous mobile homes and cut through the yard of a trucking company. The loss of any front yard, any privacy, parking space and interference in the conduct of business is likely to result in negative feelings toward trail users in the neighborhood. One land owner has already expressed disapproval by installing nearly 1,000’ of chain link fence along this trail route. The riverfront route connects to a canoe dock and parking area well suited to support the creation of canoe related trail use.