Bath road-tests 'Open Streets' concept

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BATH — The city closed much of Front Street Sunday, Aug. 28, to hold what may be the first of many “Open Street Bath!” events.

The second is scheduled for 1-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25.

Live music, smoothies made by blenders powered by exercise bikes, giant Jenga, sidewalk chalk art, and street basketball were among the many free activities offered along Front Street, which was closed between Centre and Summer streets.

Jake Korb, who came from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before becoming program director of the Main Street Bath organization in June 2015, said in an interview Aug. 25 that he’d heard about the open street concept in Pennsylvania.

The idea, however, would need committee and community support in Bath.

“When I heard the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee of the city was interested in a program like this, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a partnership,” Korb said, adding that Access Health Maine – which serves Sagadahoc County, Brunswick and Harpswell – came on as a logical third partner for getting people outside and keeping them active.

“The whole Open Streets movement … is to just bring people downtown, to think about healthy living, the environment and community involvement,” Korb said.

Participants were invited to bring their bicycles, scooters and skateboards to enjoy a street that was free of cars.

With much of Front Street closed, Water Street still provided access to the municipal parking lot, while Commercial Street, which is parallel to Front, served as a detour, Korb said.

“Bath has 600 acres of public streets; it’s the second-biggest park we have,” Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee member Robert McChesney said Sunday as he chalked a hopscotch course on the pavement. “And it’s nice to give it over to other things besides cars.”

The two dates serve as a trial run, to determine if Open Streets works for Bath.

“I think that if there’s a positive community response, and that there is no negative feedback from any of the businesses affected,” Korb said, “that this could turn into a really successful program for our community, and something that people really look forward to.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Brunswick High School students Ben Stevens and Ian Fochesato make smoothies with pedal-powered blenders during Bath’s Open Streets event Aug. 28.

Robert McChesney, a member of Bath’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, draws hopscotch courses on the Front Street pavement during the city’s Aug. 28 Open Streets event.

John Rice of Bath, left, and Oliver Gumprecht of Hebron try their hand at giant Jenga during Bath’s Open Streets event Aug. 28.Bath Planning Director Andrew Deci tries out a bubble-making machine during the city’s Aug. 28 Open Streets event.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.